There has been a growing trend amongst employers in the United States to drop by a perspective new employee’s Facebook profile and see what they can learn about them. While some have felt this was beyond the scope of what an employer should do, the human resource departments of larger companies have said it is a valuable tool. It would seem the trend has grown across the world because Germany is currently looking at banning the practice.

Last week The New York Times reported that German lawmakers have proposed a bill that would make it illegal for employers to snoop around the social networking profile of any employee unless it was on a business-style network such as LinkedIn.  Any social network thats purpose is strictly social would now be off limits. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet gave its blessing to the proposed legislature and it will now move on to parliament for ratification.  While there are still several steps to be taken, Philipp Spauschus, a spokesman for the Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière told the newspaper that it could be passed before the end of the year.

German flagAccording to a survey released last year by, 45 percent of employers had come to make checking social networks a part of the hiring process, up from 22 percent the year before.  While Facebook led the pack for where they would look for information, they were also looking at MySpace, Twitter, blogs and more.  Some of their favorite things to look for included:

  • Candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information – 53 percent
  • Candidate posted content about them drinking or using drugs – 44 percent
  • Candidate bad-mouthed their previous employer, co-workers or clients – 35 percent
  • Candidate showed poor communication skills – 29 percent
  • Candidate made discriminatory comments – 26 percent
  • Candidate lied about qualifications – 24 percent
  • Candidate shared confidential information from previous employer – 20 percent

Not everything they searched for was bad, and some employers said they hired employees based on the social networking profiles providing them with candid looks at their creativity, communication skills and so on.

Germany is the first country known to be trying to ban such practices by employers, but it is a country know for being sensitive to privacy issues.  They have been a leading force in questioning Google over its Street View product, pushing for Microsoft to give more choices in which browser you use from the start and so on.

TechnoBuffalo is currently hiring, and my viewpoint is “what you do on your time is your business”, unless it somehow impacts your employer, it really isn’t any of our business.

What say you?  Are you in favor of employers checking out social networking profiles?