When a small consulting company in Chicago was looking to hire a summer intern this month, the company's president went online to check on a promising candidate who had just graduated from the University of Illinois...
"A lot of it makes me think, what kind of judgment does this person have?" said the company's president, Brad Karsh. "Why are you allowing this to be viewed publicly, effectively, or semipublicly?"
Many companies that recruit on college campuses have been using search engines like Google and Yahoo to conduct background checks on seniors looking for their first job. But now, college career counselors and other experts say, some recruiters are looking up applicants on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Xanga and Friendster, where college students often post risqué or teasing photographs and provocative comments about drinking, recreational drug use and sexual exploits in what some mistakenly believe is relative privacy...
At New York University, recruiters from about 30 companies told career counselors that they were looking at the sites, said Trudy G. Steinfeld, executive director of the center for career development.
"The term they've used over and over is red flags," Ms. Steinfeld said. "Is there something about their lifestyle that we might find questionable or that we might find goes against the core values of our corporation?"...
On MySpace and similar sites, personal pages are generally available to anyone who registers, with few restrictions on who can register. Facebook, though, has separate requirements for different categories of users; college students must have a college e-mail address to register. Personal pages on Facebook are restricted to friends and others on the user's campus, leading many students to assume that they are relatively private.
But companies can gain access to the information in several ways. Employees who are recent graduates often retain their college e-mail addresses, which enables them to see pages. Sometimes, too, companies ask college students working as interns to perform online background checks, said Patricia Rose, the director of career services at the University of Pennsylvania.
So, let's recap: essentially these employers are encouraging their interns or recent graduates to use what are essentially false pretenses to gain access to information about prospective employees, who are merely exercising in many case their right of free speech.
What kind of judgment would such a management exercise?
Who'd want to work for them?