That employers (and sentencers) use social networks like MySpace or Facebook to screen potential employees is nothing new. What is interesting is the amount of them that do, according to a CareerBuilder survey released last week.

In the survey of 3,169 hiring managers and human resource professionals and 8,785 employees, 22% of hiring managers say they use social network profiles as part of their hiring decision.

“Of those hiring managers who have screened job candidates via social networking profiles, one-third (34 percent) reported they found content that caused them to dismiss the candidate from consideration.”

Among the reasons for negative response on the part of the hiring parties are (outside of the even more common sense ones like discriminatory remarks or illegal behavior):
  • Poor communication skills (29%)
  • Bad-mouthing previous employers or fellow employees (28%)
  • Candidate lying about qualifications (27%)
  • Unprofessional screen name (22%)
  • Sharing confidential information about former employer (19%)
  • Information about drinking and drugs (41%)

On the other hand, 24% of hiring managers said profiles had helped them decide on hiring an applicant. Reasons given for positive responses included that an applicant's profile demonstrated:
  • Qualifications for the job (48%)
  • Great communication skills (43%)
  • Candidate was a good fit for the company's culture (40%)
  • Wide range of interests (30%)
  • Profile was creative (24%)

The ultimate legality of using social network profiles as background checks is still being debated. While there have been a good deal of “MySpace firings” in the news, the litmus test for the relationship between human resources and social networks has yet to happen.

“An easy rule of thumb is that if it is illegal to ask a potential employee about a particular topic, it is probably also illegal to take such information, found elsewhere, into account when making employment decisions.” said attorney Heidi Abegg in an article that details the possible federal and state regulations social-networking background checks might fall under.

For those who desire to now invoke Big Brother, more troubling is the practice of using social networks to screen — and influence — jurors.

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