IT Employment discover

Job hunting, Facebook, and privacy settings

If you think your social media presence is safe from the prying eyes of potential employers just because you've tightened your privacy settings, you could be wrong.

Career management bloggers have advised IT pros ad nauseum about the dangers of posting questionable content on their social media sites when they're looking for a job. (Not surprisingly, the industry that is the most prone to screening social sites is IT (63 percent).

We've done everything just short of physically smacking people upside the head.

Some people say that their Facebook accounts are their business and they can put anything they want there-that they wouldn't want to work for a company that wouldn't hire them for something they put on their personal page.   Fair enough. Just know that many corporations don't make a huge effort to hire folks who have listed snuff films as a hobby.

Some people say that all you have to do is adjust your privacy settings so that potential employers can't see anything. That is also fair. But remember that even people not listed as Friends can see your profile picture. (In other words, if your profile picture shows you drinking beer from a funnel, while simultaneously posing with your arm around a cardboard cutout of Hitler, don't expect a second interview.)

In addition, privacy settings can be circumvented if a potential employer is motivated enough. Heed this warning from work.chron.com:

If a recruiter who's considering you for a role knows one of your Facebook friends, she could quite easily get access to your pages. More unscrupulous employers might even go as far as trying to hack your account. If you're worried about possible employers viewing your Facebook content, keep everything you post clean and professional.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

44 comments
lleveny
lleveny

So.. wait if you do something good, the company takes credit!? But if you're bad, it's your fault!? Hm.. and the job doesn't even want to help you by paying for therapy and sending you to it but is okay just to fire you on the spot. If higher do something similar (***NOTE: I am not saying supervisor does the exact same thing but similar) management just gets reassigned or worst fired. Wow, just wow!

captainanalog
captainanalog

Unfortunately such activity by HR is just a symptom of our obsession with personality. Too many employers would rather hire a smiling idiot with ADD and a nice FB profile than a qualified candidate. 13 years ago we elected a President using the same, "logic." How did that work out?

mtnman28715
mtnman28715

I have a question - is not having a Facebook/social media presence a bad thing if you're looking for an IT job?

captainanalog
captainanalog

I'm not worried about what I put on Facebook, mostly because I don't visit often, and I certainly don't choose to bare my life to the world. What worries me is that little popup I get at this and other sites which tells me that I have"chosen to open" some unknown, unwanted, and certainly unchosen text file from Facebook. Screw these people! Nosy bastids! I hope they know that I hit Cancel every time.

explorerv
explorerv

I'm not keen to work for somebody who doesn't respect my personal life. Usually this is done by a very poorly trained HR staff and persons who skip the lectures "Why ethics matters" in the Business Schools.

Chief-Tiff
Chief-Tiff

Place what you like on the web, but only if you are willing to tell EVERYBODY about it. Whilst you do not expect to have to tell your boss you went out on a bender last weekend, if you ended up on the 6pm news – he knows. If you put it on the web to brag, he may also find out and if it is likely to bring the company into disrespect, he may want to take some action. Take a look at the Australian Military and the issues they have with soldiers posting comments on Face Book. While that may say it is there own time, off base, not related to their job, I believe they are identified as serving military on their profile. The Army then says that is unacceptable as it reflects on the Army as a whole and they are looking at or already are pursuing charges. Would you employ a babysitter that had a face book page showing how their “personal life and thoughts” were so far removed from your family values?

ShaneD
ShaneD

.. if employers want work-relevant cyber-snooping - they should go to LinkedIn (oh that's right.. you can tell on LinkedIN who's been checking you out!)

aaron.cross
aaron.cross

Too easy, I have multiple FB Accounts not in my name and those accounts have friends that are not associated to any of my friends on my real account. So, to my "real" FB friends i'm Clarke Kent(as in boring, not much happens) to the Alias accounts i'm superman or Lex Luthor. Problem solved.

bmeyer66
bmeyer66

Don't have a Facebook account.

pcorchary
pcorchary

... Just don't have a FB (or other social media) presence at all. Keep your personal and business relationships face-to-face. It's much easier, lower drama, and much more professional. We lived for millions of years without computers, and in the computer age we did just fine for 50 years or so before social media.

production
production

Many companies in the Silicon valley they will let you grow a beard and wear a dress to work whether your'e a dude or a chic. But they expect you to wear that suit to the interview, You might wanna hide your worship of Satan enough to get and KEEP the job at the bank if that's where you wanna work. Also, you want to fit in at your new job, so if they don't hire you because you don't follow their philosophy you are way ahead of the game. .

