There has been much discussion about the use of social networking for candidate background checks.  I have always been in favor of allowing companies to search through anything posted online – it is in the public domain.

However, this German law does provide a bit more detail:

For example, employers will still be allowed to run a search on the Web on their applicants, de Maiziere said. Anything out in public is fair game, as are postings on networks specifically created for business contacts, such as LinkedIn.

In contrast, it will be illegal to become a Facebook friend with an applicant in order to check out private details, he said, adding that some people seem to be indiscriminate about whom they accept as a friend.

Ok, the friend piece does seem a bit underhanded, but the next line from the article is prescient:

“If an employer turns down an application with another reasoning it might be difficult to prove” that the negative answer was based on the Facebook postings, de Maiziere said.

I believe the lawsuits that would flow from this restrictive law would be frequent.  What if the candidate puts a friend request or LinkedIn request to the hiring manager?  Will there be a case from a rejected candidate even if there isn’t a social network connection?  What about Twitter?  Perhaps the candidate has been a bit rough in their Tweet language or posted links to some unflattering images?

At the end of the day, it may be that hiring managers and HR have to avoid social network research all together.

At least in Germany…for now.

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