Be Prepared for a Social Media Background Check in a Job Search

So, you applied to a position, went through the several stages of interviews, and have been asked to agree to a background check. You’re aware that the potential employer may check all information on your resume and application and may investigate your credit history, but what about social media activity?

Social media background checks are the latest method used for weeding out individuals from a large pool of candidates. But while past advice regarding social media and employment primarily concerned posting photos of yourself and comments, background checks now go beyond this. A standard social media check examines seven years of your internet history and looks at Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, blogs, and YouTube under your name or email address.

But, you may ask yourself, is this legal? Where is my privacy? What are my rights? Recently, the Federal Trade Commission decided that companies researching your passions and hobbies do not violate an individual’s privacy and are in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. According to John Challenger, a chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas quoted in a Market Watch piece:

“We are going from the Web being a place of extraordinary anonymity to a place where your every movement could be traced if someone’s taking pictures of you and posting them. Job seekers need to be careful because of that.”

When it comes to your social media profile, don’t just think about pictures. While photos of you getting drunk or doing drugs certainly should not be posted online, consider the implications of all pictures you add to a profile; as the Market Watch piece mentions, employers take the context of the photo and translate it to an individual’s functionality in a team. At the same time, don’t only think about your profile. Watch others’ profiles for photos including you, whether the pictures are tagged or not. Social media background check companies can employ facial recognition software to find you in photographs on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

Because social media background checks are growing, always be cautious with the information, from names to pictures to comments to email addresses, that you put online – even if you’re not of age to be entering the job market. As information posted over the course of seven years is dug up on an individual, middle and high schoolers also need to be careful with their internet usage for future job and college applications.