james
james

I can't believe the number of people that are 'accepting' of this as reality. This is a horrible invasion of privacy, and just because they can do so doesn't mean they should be allowed to conduct this kind of in depth research on a person. If they are going to use this kind of research into a person, they should be offering up the same degree of insight in to the executives of the company along with all of the companies financials for my consideration. "... might go as far as to hack in to your account" Really?? I suppose I can then justify hacking in to their network to gather information to decide if I want to work for them? This insanity of sanctioning invasion of privacy needs to come to an end. Employers need to start respecting the work force they have instead of viewing them as cost centers to squeeze....

phscnp
phscnp

In 2009 I was "caught up in a resource action." Since my 50th birthday was coming up I was doubly untouchable. I spent a LOT of time listening to people describe what goes into hiring decisions and what I could do to get to an interview. You can be outraged that things work the way they do, but you can also learn from it. I think there is more room to be outraged when you are covered by insurance and setting meals in front of your children. If you are in desperate shape this kind of information can help. Like it or not: - What you wear matters. - What you say matters. - How you speak matters. - Your age matters - What you say in town hall meetings matters - What you post on Facebook matters - And (new to me) what your friends post on Facebook matters. - And the list goes on... Similar to "would you say it to your grandmother," consider, "Would I say it in Town Hall or the local elementary school?"

poisson59
poisson59

Most job posts will attract hundreds of applicants, only one of which will be chosen in the end. How many times have you been turned down with "you did not meet basic requirements" or "we found a better candidate" or simply no callback at all? No more explanation required. You'd be hardpressed to prove discremination or even that your FB content was a deciding factor. You may claim you do not want to work for some company that does such aweful things, but what if it's only the hiring manager or the HR person acting "for the better good of the company"? Also, HR will also claim that they are not only looking for a set of skills, but also for someone who will fit in. I can vouch for that, having myself been on the hiring side of things a while back. Looking for a job is like dating: you have to look your best if you want a second date and more afterwards. OTOH, if you really want it to work in the long run, maybe you should let them see you as you really are. If they like you that way, they'll like you for a long time.

dsrobinson
dsrobinson

don't use the same email address and use a nickname on FB?

druid627
druid627

Personally, any employer that is so damned paranoid that the must check out your face book and not hire you, even if your post are clean, due to what your friends might have on their pages is not the type of employer I'd want to work for. Also, basing the hiring or firing of an applicant/employee based on social media should be a violation of 1st and 14th Amendment rights. Any company that uses such practices should be fined out of business and the HR personnel that did it should be locked in prison. Not that it will happen, but as long as the internet opens the world as a friend base, there is no telling what is acceptable in one country that is taboo in another, with out having all the cultures of every faction of people and take in the translation factor... companies might not hire a fully qualified person based on something culturally acceptable in another country. Then again, hiring by social media is totally idiotic in the first place. The 'Good ol' Boy' network, gone electronic. that is still against fair hiring practice when done in person, why is it acceptable in the electronic era?

dwhite
dwhite

...meaning if anyone sees anything on my personal accounts that they don't like, they're free to move along. "What other people think of me is none of my business". I have friends who are paranoid about "Big Brother", to the point they won't even get a grocery discount card in their name. I say, if they want to know what size tampons I'm buying, they're the ones with the problem, not me. Same goes for future employers.

dave.a.minnich
dave.a.minnich

The way I look at it, I don't want the job where the employer is nosing around in my personal affairs. Employers who do this are hurting their own businesses by excluding the best qualified applicants from their companies. If I was doing the FB snooping for HR, I would pick people who fit my personal viewpoints and exclude those who did not. Eventually that would result in a strong case for discrimination on various grounds with statistical employment evidence that hiring was based on things like religion, marital status, etc.

CrimeDog
CrimeDog

Rather than beat a dead horse, how about offering some constructive solutions? Pretty much everyone able to win a game of Solitare knows that Facebook (and much of the other social media sites) is a personal information sieve. Why do you think the 'bad guys' troll FB? They are looking for your mother's maiden name, your date of birth and any other information about you. With as little as three (3) of the right pieces of your information, they have enough to get a credit card in your name...or any of the other things that can be done with someone else's ID. Button up your social media. If you don't know how, find out. It is your responsibility. If you feel that you were denied employment because some overzealous HR-type circumvented your settings, then take whatever legal steps you need to - that is your responsibility, too. It is up to you.

tvmuzik
tvmuzik

You said it best, and I couldn't agree with you more. Whether it's the Whitecollar world or the Bluecollar world, employers have NO GODAMMM BUSINESS WHATSOEVER prying into people's personal lives online, Period. And I NATURALLY Do NOT GAF what the "establishment" says, they can argue with me all they want, the fact is this: MIND YER OWN BUSINESS. After a job interview earlier that day, I have ways of knowing when an employer peeks into my online activities at Facebook... I go back and grab him by the face, and give him a good piece of my mind. Employers: STAY THE FK OUT OF MY PERSONAL LIFE!!!

