How employers look at MySpace and Facebook pages

Photo credit: Facebook.com
Photo credit: Facebook.com

Since the advent of the personal computer and the Internet, we have been enjoying the perks of "The Information Age." However, with the prevalence of blogs, RSS feeds, YouTube, and online social networks, many would argue we live in the TMI era, "The Too-Much-Information Age."

Services like MySpace and Facebook enable users to post an overwhelming array of personal information on websites, creating a public record of things like one's spring break photos, the video of a friend's birthday, etc. This information then becomes potentially available to anyone, including employers.

Why, you ask, would my boss or anyone interested in hiring me, look at my MySpace or Facebook page?

According to George Lenard, a blogger and employment lawyer, social networking sites can serve companies in two primary functions:

1) Identifying potential job candidates. Employers may use these social electronic databases to search for individuals with a certain level of education, work experience, personal interests, and/or anything else that might be a company asset.

2) Background checking, where "disqualifying information" may be available, such as proof of illegal drug use or behavior the company would consider undesirable in an employee.

In short, employers want to find out all they can about who's working for their company, and as the needed personal information is already publicly available, so much the better. It's also legal, because on the Internet, you have a lower "expectation of privacy." In other words, what one posts online is not as private as, say, a home telephone conversation. For an employer to view pictures on Facebook or MySpace of you at a frat party does not constitute an invasion of privacy since that information is available to the public.

No, it's not available to the public, you argue, only to my Facebook and MySpace "friends..." Be careful.

In an interview for ZDNet, Lenard described a scenario in which some workers were fired for "reprehensible" Facebook content. Although they intended said data to be viewed on their "friends-only" profile, the URL history of the company-owned computers acted as a digital trail of breadcrumbs. Moreover, one of the company managers was a friend of the poster, and thus had legitimate access to the profile.

"It seems the privacy controls do provide a legal basis for ‘reasonable expectation of privacy' claims, but as a practical matter there may be fairly simple ways of getting around them," says Lenard.

One example he cites is a situation where employers use a computer that has the MySpace or Facebook log-in information already saved or "memorized." Several Web browsers, like Opera and Mozilla Firefox, automatically offer this convenient service to users, which of course allows for easy access. I can recall numerous times when I've logged-in and found that some mischievous friend has managed to post something under my name, which I would not want others to see.

Another important detail to remember when using Facebook or MySpace is that current employees waive many of their privacy expectations when using their employer's computer systems, especially after being informed that their online activities can be monitored.

So, what can you do to make sure that current and future employers don't see anything you don't want them to? The answer is surprisingly simple: Don't post it.

Think, instead, of your site as a way to showcase your singular talents and those qualities that would make you a stellar candidate for the job. In this way, you can still increase you visibility without risking any undue exposure.

Finally, Lenard also has the following advice for companies browsing the popular social networks: "You were once young too and maybe did similar things -- if not publicly on the Internet. Consider the whole person, of whom the Internet persona is not always a fully accurate reflection."

After all, on Facebook, yours truly is a pirate and a very successful vampire... but I still work for Hubpages.

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Comments 30 comments

Librarianinthetrees 9 years ago

So how do we teach young people about privacy and the importance it has to a healthy life? There are some things that should be kept as personal for our own sense of self and enjoyment. Hopefully the pendulum will swing back and there won't be the need for everyone to "tell all".


Darth Daddy 9 years ago

Rest assured that many human resource professionals know the value of accessing information about prospective employee quickly and cheaply via the Internet... Also, keep in mind that every change of job usually requires having to answer the same questions about your past for the next employer. Do you really want to have to explain... that Thing... with the Guy... in the Place... for the next 20 years?


my space friend adder 8 years ago

We have checked out several employees myspace pages before hireing them, it tells you alot about them.

http://www.fanbasebuilder.com/


my space friend adder 8 years ago

We have checked out several employees myspace pages before hireing them, it tells you a lot about them.

