Employers admit to Facebook checks

By U-Wire

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Deftly maneuvering between news feeds and recently tagged friends, veering from wall postings to global groups, most Notre Dame students know the art of surfing the social networking Web site Facebook.com.

What many don’t know is that the people hiring them are aware of it, too.

When screening job candidates, one in four employers uses the Internet to acquire personal information, and one in 10 uses or has used social networking sites (like Facebook.com or MySpace.com) for the same purpose, according to a survey released by Careerbuilder.com Oct. 26.

Those figures come as no surprise to Lee Svete, the director of Notre Dame’s Career Center.

“There’s no question we’ve had employers use Facebook to do background checks on students,” Svete said. As a member of a national benchmarking association called The College and Industry Council, Svete met last April with top employers including Microsoft, General Electric, Intel, Target and Accenture, who addressed the Facebook issue.

“Students are putting inappropriate information on that Web site,” Svete said. “It’s one strategy [employers] use to screen out students. That’s the word they use: screen out.”

Of the hiring managers who used social networking sites to research candidates, the majority (63 percent) did not hire the person based on what they found, according to Careerbuilder.com’s survey. The factors that deterred employers, the survey said, ranged from a candidate bad-mouthing a previous employer to them posting information about drinking or drugs to their having an unprofessional screen name.

“What I find most often is students don’t seem to realize the basic concept that it’s public information,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at Careerbuilder.com, pointing out that information online can be accessed not only by friends, but family, potential coworkers and potential bosses as well. “It’s all fair game.”

Haefner said while motivations vary, most employers using the Internet to screen candidates begin with innocent intentions.

“It starts out with curiosity. They wonder, ‘What else can I find out? What’s not in the resume, what was not in the interview, what’s the rest of the story?'” she said. “Depending on what’s up there, it can go either positively or negatively.”