When Social Media & Work Don’t Mix

We’ve read (& heard) a lot in the press this week about a growing trend among colleges, government agencies and employers who are requiring access to candidates social media accounts (Facebook & Twitter) as part of their vetting process. First and foremost, I am going to come out and say that this topic has been waaay over-hyped by the media. In all the reporting being done, only one employer, Maryland’s Department of Corrections, has been sited for demanding that applicants log onto their Facebook accounts (during the interview), to ensure that there was nothing hiding behind privacy walls. .…And really their motivation for doing this is to guard against corruption and gang related ties.

In speaking with all of our other HR friends and employers, we found no other instances of employers demanding passwords, or making candidates submit to in-person Facebook/Twitter reviews. THAT SAID, everyone we spoke with universally agreed that employers, colleges and  institutions WILL check a person’s social media links when doing ANY kind of vetting, and once hired or accepted, will “Follow” & (try to) “Friend” that person.  In fact, a recent  survey by Reppler reports that more than 90% of recruiters will first check you out on social media sites.

So what to do?

  • Clean it up! – Before you apply to any job or school, take the time to review your various social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blog, Personal website, and purge any posts, photos or comments that you would not want employers (or your mother) to see. We appreciate your love for Burning Man or that  you may have had a bad day at work, but these moments do not need to live on in infamy, and certainly work against you in getting ahead. Then check those personal settings and lock them down!
  • “Friend” with Caution – Hey we’ve all received Friend requests from the boss, work colleagues, neighbors and the non-stop networking types…and the best way to deal with these invitations is to understand how you use each site and set rules for yourself, that can be easily explained to others. “I’m sorry Jack, but I only use Facebook for close personal friends, but would love to connect with you on LinkedIn.”
  • Google yourself – In the very least any serious employer/school will search your name in Google. Be sure you have done this yourself and taken steps to remove or neutralize anything out there that is unflattering. And going forward set up Google Alerts for your name & businesses, to give you the heads up when anything new is added.
  • Know your rights – Senators Charles E. Schumer (NY) and Richard Blumenthal (CT) have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to begin investigations into this practice by employers as a violation of privacy and First Amendment rights. Facebook reiterated today that sharing your password in a violation of their Terms of Service and that Personal information such as gender, race, religion and age are often displayed on a Facebook profile are protected by federal employment law. In a nutshell….you do not and should note share your Passwords with anyone!!
  • Use Hourly for your Job Search – If Facebook is for Friends, Hourly is for Work. Here you can create a dedicated (closed network) profile that has one purpose, to connect you with employers looking to hire. Get started today!