Background Checks Now Include Twitter, Facebook and more

More and more employers are checking the social media profiles and posts of potential hires.

Any post or group that could be taken out of context, or construed to make you out as “somebody who likes a racist joke, drinks too much booze or maybe is a bit too fond of guns” can be grounds for an employer to pull your application, according to this recent ABCNews article states. And it’s all legal.

“The Federal Trade Commission has just given the okay for Social Intelligence Corp. to sell these reports to employers and the file will last for seven long years,” the article states.

Even if your profiles are squeaky clean and you actively manage your public information, consider your friends. ” It’s still possible that among your Facebook friends, unbeknownst to you, there’s someone with a criminal record,” the article continues. “An employer could turn you down for having iffy friends and not run afoul of any employment discrimination law.”

Potential employers aren’t getting this information by friending or following you. Often they are outsourcing their research to companies like Social Intelligence Corp. or checking in with friends of your friends to see what you may have hidden. Remember, there is a huge difference between a photo album on your shelf at home and one online, even “protected.” Some employers are going so far as to require potential employees share their usernames and passwords. Whether or not you choose to share this information depends on the position, your personal opinions and how much you want to work for that employer. Before you log in, in front of your future HR Manager or boss, consider this, do you really want to work for someone who would ask you to do that?

While slightly outdated, this CareerBuilder article from earlier this year includes information on how many employers search social media profiles as part of a background check.

The only way to really protect yourself is to be mindful of what you post in the first place. Be sure to check your history for inaccuracies, strange settings, old comments. Ask yourself, out of context does anything seem strange? Make it a habit to check this once a month, when you Google yourself.

Define Value on Twitter

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I’m skipping a grammar post this week to add my thoughts to a post Jason Mollica had last week. His post, Value to your community came from a past Twitter conversation he, Rachel Lawley and I had.

My comment was that the litmus test that I use when deciding when to follow a PR pro, “social media expert” or other big name on Twitter is, “Would you work with that person in real life?”

I realize, after reading the comments on Jason’s post, that my initial comment may have been taken a bit out of context. There is some background information that would help further explain my personal litmus test.

I first joined Twitter after the urging of several friends. Some of whom are in the PR business and some of who are not. Those that are in the business suggested I check out various Top 100 PR People on Twitter lists. Their advice was to start by following them all and then pare them down based on the relevant information in their tweets. Keep following those that added to my knowledge base and stop following those that didn’t.

Several of the people I followed because they were big names, didn’t add anything for me. Some of them have become close confidants and advisers and I can’t imagine operating without them. I would even go so far as to call some of them friends.

Then there’s the middle ground of people I follow on Twitter because they’re fun and entertaining. While they might not necessarily add value, they make me laugh. I’ll be the first to admit, I follow Sesame Street because the tweets make me happy. Would working every day with Elmo eventually irritate me? Probably.

For me, Kelly Misevich‘s comment on Jason Mollica’s post sums it up, “Social media is all about we, not me. You have to think about your followers and ‘friends’ when you are using social media.”

I see Twitter as a place to learn because I will never know it all, as a place to meet people I might not others have met and to laugh because a day without laughter is the saddest day of all.

Social Media for Children

After all this discussion of how social media benefits mentors and mentees, I started thinking how it can benefit children still in school. To get more insight into how kids are already using social media, I contacted my friend and one of my first mentors, Jen Reeves. Jen is a former News Producer and Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow. She has worked for the University of Missouri as a Journalism Professor and Executive Producer at KOMU-TV 8.

Jen used technology to change the structure, organization and workflow of the KOMU newsroom. She now works as KOMU’s New Media Manager and leads the ongoing developments at She is working on finding ways to expand traditional media by using non-traditional media delivery sources (podcasting, vodcasting and other on-demand and push technologies that can deliver content). In other words, she’s my favorite go to expert.

Jen has two adorable children, Cameron and Jordan. Both of them have blogs written by Jen as a way to keep friends and family in touch with the goings on of the busy family. Jen has turned Cameron’s over to him in a limited way and plans to do so with Jordan’s when she is old enough.

Additionally, now that Cameron is in elementary school, she encourages him to play with Webkinz and Club Penguin from time to time, when he’s interested of course.

“In those spaces, kids are able to interact by sharing items and ‘money’ but the only way to communicate is through pre-formatted sentences. There is no way to go outside the topics at hand,” Jen said.

Translation, this is a safe way for kids to get comfortable using social media and easily learn what is and is not acceptable.

As more Millennials delve into the world of parenthood, those children will grow up thinking a constant connection to the internet via phone or laptop is normal. Teaching these children safe internet practices, especially on social media, should start early, just as Jen has done.

Are your children on social media? Which sites? How do you monitor their online behaviors?

Google Yourself

I can’t even tell you how often I’ve said this lately and not just at Career Days with college students. Adults who insist they don’t have an online identity are shocked when I Google their name and all kinds of things come up.

Even if you aren’t currently looking for a job, you need to be checking yourself out online at least monthly.

Don’t just stop at Google. Try Bing, Yahoo and anything else you can think of. Go beyond page two. See what’s out there. You can’t be proactive unless you know.

I tried comparing it to a credit report only to find that even fewer people get their credit reports as Google themselves. Which is just as bad! If you might get to use a company credit card or drive a company car, your employer is going to check your credit. If you don’t know what’s on the report how can you tell them your identity was stolen or the credit card was in your ex-wife’s name?

Aside from the main search engines, should I recommend checking your name in other places?