Hiring Practices and Online Reputation

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What is Online Reputation?

Online reputation can refer to two general ideas.  First, it can refer to the way a consumer product is perceived online.  It may encompass the product’s overall presentation through its home website, search engine advertisements, and distribution through various sales companies online.

Secondly, online reputation can also refer to a person’s own presence online collectively through personal websites, social networking pages, business networking pages, and photographs/videos.  Basically, the sum total of all references to a person can be considered part of their online reputation.  Alternatively, this is known as their online identity.

What is the Relationship Between Hiring Practices and Online Reputation?

For purposes of employment and the hiring process, “online reputation” usually refers to the second definition.  A person’s online identity is becoming more and more important for areas of life such as job applications and employment interviews. 

In some cases, the employer may search a person’s online identity to discover facts about the person before hiring.  Such practices are actually becoming standard hiring practice for many firms.  Thus, a person needs to be aware of the type of information they post online, and also what type of image of themselves that they’re actually portraying.

Can My Online Information Be Used During Hiring?

In many cases, online information is viewable to the public, and is therefore “fair game” when it comes to being used during the hiring process.  For example, photos, status updates, location “check-ins”, and various other bits of information can be used by the future employer to determine the applicant’s truthfulness. 

If the employer finds online information that contradicts what the person said during an interview, it may hurt the applicant’s chances at landing that job.  And obviously, any indication online of criminal activity can raise suspicions about the applicant.

On the other hand, employers do need to be aware of two aspects of online reputation and online identity.  First of all, the use of online information cannot violate the applicant’s privacy expectations.  If the applicant has not made their information public, the employer should refrain from questionable means of obtaining the information (such as creating a fake social network account for the purpose of “spying” on the applicant).

Secondly, the employer needs to be aware of the various anti-discrimination laws that govern the hiring process.  One thing that can happen is that the employer may gain information about an applicant through online sources, some of which may be clear and some of which may be ambiguous. Discrimination can actually occur if the employer makes assumptions about the applicant based on their membership in a “protected” class (such as their race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, etc.). 

Thus, both the employer and the applicant employee should be very careful when using online reputation information.

What if I Suspect an Employer Used Unfair Hiring Practices?

Unfair hiring practices are usually processed through a government agency such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  If you suspect that you’ve been discriminated against or treated unfairly during the hiring practice, you may want to begin by filing a complaint with the appropriate government agency. 

If that doesn’t solve the problem, you might be able to file a private lawsuit.  Usually, however, you need to file with the EEOC or similar agency before you can file in a court of law.

If you suspect that the employer has used your online information against you in an illegal or discriminatory manner, you should take note of which sources the employer may be referring to.  You may wish to save or print such information for future reference in case it’s needed for the complaint. 

Do I Need a Lawyer if I Have Legal Issues With Hiring Practices and Online Reputation?

Your online reputation is becoming an important part of the hiring practice, and should therefore be protected.  If you have any questions or legal disputes involving the hiring practice, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer for assistance.  Whether you’re filing with a government agency or in a civil court of law, your attorney will be able to provide you with much needed legal representation.  You may be able to obtain various legal remedies for any losses you’ve experienced. 

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Last Modified: 09-04-2012 04:16 PM PDT

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