Facebook fracas: Employers' attention to social media varies
BY ROBERT EVATT World Staff Writer
Thursday, March 29, 2012
3/29/12 at 4:55 PM
Correction: A Thursday Tulsa World story misspelled the name of Part Time Pros president and CEO Carey Baker. This story has been corrected.
Don't worry - companies in Tulsa aren't likely to demand your Facebook password just to apply for a job.
"I think to ask for someone's password is wrong," said Carey Baker, president and CEO of Part Time Pros, a staffing company.
But some Tulsa companies might take a look at an applicant's publicly available social network information as part of the hiring process, so photos of drunken escapades or other indiscreet moments might come back to haunt you.
Renewed attention to links between social media and the workplace has come with the revelation that a few employers, such as the Maryland Department of Corrections, are directly asking job seekers for their Facebook login information as part of the application process.
For their part, Facebook Inc. officials say that such requests are a violation of the Facebook user agreement, and that the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Internet giant will sue employers who continue to do so.
Representatives of Tulsa area companies said they haven't heard of the practice happening here, though keeping an eye on the social networks isn't unusual. Baker said her company does take the time to look at the public online personas of their applicants.
"When we look to hire somebody, we'll look on their Facebook page to make sure they're knowledgeable to set their own privacy level, and that they don't post anything inappropriate," she said.
Megan Washbourne, a spokeswoman for Tulsa-based ONEOK Inc., said that while it's not a standard procedure at the company to look at applicants' social media presence, some employees use what's online as a factor.
"We have had some hiring supervisors do so, and it has had some degree of influence on the hiring decision," she said.
Even in cases when social media isn't used as a criteria for employment, she said it's a good idea for job seekers to avoid posting things that might paint themselves in a negative light.
"Candidates should avoid posting comments that include profanity, practices of drinking or drug use, racist remarks or posting inappropriate photos," she said. "These are things that most people would consider common sense, but people who post on social media sites should be aware of how their postings affect others' perceptions of them, particularly when it comes to making a hiring decision."
Sheila Curley, director of corporate communications for Bank of Oklahoma, said that while BOK doesn't look at Facebook accounts as part of the hiring process, many employers have concerns about social media postings due to the feeling that an employee's private actions can reflect on the company as a whole.
"There's a fine line between a person's privacy and a company's brand and image," she said. "When you leave the door at 5, you don't stop being an employee of BOk. We trust that they'll be great ambassadors for our company and the communities they serve."
Mercedes Millberry, a spokeswoman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, said in a written statement that her company sticks to more traditional information when evaluating applicants rather than looking at individual social media sites.
"Candidates are evaluated based on their application form, relevant work experience and interviews," she said.
Information left on social networks can sometimes have a positive effect for job seekers. Baker said it's a plus for applicants to have a LinkedIn account because a presence on the work-oriented site can show initiative and drive in the workplace.
Curley said BOk uses social media to locate rather than disqualify candidates.
"In the recruiting process, we use social media to help find prospective employees," she said. "But once we've identified them, that's where it ends."
Gavin Manes, founder of digital forensics firm Avansic, said he's heard of drastic moves by employers, such as requiring applicants to log into their private accounts in front of their interviewer, or forcing the applicants to make them their Facebook friend.
He expects the issue to drag on for quite a while.
"It's going to be exciting to see how the courts deal with it all," Manes said.
However, he questioned just how useful social media pages are for doing a quick evaluation of a person, as his company doesn't often find useful information on social media pages during their digital investigations.
"There's a lot of depth to Facebook pages," Manes said. "You can't spend five minutes and figure out if they're a bad guy or not."
Original Print Headline: Employers' attention to social media varies
Robert Evatt 918-581-8447