HR Insights

Here’s Why Social Network Background Checks Still Concern Me

Photo by istockphoto.com

So there I was on one knee with my hands cuffed behind my back in Little Italy on a beautiful day in May of 1996.

Click. Someone took a picture. People started to gather around. More clicks and flashes.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this moment for a few months now since I’ve been contemplating the role social networkings sites should or shouldn’t have in the employment background screening and hiring process.

Why? Because this was one of the most important days in my life. It was the day I proposed to my wife.

What if these photos had been posted online?

You see, I decided to get creative with my proposal. I always thought it would be fun to have a police officer pull me over with my wife in the passenger seat and then instruct her to take the registration out of the glove compartment. Of course, instead of the registration, she’d find the ring.

And that’s exactly what happened. I just didn’t know that the officer (who was a friend of the family) would actually put me in cuffs (that was a little side idea he hatched with my father, unbeknownst to me) but it definitely made the moment seem all the more real.

So why am I telling you this story? I had mentioned that a number of people took pictures. Some of those people were members of my family who were lurking around waiting for the big moment. Others were complete strangers that couldn’t believe the spectacle.

So far as I know, those pictures were never posted on Facebook. But what if they were and a prospective employer saw them? Would they understand this was a gag? Would they know it wasn’t real? What if they never asked me about it?

What if it was real? Should an employer be able to use that against me?

“I am slowing softening my position”

There’s been a lot of talk for a couple years now about whether employers can (and should) use social networking sites as part of their employment screening processes. Findings from our annual background screening survey showed that of the nearly 800 respondants, 25 percent used LinkedIn, 34 percent used Google, 30 percent used Facebook, and 22 percent used Twitter to screen candidates.

Some 44 percent said they would like their screening provider to offer this service in the future. And while I was staunchly against this practice for a long time, I am slowly softening my position. However, it is stories like these that continue to give me reason for pause.

I’m sure we all have a story or two like this. So what do you think? Are social networking sites fair game?

P.S. In spite of that I scared the begeebies out of my wife, she actually said yes (sucker!) and we’ve been married for 14 years.

P.P.S. The guy in the cuffs above is not me. Did you really think I’d post a picture of myself in handcuffs?

This was originally published on EmployeeScreenIQ’s IQ Blog.

Nick Fishman co-founded EmployeeScreenIQ in 1999 and serves as the company's Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President. He oversees all of EmployeeScreenIQ's sales and marketing activities, including business development and brand building initiatives. Contact him at nfishman@employeescreen.com .