By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog Writer

According to a recent article in the NY Times, the German government has proposed placing restrictions on employers who wish to view the profiles of job applicants on wildly popular social networking sites such as Facebook when recruiting.

The Times reports that the proposal to limit the use of Facebook for recruiting – part of a proposed law governing workplace privacy – would allow recruiters to search publicly accessible information about applicants on the Web and view applicant pages on job sites such like LinkedIn but not search on “purely” social networking sites like Facebook.

The German bill limiting the use of Facebook – which claims over 500 million users worldwide and about 10 million in Germany – could pass this year, the Times reports.

A law like the one proposed in Germany blocking employers from checking the social profiles of job applicants on Facebook would mean big changes in America, since recruiters routinely use social-networking sites to find out more about applicants. A 2009 survey from job networking site found 45 percent of employers used social networking sites to research candidates and 35 percent rejected applicants based on what was uncovered.

Of the 35 percent of employers who found content causing them not to hire the candidate:

  • 53 percent cited provocative/inappropriate photographs or information
  • 44 percent cited content about drinking or using drugs
  • 35 percent cited bad-mouthing of previous employers, co-workers or clients 
  • 29 percent cited poor communication skills
  • 26 percent cited discriminatory comments
  • 24 percent  cited misrepresentation of qualifications
  • 20 percent cited sharing confidential information from a previous employer 

However, social networks should not be seen by employers as some sort of “cheap-and-easy” background check, according to Les Rosen, President of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a leading provider of background checks for employers and recruiters.

“Employers and recruiters have discovered a treasure trove of information on potential job applicants in social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn,” says Rosen, a frequent speaker on employment screening issues and the author of “The Safe Hiring Manual – The Complete Guide to Keeping Criminals, Imposters and Terrorists out of the Workplace,” the first comprehensive guide on employment screening for employers. “However, the use of these social media sites can present legal risks, including privacy and discrimination issues. We show employers how to avoid these legal landmines.”

ESR will present a webinar featuring Rosen to educate employers and recruiters on the proper use of popular social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn during background checks. The webinar – “Avoiding Legal Landmines when Using Facebook, LinkedIn, and Other Social Media Websites for Screening Candidates” – will be presented on Thursday, August 26, 2010 from 2:00pm to 3:30pm ET (11:00am to 12:30pm PT). For more information, visit:

Questions that will be answered in this informative and educational webinar include:

  • Why do major employers, human resources, and recruiters use search engines and social network sites to screen candidates?
  • What are the risks in using these social network sites?
  • Isn’t everything on the web fair game since privacy is waived once someone places something on the Internet?
  • How do discrimination laws and rules concerning off-duty conduct apply?
  • What are the best practices for employers when using social network sites?

For more information about Employment Screening Resources (ESR), visit: