Um..Are YOU Googling ME??

Dear Young-Talented-Eager-Person-Seeking-Challenging-Employment-Opportunities;

Thank you for your interest in our company.  Your education and experience closely parallel that which we consider in candidates for employment.  I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your recent Oscar win for ‘Best Short Film’ – the images of the hollers of Appalachia were hauntingly beautiful and Morgan Freeman’s voice overs provided a lyrical gravitas.  When I think that you are also under consideration for a Pulitzer, you should be applauded for accomplishing so much in your relatively short tenure in the work force.  As an aside, we are all beneficiaries of your full-time efforts while in college to discover the cure for the common cold.  You are truly an impressive individual.

As such, it is with great ambivalence that I must advise you of our decision to extend an offer to a candidate who we feel may enjoy greater success within our organization.  In the interest of full disclosure, the suggestive pictures on your Facebook page, coupled with the salacious conversations between you and your friends gave us pause.  Also, in the future you may want to Google yourself, for there are some rather unflattering comments about you written by some anonymous person claiming to have been held as your unpaid valet during elementary school.  We found the incident concerning the rain boots particularly disturbing.

In closing, I want to thank you again for your interest in employment opportunities with us.  We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors and great success going forward.

Best regards,

Will Nothire

There’s been quite a bit of press about the appropriateness of employers asking for the Facebook passwords of potential employment candidates.  On its face, there is nothing legally wrong with an employer asking for this information, just as there’s nothing wrong with you denying to provide it.  This is however a far thornier problem than access to a personal site, which may or may not have anything to do with one’s ability to perform a job satisfactorily (I can hear some employers arguing that such information can tell you quite a bit about one’s judgment, but so can really good interview questions…I’m just sayin’)

In the days of MySpace, employers could (and did) access people’s pages and discovered some very disturbing material that certainly impacted their views of prospective and/or current employees.  People would share confidential information about their employers, posted pictures of themselves in compromising situations, wrote about co-workers in ways that bordered on the libelous.  Under circumstances such as that, what would you have done as the employer?  The answers are complicated, and reveal a gold mine of questions pertaining to personal and professional integrity.

Do employers ‘google’ applicants?  I know that some do – and rarely consider that some of the information on the ‘Net may be completely inaccurate (like the ex-boyfriend who posted an article about his girlfriend on a professional web site, which became part of her technological footprint without her knowledge).  Most firms do background checks – carefully ensuring that the information they are seeking is part of the public record and relevant for the position being sought.

But you need to know that nothing is private.  Whatever you put on your FB page; the article you wrote for your university that called for a boycott of classes until the administration conceded to lowering the number of required courses in order to confer a degree; the tweets full of epithets and disconcerting shout-outs to the judges on “The Voice” – it’s all out there for the world to see.  And judge.  Whether it is right or wrong is not the issue we will solve today – or tomorrow for that matter.  But the presumption of privacy when all of our information is dancing around on a cloud with everyone else’s is naive.  Think before you post, consider who may end up being your audience.  And if you really want to be safe – here’s a crazy thought – pick up the phone and talk.