How Facebook tells employers if someone is worth hiring

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Social media has become thoroughly integrated into the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people. For personal or professional reasons, a large number of this population chooses Facebook as a network of choice.

Every day millions log into Facebook to share information. But Facebook's value is not necessarily all about the socialization, or even the marketing. There are many other reasons why some may find Facebook of use. For instance, many employers seeking to make a hire explore Facebook to get a better look at candidates.

Is Facebook the standard screening tool?

In a word, yes. In past years, employers used a variety of screening tools but often were unable to find out tidbits of details not shared by potential hires. However, with online socialization so ingrained in today’s society, Facebook has emerged as the new proverbial “background check”. Employers have discovered they can garner a lot of information about people by perusing the popular social network. According to a 2016 Career Builder survey, the number of employers using social media to check out candidates increased 500 percent over the past 10 years; 60 percent now turn to Facebook and other networks for a closer glimpse of candidates. (And more than 70 percent use search engines too).

And why wouldn't they? There is a ton of information that can be gleaned to help employers weed out who they wouldn't want to hire. Consider party weekend photos, inappropriate conversation, bashing a current or former employer, complaining about work, talking about legal issues, family life, or essentially any other topic people share with their Facebook friends. Many people use the network as their primary form of conversation and, since it’s online, this opens up the floodgates for lots of information to be streamed for all to read.

Employers ‘rate’ potential hires

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Back in 2012 Forbes highlighted a study that explored the multitude of ways employers can tell if a person is worth hiring, citing the "horrible red flags" that might be digitally exposed for all to see. The study, published in The Journal of Applied Social Psychology, examined how employers "rate" possible hires. 

"We asked them to form impressions of a candidate based solely on their Facebook page,” says Don Kluemper of Northern Illinois University, one of the study’s authors. 

Forbes noted the "key takeaway" of the study, reporting, 

"Key takeaway for hiring employers: The Facebook page is the first interview; if you don’t like a person there, you probably won’t like working with them. The bad news for employers, though, who are hoping to take the Facebook shortcut: “So many more profiles are restricted in what the public can access,” said Kluemper.

Should Facebook be fair game?

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Fair game or not, if you’re looking for a job, or even currently employed, it’s a safe bet you can assume your social media and online persona will be searched by employers. Additionally, there’s a double-edged sword here. According to the aforementioned survey, 41 percent of employers surveyed said they are less likely to interview job candidates if they can’t find information online – this is up 6 percent from the previous year. So if you decide to stay off the network, this might work against you too.

Facebook accounts contain a lot of information, and most people probably figure what they do on their own time is their own business. That being the case, an ethical consideration to weigh is if Facebook, or any other social media account, should be considered as fair game in the hiring process. If no privacy settings are used, seems perhaps what's on an account should be considered fair game, as the information is made public. 

On the other hand, if privacy settings are set, should it be off-limits? A few years back there was a controversial trend of employers demanding to see behind privacy settings and asked for passwords. That controversy seems to have died down but theoretically, it could still happen, no? As an alternative, employers are often asking to be a "friend" to candidates. Last year's stats say 68 percent of applicants allowed themselves to be "friended" but this was down from the previous year's 80 percent. That leads to the question if someone declines friendship on the network, is that factored into the hiring decision?  

Consider whether or not it would be acceptable to allow an employer into one's home to inspect your house. Would this be considered reasonable as part of the hiring process? In today's society, people congregate and, in some ways, "live" online. If looking at it from this perspective, entering a Facebook account can be compared to the invasion of privacy of one's personal property. Although, others may see it differently. 

The bottom line is it should be assumed that Facebook, or any other social network, will be used when doing background checks for people applying to jobs. 

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