Banning Employers from Using Facebook as a Recruitment Tool
Online reputations matter for job seekers. According to a 2009 Microsoft study, nearly 80 percent of employers consulted online information in making interviewing and hiring decisions. For over seventy percent of those surveyed, this has led to the rejection of job applicants. Mindful of the power of search, Google CEO Eric Schmidt has predicted that young people may one day be entitled to change their names on reaching adulthood to escape embarrassing information about them stored on their friends’ social media sites.
Rather than condoning name changes, German lawmakers are considering restricting the kind of online information that employers can consult. Proposed legislation would ban employers from looking at a candidate’s Facebook page yet permit them to consult sites that facilitate self-promotion such as LinkedIn. Employers could still use Google to research potential hires unless the information is “too old” or the candidate had no control over its creation. Finland has banned employers from using search engines to investigate job candidates. States like Illinois and Oregon have sought to protect future employees in another way, i.e., by banning many employers from checking job applicants’ credit.
Should law prevent employers from obtaining and using certain information about individuals? These sort of laws might prevent employers from relying on misleading or incomplete data. Research suggests that a person’s credit history has little to no connection with trustworthiness on the job. Information posted online can be taken out of context, providing a distorted view of someone who might in fact be an optimal candidate. Using law in this way might, however, permit people to hide truthful (though damaging) information, exposing employers and their stakeholders to a variety of risks. In an insightful post, guest blogger Jeff Jonas called for greater tolerance of our eccentricities for our age of over-sharing. The key question is whether employers will adopt that approach over time.