Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Social Networks and Recruitment - What's on MyFace?

Many Top-Consultant readers will already know the name Don Leslie. One of the founder-directors of Management Consultancy recruitment specialists BLT, Don is one of our industry's best-known recruiters. This week's blog entry is the first in a series of guest contributions from Don - who also blogs about Management Consultancy and recruitment on the BLT Blog,

What’s on MyFace?

As well as using social networking sites such as
Friends Reunited, MySpace and FaceBook to engage and recruit staff (as Ernst & Young are doing), employers are increasingly using these sites to carry out background checks. Although I haven’t heard of any consulting firms doing so, I’m sure they are. According to the Times, a survey of 600 British companies revealed that one in five had logged on to Facebook and other networking websites to vet potential employees. As Steve Bailey from noted in a recent article:

"We are increasingly asked to undertake media searches and Internet searches as part of our employee screening services and this looks to become a standard element in the future. The findings of these searches can provide valuable insight into personality and current and past events involving a particular candidate who has consented to background checks."

It seems that - finally – members of these social networking sites are realising what damage they might be doing to their career prospects through ‘inappropriate’ postings. Much has been made of the case of the Oxford undergraduate Alex Hill who was disciplined after the university accessed incriminating pictures on Facebook. Hill complained that "I don't know how this happened, especially as my privacy settings were such that only my friends and students in my networks could view my photos." The trouble of course is that it's not just about what you post. It's what others post about you. Here are two close calls I’ve heard about recently…

A friend – let’s call him James – was photographed on a beach. With his trousers down. And a firework between his buttocks. The sequence showed… well, it ended with a burnt bum. You can imagine the rest.

Another, a friend of a friend – let’s call her Alison – was mentioned in connection with some teenage shoplifting adventures.

Both are professionals in their late 30s/early 40s. The incidents were from years back. And – here’s the problem – they were posted on other people’s profiles. Now what would the outcome be if an employer or potential employer were carrying out a bit of due diligence?

Professional networking sites such as and are all very well. But social networking sites… I’m not so sure. Be careful. There’s more to them than you might think - undertaking due diligence on your own name might be a good start..

All views expressed in this article are those of Don Leslie and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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