Employers who look on facebook.com profiles

As one door opens, another may soon be closing.

Employers in Davis and across the nation are looking to online websites
such as facebook.com and myspace.com to evaluate prospective employees.

Approximately 77 percent of employers use search engines to evaluate
candidates and nearly 35 percent of them have revoked a position based
on the information presented, according to NBC Nightly News statistics
in a Wesleyan University article.

It is becoming a more common phenomenon that requires more caution,
said Internship and Career Center project manager Chris Dito.

As one door opens, another may soon be closing.

Employers in Davis and across the nation are looking to online websites such as facebook.com and myspace.com to evaluate prospective employees.

Approximately 77 percent of employers use search engines to evaluate candidates and nearly 35 percent of them have revoked a position based on the information presented, according to NBC Nightly News statistics in a Wesleyan University article.

It is becoming a more common phenomenon that requires more caution, said Internship and Career Center project manager Chris Dito.

The job offers getting rescinded are extremely uncommon, Dito said. If I sample 10 employers on average, 25 percent are probably looking. It’s a fraction but I’d say the numbers are growing.

Students are advised to be aware of the information placed on these websites because they may be evaluated by employers, she added.

We like to say if you don’t want your mom and grandma looking at it, don’t post it, Dito said. We’ve had one [reported] instance where a job was revoked based on what was found online. Pay attention to this, once your information is out there on the internet, it’s hard to take it down.

Downtown Davis restaurant Bistro 33, located on Third and F streets employs nearly 45 UC Davis students, said general manager Gary Bradley.

He said he has looked at facebook.com profiles in the past but he does not make judgments about character or professional decorum based on what is posted.

I don’t think it’s unethical to base a decision on who you are that way but [Bistro 33] just [doesn’t] do it, Bradley said. More often than not, we interview someone face to face and that gives me a good indication of how they will be or how professional they will be. And if they can act like that, it doesn’t matter what’s going on in their personal life.

Online profiles may be assessed when it compromises the company, said G Street Pub day manager Devin Caswell. G Street Pub employs approximately three to four UCD students.

If it had something inappropriate regarding the company itself, I would be annoyed enough to ask them to take it down, Caswell said. I don’t think it would be inappropriate [to look at an online profile] if it’s something to do with personal relations, but I probably wouldn’t see the relevance. I’m a pretty much fan of personal life and personal accountability.

Caswell said he has seen many of his employees’ myspace.com pages via the G Street Pub Myspace website.

I don’t really think it’s any of [our] business except of course corporate liability. If it’s just their personal life and it doesn’t involve their business at all, I don’t see why it should involve the business at all.

Currently, there are no laws prohibiting businesses or employers from looking at facebook.com or myspace.com profiles.

To my knowledge there aren’t, said Hollis Kulwin, UC Davis School of Law dean for student affairs. Anything that is openly available on the web is openly available on the web. California has some laws having to do with who can do background checks [but] if something is readily available on the web, those don’t really apply.

If this were to cause enough problems for prospective employees, it would have to grab the attention of legislators, which would presumably be difficult for students, Kulwin said.

The law tends to be slow machine and this is a new phenomenon and moving at a quick pace, she said. For this to catch fire, someone needs to file a lawsuit which is expensive or catch attention from legislators who are concerned with other things like a poor economy.

Using common sense and selectively choosing what goes on a page is the best defense a student has right now, Kulwin added.

Set your privacy settings the highest possible level, and even with that, employers allegedly will ask student employees if they have any e-mail address that can search here and there and student employees will do that to maintain their jobs, she said.

Students may not see anything unethical about employers looking at candidates’ online profiles either. However, some do not think it is fair.

I suppose there’s nothing wrong with it but if they form an opinion based on what they see on their Facebook, it’s not right or fair, said David Vasquez, a UCD junior film studies major from San Jose. People act differently based on whether it’s a professional or personal environment so whatever you might see on the Facebook profile … doesn’t reflect how they’ll act on the job.

Dito said posted items may raise concerns but may not necessarily be a fair way of assessing a student’s on-job performance.

I think there is a certain type of student who is footloose and fancy-free in their free time [and] maybe you want that risk-taking young entrepreneur in your workplace, she said. But if there are lewd photos as an employer, it may raise not a red flag but a yellow flag and causes the employer to question the student’s behavior and that’s not really fair. I just want to raise the message that it’s happening and that’s what I’m trying to tell students.

 

ANN KIM can be reached at city@californiaaggie.com XXX.