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Social Media -Can It Keep You From Getting A Job?

Aired 8/9/11 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Watch what you post! Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in, logging on to social media, could keep you from landing that great job.

Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in, logging on to social media, could keep you from landing that great job. Employers are now using social media to screen perspective employees and keep an eye on those currently employed. Find out how you can keep your information private and how you can use social media to your advantage.

Social Media

Above: Social Media

GUEST

Wendy Patrick, SUSU, Management Professor

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

FUDGE: I'm Tom Fudge, and this is Midday Edition. Social media. It allows us to keep a diary on the ser-Internet that everyone can see. Just knowing that should give us pause if we have any desire to preserve a private life. And if you're looking for a job, know that perspective employers use the Internet too. And lots of them are checking in with Facebook, twitter, and other sites to learn what this person who wants to work for them is really like. Wendy Patrick is a management professor at San Diego state who has a few things to say on what job hunters should know about using social media. It can get you in trouble, but social media can also do you some good. She joins me now in studio.

PATRICK: Thank you.

FUDGE: And give us a call if you would like at 1-888-895-5727. I'd be interested to hear from people who are either job seekers or employers who have come across this issue of what social media says about you as a perspective employee. 1-888-895-5727. Or you can send us a tweet at KPBS midday. Well, Wendy, how are employers using social media to find out more about perspective employees?

PATRICK: Employers are in the enviable position of not only being in a global digital age where it's so easy to search, but they also have the benefit of some companies that have actually stepped up to allow searches to be run without the employer running afoul of these discrimination laws that give a laundry list of things they're not allowed to consider. One of the companies that we've been hearing a lot about is social intelligence. And what this company will do, and there's a couple others that do the same thing, they will do the search for the employers to make sure the employers are not exposed to information they're legally not allowed to consider in the job search. Then sort of provide a composite of the perspective employees in order to make sure that the -- they have what they need to have and don't see what they're not allowed to see.

FUDGE: I want to get back to that issue, but let me and you, is it common for employers to use social media to find out this information? Is everybody doing it?

PATRICK: I wouldn't say everyone is doing it. But it's becoming more and more common as these companies are available. One of the reasons it's becoming more common is employers are worried more about negligent hiring. And why didn't they see the signs that they should have seen? Why didn't they notice the red flags? They can't just go out and do a Google search because they don't want to be exposed to information they're not allowed to see. More and more you could get different statistics if you look at different websites as far as how many.

FUDGE: Negligent hiring. That sounds like something you could get sued for.

PATRICK: That's exactly right. That's why more companies are taking advantage of ways to search their perspective employees.

FUDGE: Well, what kind of information are they looking for? What are they trying to find out about people?

PATRICK: That's a very good question. And that's that's one of the things some of these companies allow them to do is specify what kind of information they're looking for. It used to be, years back, people used to be worried about their extracurricular activities, what they do on weekends, photos of them at parties. But companies, and we talk about negligent hiring, they're even more concerned sometimes about things like bias, discrimination, things that not only might be embarrassing for the company but things that might tend to indicate the employee might be violent. Might have a substance abuse problem: I don't know what it is about people wanting to pose with weapons, but that is one of the things that you see in more and more articles, that employers are saying, had I seen that, I never would have hired this person?

FUDGE: So if you're looking for a job, don't put pictures on the Internet --

PATRICK: Don't pose with guns, right?

FUDGE: Listeners, we'd like to hear from you on this one. If you have a story to tell about how you use social media, how you try to be careful about the information you put out on twitter or Facebook, if you're ever searched for a job and have considered some of these issues that wee talking about, please call us at 1-888-895-5727. Well, I guess one of the stories that you tell is of people posing with weapons. Are there some other things that people might do or might talk about or be seen doing on social media that they might not think is a problem?

PATRICK: Gosh, there are so many. One of the other things that's getting a lot of press is folks that belong to a prestigious company and will go and bad mouth it on their Facebook page. Obviously, it's like the old Dilbert cartoon, you don't want to ever hire someone who's going to be a problem for the boss or have bad things to say about the place they work. What are they saying about current and past employers when they're on social media? Obviously another thing is drinking and drug use. You would think we wouldn't even need to say that. That's something that employees know. But they don't! It's incredible what you can find, not only photos that they've posted but photos that others tag them in.

