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As technology continues to grow and influence your personal and work life, social media profiles play an increasingly important role in your professional presence.

Even if they are off the clock, employees can face serious consequences — from termination to legal repercussions — for posting inappropriate material to social media that reflects poorly on their company, their colleagues or their professional presence in general. Many employers have started to screen potential employees’ social media profiles as part of their company’s hiring practices. Since what you post on the Internet is never private and can come back to haunt you in your work life, it is wise to think twice before posting any comments or photos that you wouldn’t be comfortable with your employer seeing.

When companies review social media profiles as part of their hiring practices, they often don’t give candidates a chance to explain the unflattering content they find. From a San Jose Mercury News article:

In a survey last year of companies that screen applicants’ social media sites, 73 percent said they don’t give the applicants a chance “to explain questionable information,” according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Other surveys have found that anywhere from 18 to 63 percent of employers review social media sites to assess job candidates. But many don’t know that. A 2010 Microsoft study found that just 7 percent of those it surveyed in this country realized employers might peruse that data.

Some companies are taking these hiring practices even further and asking candidates to disclose their social network usernames and passwords so they can have full access to anything published.

Allison Green, of the Ask a Manager blog, calls this practice “outrageous” and “unacceptable,” though not widespread. Her advice to job applicants who are asked for this information by prospective employers:

I’d strongly encourage anyone who finds themselves on the receiving end of this request to refuse it. Say, “I don’t give out passwords for security reasons, although I’d be happy to send you the link for viewing my profile.” And stick to it.

What do you think of the use of social media screening in hiring practices? Is it acceptable to browse publicly shared information but crossing the line to demand personal usernames and passwords? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Strict Hiring Practices or Going Too Far?

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