Employers use ‘internet reputations’ to make decisions about job applicants

A growing number of UK employers are judging job applicants on their internet reputations, according to a report released today by business social network Viadeo.

The survey of more than 2,000 consumers and 600 employers found that one in five organisations have searched for and found personal information about candidates on the web.

A quarter of HR decision-makers have actually rejected applicants on the basis of dubious personal information found online.

Employers gave a variety of reasons for discarding candidates based on their internet reputation – or ‘NetRep’ – including:

  • “His website showed a negative side to him including excessive alcohol abuse and disrespect for his job”

  • “We found that the candidate was on the local police wanted list”

  • “We found that the candidate was personally into some activities which did not fit ethically into my company.”

The largest number of respondents placing information online are 18- to 24-year-olds. Just under half say they have posted personal information on social websites such as MySpace or Facebook, and 17% have also posted material on YouTube.

More than half of people between these ages said someone else had posted pictures of them online with or without their permission.

But the research did show that information found online can also work positively for job applicants, if the content is appropriate and presented in the right way.

About one in seven HR decision-makers have been affected positively by information found online about a candidate. Examples of positive findings included:

  • “Found achievements that I might not have known about otherwise”

  • “Showed internet skills through his own website”

  • “Found out that the candidate had more to offer than she was revealing with an inadequately designed corporate application form.”

“These results should act as a wake-up call to anyone who has ever posted personal information online,” said Peter Cunningham, UK country manager of Viadeo.

“Millions of people are inadvertently contributing to their NetRep every day by leaving personal information online, much of which is cached and remains available via search engines even after the author has removed the web page.

“When people who are not the original intended audience – such as potential employers – find this information, it can have a major impact on their decision-making process,” he added.

“The rise of search engines such as Google means that potential employers are never more than a few clicks away from information about you.”

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