Sensei Humor
Sensei Humor

It's not brain surgery. If you don't have a FB account (which is good advice anyway) they can't find info on you from that source. I post nothing, and practically speaking don't ever log in. I just need to pull the plug on it. And given FB's rapacious data gathering and compiling habits (see "shadow profiles") people should be leaving in droves anyway.

jsargent
jsargent

I only use it to view other pages. If you want immortality then just post ANYTHING on the internet. My biggest problem is what people do who are associated with friends of yours. I know several people who unfriended their friends since they worried that people might disapprove of the company that they keep just because their friends' kids were socially controversial. Unfortunately, these days you don't have to be a future CEO for this to influence your career.

Adam_12345
Adam_12345

I think there is a good side of giving your privacy away in a view of your employer. Just imagine how a personal bond is built when your employer knows everything about you ?...For example, if you hed jerked off the previoues night and you went to work the next day. Suddenly your employer comes to you and and says "you should jerk off less,Tony!" or if you took a shit and spent few hours in a bathroom and then your employer says "ughhhh, you were talking some good shit!". Then a personal bond is built up and you feel at work like you were among members of your family and you start perceiving your employer almost as father/mother. That's a good side of giving away your privacy :)

uwishtoo
uwishtoo

My friends, my family = none of your damn business. Got it? This "politically correct" crap has gotten wayyyyy out of f'ng hand. On my own time I ride a motorcycle, I have tattoos, I wear diamond nose studs, I wear tank tops and flip flops, my friends mostly all ride motorcycles and have tattoos also. But I don't drink or do drugs, None of my friends do drugs either. Some are devout Christians (I'm not) most all are very patriotic and most are Veterans. What I am is a thrice degreed professional and now a business owner making a very nice living so it doesn't matter what any employer thinks of me and never f;ng did. Get a LIFE and stay out of mine

Adam_12345
Adam_12345

"If you think your social media presence is safe from the prying eyes of potential employers just because you’ve tightened your privacy settings, you could be wrong".......and that's a good reason to give away all your privacy in the eyes of your employer because what difference does it make?

GSG
GSG moderator

If you wouldn't want your Mother or Grandmother to see, or your 5 year old, don't post it. Of course, if Granny is in the picture with you playing beer pong, then you have a bigger problem. Also check what your friends are posting that shows up on your newsfeed. I had to defriend someone who was posting some seriously questionable content. It was quite startling to open my newsfeed and see that staring at me in all it's 3D glory.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen moderator

If it's in outside sales, you'll probably want a social media presence. Most of the rest of them, it probably doesn't make a difference. Unless you're looking to hire on in one of those organizations that uses social media to disseminate information.

annathule29
annathule29

DoNotTrackMe by Abine. Free and (supposedly, I can only trust what my tech friends tell me) it keeps all KINDS of folks from following me around. The 2 most common, on virtually every page is Facebook and Google Analytics. Let's see, Techrepublic is tracking me, so is C|Net, as is Google, not Facebbok amazingly enough, and Omniture, Clicktale and Crowd Science. AdBlock Plus also works well (and works side-by-side w/ DNTM) but AdBlock is best on Facebook for that damnable ticker, (although what DON'T I see cuz I have it, eh? *g*) Naughty Techrepublic, do these fine readers know you're tracking their every click? Tsk, tsk, tsk. I have Chrome so they work for here and FF but I don't know about other browsers or OS's. That's up to you all brainiacs! HAHAHA!

