Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Protecting Job Seekers from Themselves: Germany Considering Facebook Hiring Ban

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Is this the start of a global movement to protect would-be employees from themselves? German politicians are weighing a new law that would ban employers from using dedicated social media sites—most notably Facebook—to help make hiring decisions.

man with binocularsUnder the terms of the proposed law, German employers would be restricted to professional sites such as LinkedIn when conducting background research on potential hires. And candidates would have the right to legal recourse if they found out that they had lost out on a position because an employer had based their decision on information gleaned from social media sites. (In a further protection of privacy, meanwhile, the proposed law also seeks to ban employers from secretly filming their employees.)

If passed, the law would be a welcome step away from people having to consider everything they do online as a potential red flag for employers. In short, it’s intended to allow people greater freedom to be themselves online—in exactly the same way that they can act differently at home and in the office—without fear of career repercussions.

Even if such a law would be unenforceable in any kind of practical sense (and it likely would be), the fact of its existence would at least clarify the issue in the minds of employers. The current situation—both in Germany and the U.S.—basically allows employers to set their own limitations as to how much of a candidate’s personal life they’re willing to take into consideration when making hiring decisions.

The proposed German law would remove that element of choice, and ensure that employers are at least aware of the expectation that all candidates are treated equally regarding recovery of online information. That not only includes candidates who may have been penalized for those photos from last year’s bachelor extravaganza in Vegas, but also those who choose not to maintain a social networking presence.

The bottom line for careerists in all this is that they shouldn’t be relying on government intervention to protect them from over-eager recruiters and HR personnel. Even if such a law were to exist in the U.S., best practice for use of social networking sites would still include regular checks of your privacy settings, and ensuring that things you wouldn’t want a prospective or current employer to see are either well hidden or erased completely.

As mentioned above, such a law would be a welcome step, but it would be just that—only a step, and a very small one at that. And, even if it were to become a global standard, careerists still wouldn’t be wise to let it all hang out in the social media sphere.

Extra Insight:
Your Job Search: Two Facebook Privacy Settings to Use Right Now
Five Things You Don’t Want Your Colleagues to See on Facebook
Is Social Media the Key to your Career Success?

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