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

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

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  • Zack, you'd be surprised

    You'd be allowed through the doors at Microsoft if devoting yourself to Redmond and its success somehow became your highest priority. I somehow doubt you're ever going to want that. You'd be surprised at many of the people they have working there right now.
    • RE: Social media background checks: What this means for Gen Y employers

      @HollywoodDog Shame, really. I wish I could, but the prospect of rearing a kitten from birth through to old age is a FAR higher priority of mine than to work for Microsoft :)
  • Don't Commit Social Suicide!

    As a recruiter and social media consultant, I am in the business of educating people about how damaging or inspiring their digital footprint can be. Not sure how you rank? Connect with me. Whether you like it or not, companies/employers are looking. Personally, I think it's a great idea. Hiring is only partially based on someone's skills... the rest? The candidates personality and moral presentation. It doesn't matter if you like it because it's happening. If you're putting embarrassing content out there, you're committing social suicide. Get in the know!!! or