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Nearly half of employers investigate job applicants online. This is according to a CareerBuilder survey released last week.

Of the 2,775 hiring managers polled, almost half (48 percent) responded that employers will use Google or other search engines to research candidates. Nearly the same number (44 percent) will research the candidate on Facebook.

Just over one quarter (27 percent) will monitor the candidate’s activity on Twitter. Another 23 percent will review the candidate’s posts or comments on Yelp.com, Glassdoor.com or other rating sites.

Tips for employers

The survey cites these statistics as a way to encourage job seekers to keep their online personas clean from digital dirt. So, I’ll take a different approach and offer some tips for employers:

  1. Employers are not required to conduct an online background check of job applicants. If you do, it’s generally best to avoid demanding that applicants disclose social media usernames and passwords. This approach is illegal in many states and is likely to rub your candidates — the ones you want to like working for you — the wrong way.
  2. Wait until after the interview and before making the job offer to run the online search. This will save you time by minimizing the number of searches.
  3. If you use a third party to search, remember that the Fair Credit Reporting Actapplies. And if you don’t, it’s probably a good idea to inform your applicants anyway that you will be vetting them online.
  4. Have someone other than the decision maker handle the search. What the decision maker doesn’t know (e.g., the applicant’s national origin, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation) won’t factor into the employment decision. Instead, have someone else research the applicant online, redact all of the protected-class information, and provide the decision maker with only the red flags that should influence an employment decision (hate speech, productivity issues, drug use, etc.)
  5. Give the applicant a chance to explain. Not everything you read online is true. Other information can be taken out of context. If you find something questionable about an applicant, allow that person an opportunity to address it before making an employment decision.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

Eric B. Meyer is a partner in the Labor and Employment Group of the Philadelphia-based law firm of Dilworth Paxson LLP . He dedicates his practice to litigating and assisting employers on labor and employment issues affecting the workplace, including collective bargaining, discrimination, employee handbook policies, enforcement of restrictive covenants, and trade secret protection. Eric also serves as a volunteer mediator for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Contact him at emeyer@dilworthlaw.com .

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