FUDGE: You talk about this social intelligence which weeds through some information so they don't give information to the boss or perspective boss that they shouldn't have. What kind of information are we talking about? What is a prospective boss not supposed to know about you?

PATRICK: You're not going to want to look at someone's religion, race, marital status, disability, and any other information that's protected under federal employment laws. So for example if the company comes across a photo that's problematic, let's say, they would describe the photo to the employer in order to protect all that sensitive information. There was a great article not long ago that talked about a prospective employer running across someone that applied that suffered terribly from fiber myalgia. Now how is that employer going to forget that he saw that? Especially since the employee mentioned it was causing so many days lost of work for doctor individuals? That isn't going to happen if you have someone like social intelligence screening that information so you infer see it.

FUDGE: So if I hire social intelligence, and somebody is talking about the fact that they're a seventh day Adventist and I don't want to know that because if I know that, then I might be accused of being discriminator against them?

PATRICK: Well, that and a lot of other things as well. You obviously can't -- you don't want to open yourself up to a lawsuit that you hired taking taken something into consideration that you shouldn't like religion. And social intelligence, I don't own stock in the company, and I've been talking a lot about them, they're not the only game in town as far as companies that will do this. But that is why employers are using more and more these companies that will weed out information like religion that they're not supposed to consider.

FUDGE: Wendy Patrick is a management professor at San Diego state, and she knows a little bit about job hunting and how social media can affect that for better or worse. Give us a call if you've got a story to tell about using social media looking for a job. 1-888-895-5727. When I think about these people who pose with guns or talk about their drug use on the Internet and expect that not everybody in the world is going to know about that, I have to assume that some of these people say, oh, well, I use the Facebook privacy setting, therefore knob's going to see this stuff. Why what would you like to say to those people.

PATRICK: That is an excellent point. One of the things these companies don't do is engage in false friend will. Ment they don't pierce the veil of privacy you've engineered. So if someone somehow illegally gains access to what I can carefully put behind my private site on Facebook or a private blog spot or whatever, that could be an invasion of privacy. If you actually do know how to use your privacy settings, which is I a whole other can of remember ones in itself. But if you do know how to do that, and you have done everything you can, you could arguably have a reasonable expectation of privacy online. Strange as that sounds because I know obviously you're online because it's public. It's a big party and you want to connect with everyone. But if you take the time to keep certain things private, that is something that companies like social intelligence cannot find.

FUDGE: That's interesting because that wasn't the answer I was expecting. I was kind of expecting you to say just whatever it is, even if you think it's private, don't put it up there. But you're saying if you do use the privacy settings, you should be okay?

PATRICK: Well, obviously I'm a lawyer. I can argue both sides of this one. So let me argue the other side. What people that are extra cautious would say is that especially given how frequently privacy settings are subject to change, you just never can be 100% sure that you haven't inadvertently or the company has inadvertently made information public that you expected to keep private of the way to keep your sensitive information private is not to engage in social media use or if you do, to make sure there's no way it gets put up there. That may be impossible however given the ease with which sites allow others to post on your own site, which means it becomes like a constant vigilance task. You have to constantly monitor your site to see what other people have posted there.

FUDGE: Let's take a call from Vanessa in San Diego. Our number is 1-888-895-5727. Go ahead.

NEW SPEAKER: Yes, this hit ace nerve with me. I was looking for a job the past few months, and I would going to Google myself to see what popped up. And it was amazing to me how Facebook, but even something as old as Friendster, which I had totally forgotten about, but all my pictures that I had on that Friendster profile from like a million years ago were available for anybody, not just people who I was friends W. So when the privacy settings change without you really knowing, it's hard to monitor it without actually Googling yourself every once in a while.

