Are Facebook Profiles Fair Game for Employers?

It is no surprise that employers are searching Facebook for information about job candidates, but new research is questioning the ethics of using the social network as a screening tool. In particular, the research questions whether candidates are getting an equal opportunity in their job search because of Facebook.

The researchers raising that question include Vanessa A. de la Llama, Isabel Trueba, Carola Voges, Claudia Barreto and David J. Park of Florida International University's School of Journalism and Mass Communication.  While the researchers acknowledge the problems social networks can present, they said using Facebook to screen candidates may also be acceptable because the information is available to the public.

"While employers are using Facebook to monitor their employees, they have also begun to use it as a screening tool when considering potential candidates," the researchers said. "Because this is a fairly new trend, a standardized set of guidelines has yet to be established, with employers often assessing job applicants in a subjective manner."

[No, Really, Facebook Makes Employees More Productive]

Those guidelines, according to the research, can help make sure all workers get a fair chance in their job search.  While the ethics of the decision are debated, job seekers may want to simply acknowledge the power social media can have in their search, the researchers said.

"Job seekers should be aware that their future employers are closely observing their Facebook profiles in search of a window into their personality," the researchers said. "Though this practice raises many ethical issues, it is an emerging phenomenon that is not slowing."

This research was published in the journal International Journal of Work Innovation.  The research was based on interviews from information technology, health care and wellness, education, law enforcement, food and drink, travel and advertising professionals.

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