According to a recent study carried out at a University in America employers’ may look favourably on an individual based on their social network page. The study showed that an employer is able to tell how good an individual will be just from looking at their Facebook page. Pictures showing drunken nights out, travels etc suggests that the individual is personable and social, an attractive quality for employers. However as positive as the results suggests, this is clearly only one side of the story.

A Facebook page may actually discourage some employers from recruiting an individual and there has in fact been evidence which supports this argument and understandably so. If an individual has made comments about their previous employer then this is a cause for concern. Likewise if they have been making derogatory comments, voicing extreme opinions or there are compromising pictures employers may not want to be associated with such an individual. Social media carries risk for an employer as comments and pictures can go viral. An employer will not want to risk hiring someone who freely shares all information and pictures no matter how damning or personal they may be as their actions could end up damaging the employer’s reputation.

Some employers do vet potential employee’s Facebook pages so individuals would be wise to keep their profiles clean and professional, thus maintaining their credibility. Although you can restrict who views your profile privacy only extends so far.  An employer does not have to seek an individual’s permission before checking profiles.

Likewise an employer also needs to be careful, if they choose to reject an individual for a job on the basis of what they have seen on a Facebook page and the individual in question discovers this then the employer is potentially at risk of a discrimination claim. You should make it clear from the outset what the job process involves and what you do. Any vetting of people’s pages should be proportionate and only carried out when necessary. An employer must be fair to all applicants; some people won’t have a Facebook page and those that do, if you view their page, view them with an open mind. Broadly speaking an employer should not make a judgement based on what they see, remember this is an individual’s right to express themselves. It is not necessarily an indication of how they will be in their professional life.

Viewing social media pages may be a useful tool but one should take care not to rely on what these pages contain. Yes a profile may make someone more attractive to employers but there will be cases when this is not so. Remember there are two sides to every story.