Social media background checks: What this means for Gen Y employers

Summary:Should companies be allowed to view prospective Gen Y employees' social media footprint before hiring? What these companies need to take note of.

It started out as an April Fools' joke.

It has been something we as an industry, and as a generational demographic have been aware of in a mythological sense, but now seems to ring true.

Would you agree to a social media search for a job? So many of you would not hand over your Facebook password for a dream job. It's understandable to say the least.

But where should the line be drawn in terms of public visibility of your online personal and private life?

(Image via Flickr)

I suspect most would agree that, to tow the corporate line, one needs to be committed to the company's ethos, practices and policies that it sets out and expects of its employees and contractors.

While prospective employers will probably not view dimly upon your Facebook photos of you partying hard and enjoying yourself, they may frown upon forum postings that criticise their company, technologies, or products.

No doubt, if the trail leads to a string of racially inflammatory posts or pictures which depict illegal activity, this will undoubtedly go entirely against you -- and you will not make it even as far as the interview stage.

The fact of the matter is that work and one's personal life are closely entwined, and are not two separate entities. One has an effect on the other; and if your personal life clouds your work judgment, then one should expect a pink slip pretty soon.

But the problem lies in the vetting balance.

The security and intelligence community in particular have their work cut out for themselves.

The Generation Y are so open and frank about so many aspects of their lives, and worst still in the public domain more often than not, it can lead to compromising positions which reflect badly upon employers.

Then again, having said that, though countries around the world have "secret services", provided this 'open generation' of youngsters can keep their mouths shut about operational details and state secrets, then there shouldn't be too much to worry about.

Managers, as those who make recruitment decisions, need to recognise that the world of work has changed since they were first recruited. There is a greater trail of information, data and footprints of prospective employees today.

I, for one, would probably never be allowed through the doors of One Infinite Loop or on Microsoft's Redmond campus with half of the things I have said about the two companies.

Recruiters need to take a more open and liberal attitude to Generation Y misgivings. Sure, privacy nowadays is a fluid and flexible notion, but one has to be aware of their online presence and the image they are portraying of themselves to not only the world, but also prospective employers.

While we are an 'open generation', the other side to this -- the employment side -- needs to adjust accordingly to accommodate this cultural shift.

Topics: CXO, Collaboration, Networking, Social Enterprise

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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