Is it fair to perform Internet searches on applicants? What is allowed or not allowed for application Internet searches? Has this caused any issues that you know of or can find for applicants?
In today’s modern world, performing Internet searches on job applicants is both necessary and extremely beneficial. We live in a society in which everything we do is posted about online, and often the data is self-entered. It would be foolish not to use the greatest collection of personal data to check an individual’s credibility and general personality.
Many companies utilize, for example, Facebook’s data to formulate targeted ads or before issuing a credit card to an applicant, the company might look at their ‘likes’ and employment history, providing a general idea of how well they will handle their finances. Before even the first interview with someone, an in-depth social media, background check, and a general browser search should be completed.
It is both alarming, yet surprisingly helpful regarding the data you can find on someone online. While there are definitely ethics one should follow about the intensity of the Internet search, the action in itself can be of great assistance to hiring managers. For example, failing to find racist posts (even if they are multiple years old) before you hire somebody can result in a disaster if that information ever gets out (it usually finds a way).
There can be problems surrounding the use and methods used while performing an Internet search. First, certain state laws, like in California, require employers to disclose any damaging material they find while performing an Internet search. Also, some states prohibit discrimination based on legal, off-duty activities (New York). Regardless of the local laws, attempts to validate any material found in an Internet search of a job applicant can be tricky, as anyone can post whatever they want on the Internet about anyone they wish.
Requiring at least a basic Internet search of a job applicant should always be completed, as long as you follow state and local laws. In my opinion, informing the applicant that the search can/will be performed is an excellent way to cover your risk.