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Can Facebook be used against me?

In an increasingly competitive job market, employers are using every means at their disposal to ensure that the right candidate is found. Unfortunately for some, this means that social networking sites might be used to either recruit or screen potential employment candidates.

A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management noted that organizations are increasingly relying on social networking sites either through the recruitment process or while interviewing candidates. While this added information might be a benefit for the hiring managers, are they looking at the right information? Conversely, are hiring managers holding potential employees to an unfair standard?


One question that the SHRM asks consistently is whether or not an organization currently uses "this online tool to screen job candidates." The positive responses to this survey question have increased over time. In 2008, 13 percent responded yes. In 2011, the number was 18 percent. And, most recently, in 2013, 20 percent of the polled organizations responded yes.

While the use of Facebook has dropped from 78 percent to 58 percent in 2011 and 2013 respectively, LinkedIn has increased from 85 percent to 92 percent in the same span. Interpreting this data, it would seem that hiring managers are shifting from the more social, day-in-the-life aspects of Facebook to the more online resume structure of LinkedIn.

What does this mean for applicants? In short, the advice would be to assume that nothing is private. In today's era of data mining and digital footprints, the Internet has become a valuable resource for companies. While you might find it perfectly acceptable to rant about a movie, video game or recently-ended relationship, just be mindful that human resources can potentially use this information as the final differentiation between you and another candidate for a job.

Source: Society for Human Resource Management, "Social Networking Websites Recruiting Job Candidates," April 11, 2013

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