The next time you apply for a job your ‘could-be employer’ may require a social media background check. That’s right. Employers looking at candidates’ presence online is an actual “thing” now. If you’re waiting for a, “It’s like a criminal background check but not,” line…well. Keep waiting because it’s exactly like a criminal background check. A company called Social Intelligence actually specializing in professional eligibility research recently made its service available to businesses everywhere.
Here’s how it works: Company A wants to hire Candidate B but also want to make sure he/she won’t cause the company any trouble down the road. Company A hires Social Intelligence to stalk Candidate B from information obtained from his/her resume (name, email, school, hometown, etc). They look up Candidate B’s activity on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, MySpace, dating sites, forums, blog sites, Wikipedia (Get the point?) over the last seven years and compile a document that then tells Company A that Candidate B has or has not engaged in illegal, racist, mean, or sexually explicit behaviors…publicly at least. Candidate B either passes or fails. It’s like Googling someone, but excessively more effective.
While I certainly have some concerns about the subjectivity of what’s “too inappropriate” (all checks are done by humans by the way, not computers), I think we all knew this day was coming. ‘Social Media Background Checks’ are the new ‘Character References’ and, as a person who desperately wants to know if he would pass or fail his own official background check, I understand how much insight this service could offer an employer.
Now, while I’m probably Social Intelligence’s ideal demographic for finding something juicy – a recently 21 college frat boy with a dedicated effort of posting absolutely everything to Facebook that drives his roommates crazy – I’m not making glaring, scandalous mistakes. But that’s not necessarily all these checks are looking for. The checks look for anything from as small as an offhand racist joke with a friend to a confession of drug use. Things like a teacher getting fired because of a Facebook status are only going to become more and more common as our many social media profiles continue to serve as a reflection of ourselves.
But employers weren’t exactly in the dark before Social Intelligence’s services either. Unofficial character checks happen all the time. For example, my current boss told me that even she looked at my Facebook profile before hiring me when I asked her. It’s incredibly easy. Go ahead. Google me as an example. (Disclaimer: That’s a different Carter Gibson with a WriteAPrisoner.com profile)
Additionally, in my time here my old blogs that reflect my then-amateur writing abilities have been passed around and my long ago abandoned MySpace profile was found via a simple Google search (if burning MySpace profiles was possible I’d make smores tonight). Companies are looking at these things and despite not being shy about employers knowing what I looked like at age 16 (very differently) I know that my online identity isn’t just for my friends. And that’s just something you have to be okay with if having a public presence online is important to you.
As our social media options expand and we start viewing complicated privacy settings as more of a hindrance and less of a necessity, a certain due diligence must become standard practice. I’m a social media addict. I’m currently in the first beta group for Google+ and I’m legitimately let down when only a few people comment on the picture I took of the awesome salmon I just made. You’d probably think I have a lot to worry about with something like Social Intelligence. I totally don’t. I think it’s a little invasive, yeah sure. And of course I have some worries about it being misused or what constitutes a failure on the report, but I know I’m totally in control of this situation. After all, it’s up to me what I share and I don’t ever plan on giving anyone a reason to not hire me.