PATRICK: Vanessa, that is an excellent point. And that is one of the reasons employers are wary of doing their own Google searches because they would look at all your photos, maybe they would learn information about you that falls into one of those protected classes that legally they're not allowed to consider. So that is one of the reasons that less employers are doing their own blanket searches on Google. Of and an increasing amount of employers are hiring others to weed out the information that they would be interested in. You bring up another really interesting point too, vain the casa, and that is the ease with which people can take photos of you from 20, 30†years ago, and get those online. And obviously your judgment probably has improved in the interim, but the photos are the same.

FUDGE: So even if you're protecting your privacy on these websites, that doesn't mean a friend or an acquaintance can't take some picture of you and put it on their website and that's fair game.

PATRICK: You know, not only is it fair game, but that brings up another interesting point. Even if you're not on social media, this is something that can happen to you. You could be as careful as you like and if you were in a practice fraternity or so resort in college, and you're in photos that may end up on someone else's site who uses social media, and perhaps that is how these job seekers find it.

FUDGE: Let's take a call from Rick in mission beach. Go ahead.

NEW SPEAKER: I'm acquainted with someone who recently lost a good job in tough times for a variety of reasons. But one of them brought up by the coworker in the office manager's staff was that when this person had called in sick or said they couldn't work on a particular weekend, after a check of Facebook and the chats that they have or the postings, they discovered that she had been out of town that weekend talking about what a wonderful time she had had on her trip when she was alleged to be home sick. So that just added one more straw to the camel's back when she lost her job, which she was I think not anticipating.

PATRICK: Rick, that is an excellent point, social media has become an impeachment tool. That also ties into the issue of employers currently monitoring your social media use. Not that they're going to check in every single day you call in sick. But there are lots of stories like you explained that it's amazing more people aren't aware of how easy it is to verify excuses like that. And obviously it sounds like that coworker suffered some very adverse consequences.

FUDGE: We've been spending a lot of time talking about sort of telling cautionary tales and talking about the down side of social media. If you're looking for a job, there is an up side?

PATRICK: Absolutely. And hop hopefully nobody taking away from this program now shalt never use social media because there are plenty of reasons especially in this job market that people that are looking for jobs can benefit from having a presence online. One of the reasons these companies look for in addition to finding dirt on folks that have applied for folks are they philanthropically minded, do they volunteer at the seniors center, what kinds of honors awards do they have? What kinds of things do that I have to offer that might make a company look good? Obviously you as an employee are the face of the company, you represent the company, and employers want to hire employees that'll make them look good, not embarrass them with their after-hour antics or statements they make, or people they pose with. But if your presence is honorable, respectable activity, it actually is being used, and that's one of the reasons that LinkedIn site is so popular. It is being used as a place to showcase an online resume of what you have to offer.

FUDGE: We haven't talked about LinkedIn. And that is a way for people to present their resume right?

PATRICK: Yes. LinkedIn is known to be more of a professional site. And I use professional -- just in the category of you showcase yourself where you working you look for recommends and associations of other people in the professional world. LinkedIn has gotten a lot of press lately, however, because if somebody is all of a sudden looking for connection requests and seeking recommendations in a flurry, they are targeting themselves for somebody who might be looking for a new job. The author goes, why else would somebody be spending so much time on their LinkedIn profile? But LinkedIn is interesting not only because of the endorsements that you can seek but because of the connections you have. It's like in the offline world you are judged by those with whom you keep company. Look at the caliber of your friends, the caliber of your, your acquaintances. LinkedIn is a way to build a profile that compliments or detracts from your online resume.

FUDGE: I just have about a minute left. What would you like the takeaway message to be for people using social media, looking for a job? Or for employers who are looking for good employees.

PATRICK: I think the takeaway is to always know that nothing online is private. And we've talked about all the different ways that it's not private. And really just to exercise good judgment, both on the clock and off the clock. Because employers have the opportunity especially now in this economy to hire character, not just someone who will show up at the job, so make sure your character reflects the kind of employ an employer would like to hire.

FUDGE: Wendy Patrick is a manager at San Diego state, and she has done a lot of work trying to find out what job hunters know about using social media. And thank you very much for coming in.

PATRICK: Thank you for having me.

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