Researchers at North Carolina State University argue that digging into a potential employee’s online history could backfire. A recent study published in the Journal of Business and Psychology (JBP) found that job applicants who find out a company has screened their social-media profile are turned off—enough to reject a job offer.
Scientific American reports that applicants in the U.S. may even resort to litigation. Will Stoughton, a doctoral student in industrial psychology and lead author of the paper in JBP, told Scientific American: “The legal landscape concerning the use of social media for screening is changing quickly. Organizations that don’t have formal processes regarding the use of social media for selection may put themselves at risk of legal complaints because of inconsistent practices.”
These potential repercussions can materialize only if companies get caught. With the exception of LinkedIn, social-media sites don’t notify users when their profiles have been viewed. So, is there really any danger?
Lori Foster Thompson, a psychology professor at N.C. State and one of the JBP paper’s co-authors, insists that there are several ways that applicants could find out they’ve been screened in this way. Foster Thompson told Scientific American that applicants could be tipped off after receiving a suspicious “friend” request on Facebook or by talking with current employees and hiring managers who disclose the information—either accidentally or on purpose—during the course of the interview.
The JBP paper recommends that companies refrain from digging into applicants’ personal social-networking profiles. But the study also suggests that applicants look at their social-media activity through the eyes of a potential employer. Googling a new contact or potential employee now is common practice. If an applicant’s Facebook or Twitter profile is left open to the public, it simply becomes part of an automatically generated online resumÃ© potential that employers are fully within their rights to browse.
Do you Google potential employees? What about Facebook snooping? Leave your comments below.