annathule29
annathule29

Unless those values included child abuse, yes, I'd still retain the services of that babysitter. I'm not hiring her "values" I'm hiring her capability and know how. Is she prompt? Is she clean? (I don't care if she's "goth" skater" "nerd" whatever either.) Does she keep my child clean, safe, fed, clothed, changed, entertained and happy? Are there rashes, bruises, unexplained behaviors I'm seeing? That's all I care about and all I'll EVER care about. I don't want her to play her nasty-azz crap music she may like, at the top of my speakers and disturb the neighbors but so long as she's listening for my baby satisfactorily, I don't care WHAT goes through those perpetual ear thingies she wears. I got four boys, there's a difference between "values" (read: choices), and responsibility. They listen to music I wouldn't listen to on a NY bet!! But they're responsible, do their jobs, 2 are in the military one career Army, one reserve at this point, they like layered clothing that baffles me, funny hats, funnier haircuts. 1 is polar opposite me politically, 2 span between, and one is exactly like me politically, those are all CHOICES, even the politics, oh and religions, are CHOICES they make, they'll be someone else by the time they reach my age, but their "values" are a day's work for a day's wage and to support their families and take care of their responsibilities. Music, clothing, politics and religions have nothing to do with those "values." Ya see? I've yet to meet an employer who sees the difference. I trust you all are smart enough to see the difference and I'm sorry for your narrow brains if you can't see the difference. We have Marines in prison for posting something so mild that it's almost impossible to suss out unless you already dislike the occupant of 1600 PA Ave. He wrote it on his own time and it's thumb sucking level compared to what I read (and post) on mine or any one of my friends' FB pages. If you're interested in politics, REAL politics, not the low information kind that plays at being a citizen, then if you're not on someone's watch list, preferably more than one, you're not fighting hard enough. That poor Marine - and others in the service (and they DID know this going in, so did your fine Aussie serviceman) - are in jail for what they wrote. If they can fight and die for me, if they can risk their careers to try and wake up a brain dead America (that isn't America anymore and will be less than that soon enough) I can at least take the risk of fighting back through the "pen", so to speak. It was once mightier than the sword, I don't know anymore, but I can't fight any other way. (For the same reason I will never be hired again, I'm too crippled to stand or walk. Companies are afraid of me. :/) I do what I can, that soldier man does what he can and each of our countries benefits. At least those who still wish to preserve the rights their parents grew up with anyway... Christine

annathule29
annathule29

Up in that long post above, it contains info on "shadow accounts", something that FB was caught w/ not only their hand in the cookie jar, they had climbed in and fallen asleep inside it!! Read it for how FB knows more about you than you would willingly give to them, even if you have been a 10 year user of the service! Also MD has laws against this. Everyone needs to make sure their states adopt the same anti-snooping laws MD does. Amazing that such a commonsense law got past the state legislature, much less a governor I can't accurately describe here and not get banned!

bmeyer66
bmeyer66

I do tend to agree with you about this post. However I don't have a Facebook account and I do watch what I post.

TRgscratch
TRgscratch

a very narrow-minded company (if everyone was identical in thoughts and interests)

Fistandantilius
Fistandantilius

But, if someone would circumvent security settings to gain information on me and exploit it, I would certainly feel a threat. This article mentions only during job hunting. What about later on? What about whenever? What if the interviewee returns the favor, snoops the HR interviewer and exploits his/her information in the same way? However, how far does it go? What about morality? What about common sense? The internet is a great asset, but a tremendous liability as well.

annathule29
annathule29

To TRULY get rid of a FB account, it takes at least 2 weeks, maybe more now given their hand-in-glove relationship with the gov't and yes, their shadow profiles. (A tidbit on that later.) NEVER. EVER. EVER. EVER. AGAIN. log into your account after you kill it. You say to me, "Ahhhhh, yeah....(duh)" with a quizzical look and I say to you, your account is kept "active", "just in case you change your mind and want it back". (That's an actual quote.) By logging in by so much as a nanosecond, you reactivate it and it's all as if nothing was ever deleted. I say this for others to read as well. Some have relogged in by accident, by using the same email address to make a new account once you've found your new job. It's actually easier to do, than it sounds, when you know good and well you're not going to log in again. It can still be done, even by say, your spouse, if, on the common computer, your name and password show up and someone doesn't pay attention and opens yours by accident. You must wipe that browser's memory of your user name and password as well. And why not just look at them and politely say, "I don't have a a social networking account except [some reputable business networking site such as LinkedIn, etc.], Sir/Madame", and coolly dare them to defy you. Are they going to call you a liar to your face and then whip out the evidence? Hacking is a crime and if you can prove it because they start fussing you for this reason or that, and you can prove that's where they got the information, you can sue them to Hades and back again. (Because obviously they're not going to do what I just facetiously said!) Better yet, get the same law passed in your state as in MD - no employer is allowed to demand ANY user name or password to a social networking site. And it seems to me, that anything you might write on the spur of the moment might more readily be disseminated by the injudicious use of Twitter, FAR harder to delete that history! As for shadow accounts. I have managed to fall in with a bunch of folks who seem to have the inside skinny on Facebook. (The owner of the page says they're a mod, but even if they're not, they've been "on the money" every time so far.) It really never matters if you ever had an account so much as once in your life. If your friends use, (and it only takes one), the "Friend Finder" capabilities on Facebook to find their friends, FB, quite obligingly (/sarc) grabs not only ALL the names in said address book, they grab whatever information that friend has stored about you - phone #'s, workplaces, birthdays, anniversaries, kids, wives, notes, you name it, FB swipes it and complies a dossier on YOU! Along w/ every other poor sot that friend had the misfortune to use an online address book to keep everyone's information. (And correlates it with those kids' names, spouses' names, not just the friend's name, ad infinitum.) That's why these accounts were even found and even more why it became so public so quickly. That "bug" that allowed information that should NOT have even been saved, much less kept, to be downloaded with whatever settings it is you save, (never tried it, too bad I didn't while that bug was active...) the folks saw all their NON-FB friends' information. So even if you wouldn't touch a social networking site if you were dying for want of it, doesn't mean FB doesn't have MORE information about you than you might have handed over to them voluntarily!! As this information wings its way to Utah, it's added to all the other meta data known about you, (is that the right word - meta data?) and voila, once again, you are a 'tracked individual". I won't even get into how many license plates get stored, not only by light cameras, but far more, how many get stored and sent along to Utah, via the information those new cameras placed on the rear trunks of police vehicles collect. I've never seen ones on the front on our town's vehicles, though we have them on every car in the fleet on the trunk. I believe, from the camera shape, they look both forward AND backward. They'd have to, 2 states around our 4 state area only has rear plates. MD uses both. Have fun, my suddenly, newly, or simply more so, unsettled, discomfited friends. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Unfortunately...... Christine

