More employers using social media to screen applicants

By Nina Earnest

David Fahey keeps his Facebook profile as private as possible. His profile picture isn’t of him, and he said he has “blocked everything.”

The 22-year-old U. Iowa senior is preparing to apply to medical school, and the potential downside to social networking is something he aims to avoid.

“I changed [my Facebook] because I don’t want employers looking at mine right now,” Fahey said, adding even the tiniest details can be misconstrued.

Fahey’s efforts relate to social media’s role in the workforce, a presence that has expanded from recreation to a hiring tool for some employers.

National experts and local career advisers echoed Fahey’s concerns, saying the importance of social media outside of personal lives has increased, especially in the job hunt.

A new company, Social Intelligence, is designed specifically to scan job applicants’ social media for potential employers.

Max Drucker, the CEO and president of Social Intelligence, said a client company provides Social

Intelligence with what it considers “objectionable material,” such as evidence of violence or racist attitudes. Job search expert Rick Gillis said there was “no question” that employers are increasingly checking the Internet and social media while considering job applicants.

“Google is your first résumé,” Gillis said.

He said applicants lose positions all the time because of what can turn up in a social-media search, and applicants won’t know why they lost the potential position. It’s better to be cautious, he said.

“If it could potentially embarrass you, it probably will,” Gillis said.

Companies are also monitoring already hired employees’ online behavior. Social Intelligence offers this service, including checking to see if employees are criticizing managers on the web, posing in questionable photos, or spending too much time on personal sites at work, according to its website.

On Monday, the New York Times reported the National Labor Relations Board accused American Medical Response of Connecticut of illegally firing an employee after the woman criticized her supervisor on Facebook.

However, social networking can provide a positive view for potential employers if an applicant’s profile includes such topics as charitable activities or job experience, Gillis noted.

When reviewing applicants, Drucker said, Social Intelligence only looks at the specified criteria.
Drucker said the company represented companies for all industries, and there has been a tremendous demand.

“Companies in the future will be willing to differentiate candidates by what they have been doing online,” he said.

But Angi McKie, director of marketing and public relations at the Pomerantz Career Center, said employers told them they’re not checking profiles to scan applicants. After speaking to three of the center’s advisers, McKie said no students indicated they lost opportunities because of an online presence.

UI senior Joshua Nelson said he felt checking profiles was a good way for employers to get an accurate picture of potential employees, and applicants should project the right image online.

“You don’t want to take any risks,” he said.

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