http://www.fanbasebuilder.com/


Olga Lednichenko 8 years ago

Will you - as a hiring manager - someone who has been entrusted with some fiduciary responsibilities: look at the candidate's profile? How about his/her friends?What would you submit in the results -report - of the background search- you just conducted?How many candidates you think apply for any given position?We all know the answers to the 3 above. Do we not ? Ok. If you must ask me : Yes. EVERYTHING and More than many are the - respective - answers to the above 3.Take the Third Quiz:So, did you search YOU -on the net? Can you publish the report ?Are you suffering from remorse?Take the Forth Quiz:If yes answered Yes to the [3] above -> Did you say to yourself " Yes.. BUT I can explain .." or was it " I can't control what my friends do or say " or was it "this is wrong.. biased .. unethical etc etc".If you thought about explaining : let me ask you this : " Do you not know that most people don't get invited to explain.." Lets say you got lucky Ok. How about this " How many minutes do you have in a typical interview for a good company job? - would you want the focus of the interview to be "How can you explain the blots on the net?" or do you want it to be focused toward your skills, aptitudes, motivations and abilities?Do you believe - we - all -have our own biases?

Note on [3]: Assume you are a Jew. You did a background search of a candidate. Everything was Kosher on his profile. Just a one friend of his -had a Nazi Flag on his profile: Given that, would you hire - YOU? Now, this was a subtle hint, using an extreme example. There are other example where the hints were subtle and so were the examples -> and the result " Thanks for submitting your profile. Unfortunately, we do not have a match with your skill sets . blah blah.. blah..

Finally: Advise for you:In the USA people regularly check -for themselves - their credit history. Just to check, if someone hasn't tainted it. On similar lines -> Check your profile(s).Delete any photos and/or text - that you feel could jeopardize your future career prospects.Ditto - for deleting those "friends" of yours - whom you just added - without knowing them. Assuming of course those *friends*profile could cast an unfavorable shadow on your profile. Remember - they are part of your extended profile. Keep the Good parts of your profile alive. Start a blog that rocks -use that as a platform. Of course you can have your friends in your blog roll. You can also have them comment on your blog. And if you are lucky, have your friends write for you. Lets say you are 24 and you are applying for a stellar job - that demands a bit more than what you've got. Lets say you want a career in Finance but you know little about Finance.No problem - have a friend - your banker friend - write posts on your blog. Any manager or HR person would know that you cant possible understand Futures and Options -that Black-and Scholes: But you would be credited for knowing those who do. And most importantly, for having the resources and persuation powers to convince a - busy- hot shot finance guy [ who barely has time to catch up with his own laundry and file for his hotel expenses] to write on YOUR blog. Do not forget -> Perception isnot more important than reality. Perception IS reality.

Cheers

Olga Lednichenko


Reynolds_Writing profile image

Reynolds_Writing 7 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

This is great advice.. Both adults and the younger generation forget that everything posted on the Internet becomes a permanent record.. Even IMs. Be careful what you say and do.. Used correctly- Facebook and MySpace can actually help someone get employed.


Dame Diabolique 7 years ago

Whether it is considered public content or not, Employers should not have the right to make employment based decisions based on what they view on Myspace and Facebook. We have the right to post what we want on those sites without fear of retaliation. It is called freedom of speech. Has anyone checked into the constitution lately? If we keep doing stuff like this as a society, our personal liberties will be thrown out of the toilet.


mqjeffrey profile image

mqjeffrey 7 years ago Author

Absolutely, it your personal right to post freely on the Internet. However, it is also the employer's right to hire whomever they feel would be the best asset to the company; this may NOT include individuals who freely choose to post pictures of themselves passed-out drunk over a dirty toilet bowl. Like it or not, what you post affects how others view you and this includes future employers.


Annoyed 6 years ago

I find it quite infuriating that one would have to sacrifice a pleasurable and convenient method to connect with friends because of a snoopy employer.


mqjeffrey profile image

mqjeffrey 6 years ago Author

Annoyed, thanks for your comment. My advice is simply this: Do you REALLY need those drunk pictures of you on your PUBLIC profile?

