Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Employers Start Scouring Online Community Pages

Nothing is sacred any more. OK well, online sites like Myspace and Facebook never were actually supposed to be sanctuaries of any kind. Still, this is getting a little too obsessive on a potential employer's part. People have the right to act however they wish away from the office.

Some employers apparently don't think so, though:

At least one Washington intern is glad she did not post unprofessional information about herself on the social-networking Web site Facebook: A potential employer asked a past intern to look up her profile.

Started in February 2004 as a Web site for college students to list their interests, communicate with friends and meet people, Facebook now boasts more than 8 million registered members from universities, high schools and workplaces across the country.

As the popularity of Facebook, MySpace and other social-networking Web sites grows, employers are signing up and logging in to perform background checks on job and internship candidates, or asking employees who are members to do so.

"The Internet's fair game," said the intern, an upcoming junior at Barnard College who asked not to be named because she didn't want to identify the D.C. nonprofit think tank that looked up her posting. She turned down the position offered, she said, but not because of the employer's actions.

The intern said she created her Facebook profile fully aware of the Internet's public nature.

"There were no pictures of me drunk on the floor in the bathroom," she said. "I feel it's like checking a reference. You just want to make sure you look good."

A poll released last week found that 26.9 percent of employers check the backgrounds of job applicants by using Google and social-networking Web sites. The National Association of Colleges and Employers surveyed 254 organizations in the services, manufacturing and government-nonprofit sectors.

Of the employers who said they use Web sites, 41.2 percent reported occasional use, 35.3 percent said their use was infrequent and 7.4 percent called it standard practice.