Wednesday November 22, 2006

Facing the Consequences of Facebook

Researchers at the University of Dayton surveyed college students throughout the region and 5,000 employers nationwide for their thoughts on and experiences with Facebook.com and found a surprising trend brought on by the electronic age.

The UD research shows many employers check Facebook before hiring. Many students say it's unethical.
  • Forty percent of employers say they would consider the Facebook profile of a potential employee as part of their hiring decision, and several reported rescinding offers after checking out Facebook.
  • Thirty-two percent of students think it's unethical for employers to use Facebook posts as part of an evaluation of candidates.
  • Forty-two percent of students said it was a violation of privacy.

The results of the survey were released today at the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education Special Topics Forum "Facebook: Campus Proaction and Reaction" on the University of Dayton campus.

"Since Facebook was originally created by college students for college students, they view it as 'their place' and strictly a social network," said Chris Wiley, associate director in career services at UD and one of the researchers. "The thought that what they put on Facebook would ever be seen by a potential employer is unreal to them. It's like an employer showing up at one of their parties on a Saturday night."

Not surprisingly, 64 percent of students said employers should not consider Facebook profiles during the hiring process. Daniel Luckett, a University of Dayton senior, said his profile is getting less and less detailed as he heads into the job search.

"Facebook profiles are just as valid as resumes, but can be just as misleading," Luckett said. "The only way to know anything about anyone is to get them into an interview and then hire them. I know plenty of people whose Facebook profile doesn't fit their personality, or speaks too highly of them, just like resumes."

On Facebook.com, students can "join" any number of online interest groups, which range from diverse to campy to remote. But 35 percent said the groups they become aligned with do not accurately depict who they are or who they want to be. Twenty-three percent said they intentionally misrepresented themselves to be funny or as a joke. Potential employers may not see it that way.

"We did this survey to make students aware that this is a big deal and to let employers know what to look for so they have a greater understanding of Facebook," said Mark Sisson, assistant director in career services at UD and one of the researchers. "Also, we wanted to explore the generational differences between employers and employee candidates."

Some of the students surveyed said it's hypocritical for employers — who are typically from a previous generation — to use Facebook against them because it didn't exist until recently.

Megan Lemming, a junior at UD, said she wouldn't want employers to get an opinion based only on what she's posted on Facebook, anymore than employers would want someone to judge them for what they do in their private lives.

"Next year, I'll inactivate my account so employers can't see it because I'm going into education and I do think teachers should be held to a higher standard," said Lemming. "Conversely, I don't think employers should use Facebook unless they see a potential threat because personal and professional lives are different."

Wiley and Sisson polled students at the University of Dayton, Wittenberg University, Wright State University, Antioch College and Sinclair Community College. The researchers also will present the findings nationally at the National Association of Colleges and Employers conference May 31, 2007, in New York City.

"We're trying to educate students and employers about the ramifications," said Wiley. "It's important to educate employers on what they might see and whether a student's Facebook profile is an accurate assessment of how they'd be in a work setting."

For more information, contact Chris Wiley at 937-229-2078 or chris.wiley@notes.udayton.edu or Mark Sisson at 937-229-2072 or mark.sisson@notes.udayton.edu.