We’ve discussed before how data from social-networking sites (such as MySpace, Facebook or Bebo) are being used to gather evidence in criminal trials, against employees and applicants to jobs, and high school students as well as applicants to colleges and graduate schools. Now, the New York Times takes a closer look at whether a person’s online history can negatively affect his or her chances of employment.
You may never know why you weren’t hired, but be aware that background checks can make or break a job application. And in a data-rich world, the person with the fewest red flags may get the job.
Little hard research has been done on how hiring managers use the Internet to vet applicants. But you should assume that they are at least looking you up on search engines. So it’s wise to review the results of a quick search of your name. […]
Job seekers should also give their Facebook page a close look. “How private is your Facebook page, really?” said Lewis Maltby, founder of the National Workrights Institute, an advocacy group. Despite privacy settings, he said, it’s not inconceivable that a potential employer could become a friend of one of your friends and thereby gain access to your page.
If you are showing or saying anything on Facebook that you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see, “take it down, now,” Mr. Maltby said. The same goes for friends’ posts that mention or “tag” you. […]
Chances are that employers wouldn’t tell you that a Facebook picture of you with a lampshade on your head was the reason you weren’t hired. But even if they did, they can generally refuse to hire you for any reason that isn’t specifically excluded by federal or state law, Mr. Maltby said. Such reasons include race, religion, disability or age.
And other online dangers may be lurking. You may continually be dropped from contention for jobs because of something about you on Internet databases, said Michael Fertik, founder and chief executive of ReputationDefender. His company, in Redwood, Calif., offers services aimed at helping people improve their online profiles and maintain their privacy. “Do not mistake the fact that you’re a decent person for the notion that you’ll look that way online,” Mr. Fertik said.