Get a Life

By Judith Welles

Blog archive

Get a Life!: Perils of googling applicants

We have all heard the downside about posting personal information on social-networking sites. Future employers might be put off by that party photo you included or your not-so-funny comments.

Now the Merit Systems Protection Board has cautioned hiring officials about using online search engines to vet job applicants. In the September “Issues of Merit” newsletter, MSPB describes the pitfalls of using Internet information, even casually, in the pre-selection process.

The article uses the example of an information technology manager who, being tech savvy, decides to google the three applicants in the best-qualified group to see what other information he can find before interviewing them. He finds the family Web site for a female candidate, which mentions that her husband often travels. He worries that she might not be able to do the travel required in the job.

He googles the second candidate and finds news stories naming him as a suspect in an Internet fraud scheme. The third candidate expresses support for a presidential candidate on his MySpace blog.

The article points out that the selecting official might find information on the Internet that he is not permitted to know, such as marital status, race, sexual orientation or political affiliation. Once such information is learned, it is hard to unlearn it, which can leave a manager vulnerable to discrimination charges.

Also, news reports may or may not be about the same applicant if the name is common or if the person is a victim of identity theft.

Bottom line: If you are planning to use Internet searches to learn more about applicants, you could be setting yourself up for claims of discrimination, or you could disqualify applications on the basis of false information.

MSPB advises organizations to take care when using Internet searches during the selection process.

Judy Welles

Posted by Judith Welles on Oct 02, 2008 at 12:13 PM


Featured

  • Cybersecurity

    DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

  • Defense
    Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

    On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

  • Census
    shutterstock image

    2020 Census to include citizenship question

    The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.