Have you seen the recent New York Times article, Social Media History Becomes a New Job Hurdle?  If you haven’t, it’s definitely worth reading.  I also thought it was quite timely as it hit on many of the same themes and topics we’ve been discussing lately.  As the title of the article suggests, it talks about how a person’s social media history can be an impediment to getting a job and how companies are increasingly requiring job applicants to pass a “social media background check.”  Here are a few highlights from the article that I found particularly interesting.

  • One of the companies featured in the article, Social Intelligence, is a “year-old start-up” that conducts social media background checks for employers. According to the NY Times, the company “assembles a dossier with examples of professional honors and charitable work, along with negative information that meets specific criteria: online evidence of racist remarks; references to drugs; sexually explicit photos, text messages or videos; flagrant displays of weapons or bombs and clearly identifiable violent activity.”  Now, for regular readers of netWORKed, Social Intelligence’s activities should ring some bells—see my post A Helpful Reminder on Social Media and Background Checks, reminding readers that companies that do background checks for other companies, even when the background check is a social media background check, are subject to the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  (Perhaps the NY Times had read my post too!  The article specifically notes that the Federal Trade Commission had raised some concerns about Social Intelligence but determined that the Company is indeed in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.)
  • Less than a third of the data included in Social Intelligence’s reports comes from the big social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Social Intelligence’s chief executive, Max Drucker, told the NY Times that “much of the negative information about job candidates comes from deep Web searches that find comments on blogs and posts on smaller social sites, like Tumblr, the blogging site, as well as Yahoo user groups, e-commerce sites, bulletin boards and even Craigslist.”
  • A picture is worth a thousand words.  According to the NY Times, “it is photos and videos that seem to get most people in trouble.  ’Sexually explicit photos and videos are beyond comprehension,’ Mr. Drucker said.  ‘We also see flagrant displays of weapons.  And we see a lot of illegal activity.  Lots and lots of pictures of drug use.’”
  • Drucker also believes that, “Googling someone is ridiculously unfair.  An employer could discriminate against someone inadvertently.  Or worse, they are exposing themselves to all kinds of allegations about discrimination.”  In an effort to reduce the risk of inadvertent discrimination or allegations of discrimination, Social Intelligence removes protected class information (e.g. race, religion, disability, etc.) from the reports it gives employers.
  • Lastly, some wisdom from an outreach manager for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Houston office, who told the NY Times, “‘Things that you can’t ask in an interview are the same things you can’t research.’  That said, he added that 75 percent of recruiters are required by their companies to do online research of candidates.  And 70 percent of recruiters in the United States report that they have rejected candidates because of information online.”

Is social media history part of your regular background check on applicants?  Do you have procedures in place to address concerns like those raised by the EEOC?  More on this interesting topic to follow!