Thank you everyone for reading and for your thoughtful comments. I have been away from HubPages for too long... (traveling will do that :)

Again, muchas gracias!


mqjeffrey profile image

mqjeffrey 6 years ago Author


arms 6 years ago

Looking at my profile? Yeah i go fired last month because of facebook, I had some co-workers at work add me as a friend and without knowing they printed off 45 pages of my facebook and gave it to my boss. I got fired for talking bad about my job. It is really dumb that people at my job complain about it all the time, but when i just keep my mouth shut and take my complaining to the internet. I still end up getting fired over it, which is even more dumb..


xnotion profile image

xnotion 6 years ago

It might not be a final solution, but I have some tips here: http://hubpages.com/technology/Friending-Your-Pare... on how to secure your page from parents (or in this case, employers).


OurAwesomeWorld profile image

OurAwesomeWorld 6 years ago

Thanks for the post! I was just telling my daughter yesterday to take down a post which was put up by a "friend" of hers. A very degrading and personal comment which was not appropriate for a young lady. She will be starting a new job in 2 weeks and I was explaining to her what if her new boss takes a look at her site and sees the terrible comment. His views about her would change and he might not even hire her. You must be careful what you put out there for the world to see.

Check out my MySpace and Twitter Layouts and Tutorials


fbhypetrafficx 6 years ago

I was browing on google looking for information about How employers look at MySpace and Facebook pages. I was a bit worried and you gave me what to seriously think about.

Thank you


gulam freed68 5 years ago

for 'Un-Hiding features in the page like friends, pictures, comments box etc..' what kind of editor do you need to open it in? like what program?


idle-mind 5 years ago

It seems that there is a fine line. I personally feel uncomfortable about someone who posts their drunken exploits, and I hide that person from view so as not to offend by disfriending or dissing them.

However, if I don't befriend them in the first place how am I supposed to know who is getting slobber-faced in their spare time. And am I to be judged poorly for want of this info, so as to know whom I can count on to be their when I need them.


Pete 5 years ago

I understand the need for employers to do background checks and maybe even look into such public profiles to get a better idea of the kind of person they're considering for hire. But the employers for which I've worked more than a year in my job history know that I am a hard worker and dedicated to my job and perform well.

So long as the person isn't doing anything illegal and performs well at their job, shouldn't that be enough without us having to censor our speech online?

The Internet is a great avenue for self-expression and freedom. Sometimes it can be a person's only outlet for that. This is one of those moralistic questions. If employers have a no discrimination policy based on protected rights, why fire someone because you don't like what they say on a site like Facebook? Isn't that prejudice and discrimination too?

Think about it. Yes you have a right to be informed. And it is publicly accessible information. But discriminating based on speech or online image is a hinderance of the person's First Ammendment rights. Don't claim to be an equal opportunity employer if you disregard their rights.

Also don't judge a book by its cover. As long as they're doing their job and doing it well, why harbor any more concern?


joey 5 years ago

Anyone monitoring communications between you and any party must make it clear that said communications are being monitored as well as what they plan to do with that information. Why do you think they tell you that on the phone when you call the bank or whatever? "This call may be monitored for bla bla bla purposed". They don't tell you, they break the law. Simple. This applys to private facebook profiles. Just don't add your boss as a friend and you should be fine.


Jane 5 years ago

An employer searches Facebook for a Jane Smith. The Jane Smith who applied is not on Facebook. But search results bring up a 2nd Jane Smith who has alcohol and drug use all over the profile. This may hurt the Jane Smith who doesn't have a profile since she has a common name. Also the best way to get revenge on a coworker is to create a fake profile for them and fire away all sorts of drama and frame them.


HRspecialist 5 years ago

My company quietly looks for any and all online references to the individual we're considering hiring and we pay particular attention to the content of a Facebook account. It's easy enough to get the prospective employee to "friend" a total stranger...particularly college age applicants, who may already have hundreds of so-called "friends". We're not spying, we're simply try to get a better idea of how the individual conducts his or herself when they're not on their best behavior for an in-person interview. We often find that the Facebook profile photo chosen by individuals gives us an excellent first impression. We've actually passed up a second interview for several prospective employees on the basis of that profile photo simply because the image they've chosen demonstrates a lack of good judgment. We don't admit to doing this of course, but if you're looking for a job, you should know that first impressions DO count. Here's a hint: If you wouldn't wear it or be doing it (whatever it is) while saying hello to your brand new boss (lest he get the wrong impression), you seriously might want to tone it down and change that photo out for something a bit more professional. Likewise content of posting threads. For example, if the prospective employee displays post after post referencing their drug or alcohol consumption or boasts about rampant promiscuity, or if their husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend looks like THEY may have a problem or might be running with the wrong crowd, we'll likely take a step back. Yes, we understand that college can be fun and we don't expect our prospective employees to be paragons of virtue all of the time. Fun's fun, after all. But we look for evidence (or lack thereof) of a pattern of reasonably good judgment and common sense in a prospective employee. After all, you'll be the face of OUR company and our reputation is important. So, if you're planning a professional career, this is something you want to be aware of. Happy job hunting.


