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More Employers Looking at Social Networking Sites

More Employers Looking at Social Networking Sites

Susan Mires, St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.

July 06, 2010

If you’re looking for a job, you may want to do more than brush up your resume.

You may also want to re-examine your Facebook page.

More and more, employers are prowling social network sites – such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter – to check on potential new hires.

“It can be a legitimate way to see if someone is a good fit for your company culture,” said Carol Barnett, a labor attorney with Polsinelli Shugart in St. Joseph.

Companies find the searches especially helpful for positions such as sales representatives where an employee will be representing the firm.

“It’s certainly less expensive, but it may not be the most reliable source for you,” Ms. Barnett said while speaking about labor issues at an event at the Small Business Development Center in St. Joseph.

She cited a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management that found 20 percent of respondents had researched a candidate on a social network and of those, about 20 percent had disqualified a candidate.

In addition, some employers have fired workers over information that was posted on their Facebook profiles or personal blogs. Although employees have sued, claiming discrimination or violation of free speech, Ms. Barnett said most court rulings favor employers.

“If it’s inappropriate behavior that’s being exhibited, it’s a legitimate basis,” she said.

Although a user may think they have privacy settings in place to keep their boss from seeing their page, Ms. Barnett said another friend or co-worker who does have access to the page may pass along the information.

When hiring, employers will want to make sure they avoid using social networks to determine if someone is a member of a minority group or physically disabled, she advised.

Ms. Barnett also advises against sending friend requests to potential hires or new bosses.

But for job seekers, social networks are becoming essential tools, as half of all adults have either a Facebook or MySpace account. An article in this week’s Time magazine examines how laid-off workers are sending out status updates and “tweets” to search for jobs. Several found that the most unexpected connections resulted in work.

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