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Can online indiscretions harm job prospects?

Students are being warned not to post details of their nocturnal exploits on social media sites because of the damage it could do to their job prospects. Undergraduates at one university have been trading accounts of drunken and lewd behaviour on social networking sites, prompting warnings that doing so could 'damage their future employment prospects as companies are increasingly searching for information on job applicants'.

It's a point that could equally apply to any job applicant with a public social networking profile. The internet has eroded traditional boundaries between working and private lives, collapsing those worlds in ways that can broadcast personal information that might be better kept among friends.

Whether student, worker or prospective employee, it's important to review and understand the access settings on social networking sites to guard against invasion of privacy. It's easy to forget that unlike boisterous conversations held in the physical world, interaction on social networking sites can leave a permanent record and give employers the opportunity to eavesdrop in a way that would have once been impossible.

There are dangers on the other side of the fence too. Employers who seek out personal information about candidates on social networking sites need to take care that they don't fall foul of discrimination laws, which protect people even at recruitment stage. Employers could face employment tribunal hearings if they refused to interview someone as a result of a judgement they made based on a social networking profile.

Acas provides advice on Social media - recruitment and performance management and has published the advisory booklet Recruitment. Acas also runs Recruitment training courses that will help employers understand the law and develop best practices for an effective and fair recruitment system.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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