metalgoddess24 5 years ago

If people aren't drinking on the job or sleeping around on the job, what the hell is it to you? We may have to be on our perfect behavior at work but when we go home, what we do is none of your business and what we post on our FB pages is none of your business either. Yes, it is spying. The only reason why employers spy on your Facebook page is because it's illegal for them to come to your home and spy and snoop around. At least for now. If employers are spying on your FB page which is already crossing the line into people's private lives, then it seems to that before long they'll be able to come to the house and look around. It seems to me like these corporations are looking for slaves. Don't have a life. Don't have a good time. Don't sleep with anyone. Be perfect 24/7 because some corporate slaveowner might not want to hire you because you aren't a perfect slave. This is slavery pure and simple. And we're allowing this to happen.


mqjeffrey profile image

mqjeffrey 5 years ago Author

Thanks for reading, you are certainly welcome to voice your opinion. However, one caveat I'm trying to share in this hub is knowing the difference between what is public vs. what is private. If you post something online, and do not put the proper privacy controls in place, then you are at risk of making things more public then you may want. If an employer sees what they deem to be questionable behavior, and chooses to act on that, it's their right. Employment is not a given, it's something that one earns, and it can also be taken away.


Chrys 5 years ago

I almost choked on my dinner reading some of these comments! I think that the lack of personal space/privacy that is rampant in our society needs to change. I have my own Facebook account and my guidelines are based on my young children. If what I am considering posting is inappropriate for them to see, it does not get posted! I also have a three-strike rule on my friend choices (yes, I personally know ALL my contacts) AND they know that three consecutive posts WILL get them deleted. It has nothing to do with them because what they do is their business, not mine. It has everything to do with my personal values as I choose to uphold them.


me 4 years ago

Something y'all need to remember is that how you act reflects the company you work for. Chances are, the average person isn't going to see you on facebook half naked with a doobie in your hand, and then stop going to the business you work for because they don't want to do business with a company that would hire someone who acts so irresponsibly. But that's not how the businesses see it. They are protecting themselves.

Where I work, they actually don't care what you post, unless it involves the company. Once you start blabbing about work or anyone at work, that's when your job is a stake.


anonymous 4 years ago

I have had employees backstab me by asking me my personal opinions of my job, then report it to my supervisor. Believe me, I thought it was "guy talk", you know how you would complain among friends at a bar, of how your day went at the office?

It's a dog eat dog world, can't trust the internet, can't trust anyone. Sad.


mqjeffrey profile image

mqjeffrey 4 years ago Author

It's true. Remember Bambi, "If you can't say anything nice..." I'm sorry you've had to suffer jerks, though


MetalGoddess 4 years ago

Well, I keep my Facebook locked down. No one can see my profile, friend list, or wall. Now I hear that employers actually want people's login information so they can not only invade your privacy but the privacy of the people who post on your wall or whose posts show up in your stream. If people lock down their Facebook that means it's their private space and I'm sorry but an employer does not need to know what you talk about with friends, what your political views are, religious views, or who your friends are. There does come a time where people take things too far. I do an excellent job where I work and that is all my employer needs to know. Anything off the job is off limits. And just because you think something you post might be fine, your employer might not.


Reema 4 years ago

In my opinion, I don't expect that very important for employers using it, because this is personal media.


mqjeffrey profile image

mqjeffrey 4 years ago Author

Thank you for reading. While I agree that social media is personal, it is also public by default. Therefore, I caution all my readers to make sure that what they're choosing to share is not content that will appear detrimental to their characters.

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