annathule29
annathule29

Always love a fellow hater of this overly PC-nonsense world. When we need to fear over gov't more for what we think and say, than terrorists for their bombs, it's a pretty sad situation, and double that here on this Fourth of July, (fifth, now as write this.) Back when I was a professional, and they could have demanded to see my FB page, I mostly post political stuff anyway, (certainly no beer bongs and funnels!! *shudder*), they all knew I was pagan, and I had the good fortune to work for a newspaper where politics were regular topics of discussion. Back then, I was "mainstream" anyway, I wasn't "aware" of things yet. Christine

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

The point of this post and all others like it is--whether it's wrong or right--you can't complain if an employer turns you down because of something they object to on your Facebook page. It IS their business if they don't want someone with tattoos meeting with customers. Would you, as a business owner, hire someone whose Facebook page was littered with jokes about tattoos or Veterans? Probably not because they might not fit in. That's your preference and your right, am I not correct? It's not like people being judgmental was invented with social media. It's just expanded. Also, it's interesting that you would imply that one being a devout Christian would be a shoe-in factor to an employer. From the other end of the argument--why would that matter one way or the other? If you don't want to work at a company that you perceive to be judgmental, then you have nothing to worry about. Why is this so hard for people to understand?

Chaz Chance#
Chaz Chance#

One of my in-laws writes horror fiction, and regularly posts copys of reviews of his books. These often contain very graphic extracts from the novels. He is extended family so I am not going to defriend him. As person he is a sound, responsible citizen - but a recruiter seeing his posts on my page might not know that. Ah well...

annathule29
annathule29

Yes you can complain, if you live in MD. It's the first, and so far as I know, the ONLY state in the union where demanding your user names and passwords is illegal, as a condition of employment with their company. If you feel they have hacked you to get at the material, and you can prove it, you have one WHOPPING case against them. And that's on top of them simply hacking you, which, of course, is illegal anyway. Anyone seeking employment in the State of MD can take comfort and great pleasure in reminding the overly-inquisitive, prospective employer of this law, w/o any anger, suppressed or otherwise. One of its few laws that are tolerable, aside from the usual annoyingly common laws, where most laws go beyond the pale, as so many of them do here in this fine Socialist state. BTW, it's a "shoo-in", not a "shoe-in". Just call me Grammar Nazi. Christine

Ndiaz.fuentes
Ndiaz.fuentes

Because [ANGRY RESPONSE], and [REASONS]. Besides, [FLAWED LOGIC]!!!!1!1!! Either way, [BOASTING]. So, [INSULT OR PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE STATEMENT]! ;D

GSG
GSG moderator

If you're actively searching, you might want to block his posts, and tell him why you're blocking them, and that he can IM you instead. When you've obtained the new position, then you can unblock them.

annathule29
annathule29

It might be worth your effort to work at getting such laws passed in your state, such as the ones I mentioned to "Once Again" - landmark laws passed by the state of MD, (and nowhere else so far), that employers CANNOT, by law, demand you turn over you user names and passwords, as a condition of employment with said company. That way, no one needs to get [angry] or send [flawed logic] and upset you so dreadfully. If such a "conservative by its nature" law can pass in this fine Socialist state of MD, it can pass just about anywhere if enough people push to get it through. Maybe not enough people know that it's been accomplished once, it can be done again. Christine