Many employers are looking at social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook for additional information in screening job applicants. The conventional wisdom has been that searching for and reviewing these sites can provide useful information about an applicant’s judgment and character. Have they been blogging about frequently calling off work at their last job after a long night of partying? Do their photos and comments indicate a lifestyle of excessive alcohol consumption or use of illegal drugs? Have they “trashed” their previous employer online? Are they posting the sort of photographs that you would find embarrassing if one of your customers “Googled” their name as a representative of your company?

All of the foregoing is information that certainly could be relevant to your hiring decision. But when does information obtained online become “too much information,” placing your company at risk?

This issue is discussed at length by Lester Rosen, head of a California-based national background screening company, in a two-part series published in Recruiting Trends®, an online newsletter for HR professionals. Mr. Rosen cautions that privacy issues may be involved if you or your background screener access these sites by setting up a cover identity, and that in some circumstances Fair Credit Reporting Act notifications may be required by law for including review of these sites in a background investigation.

The most troubling issue noted in the article, however, is that reviewing an applicant’s social networking site may give you information about their disability, age, race, national origin, religion, sexual preference or other characteristics which of course can not be considered in making employment decisions. If you decide not to hire the individual, they may assume that you have discriminated against them based on that information. Mr. Rosen’s article appears at http://www.recruitingtrends.com/online/thoughtleadership/969-1.html

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