Job Applicants' Social Media Sites Scrutinized

By San Jose Mercury News | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 18, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Job Applicants' Social Media Sites Scrutinized


San Jose Mercury News, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


You might want to think twice about bad-mouthing your former boss on Facebook or posting those racy pictures of yourself from last night's rollicking bachelor party. It could cost you a new job.

In a controversial twist on the exploding use of online social media, employers are poring over the websites to weed out job applicants whose posts reveal that they use foul language, take drugs, associate with gangs or have other questionable characteristics. Some employers are even demanding that job candidates disclose their social-network user names and passwords.

While companies long have kept an eye on workers posting information that might hurt business, their screening of job applicants' social-media pages is proving especially contentious. Employers say they do it to keep from making hires they'd later regret. But courts have yet to hash out the legal implications of the checks, and critics find the practice offensive.

"That's completely inappropriate," said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum. "It's like saying, 'Can I read your personal diary?' I believe that chills free speech. If everyone thinks that to get a job they have to have a perfectly clean social networking site, no one will say anything to anyone."

Another concern is that information dredged from social media sites may be inaccurate or may confuse two people with the same name.

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