It is a well known and common practice for companies to refer to social media when evaluating a potential candidate for a position. Anyone familiar with this industry tradition knows to either carefully set their privacy settings for their social network posts, or to simply not post anything damning online. But in some cases, it’s not what you post that can get you in hot water.
The leading professional social network, LinkedIn, is driven by connections. The more direct connections you have (1st degree connections), the wider your professional network (2nd/3rd degree connections and group members). Turns out, with the right type of Premium LinkedIn account, hiring managers have the capability to contact not only their first degree contacts, but anyone who is in their professional network with a tool called “Reference Search”:
A reference search locates people in your network who may be able to provide feedback about a job candidate or business prospect. You’ll see a list of people who have worked at the same company during the same time period as the member you’d like to learn more about.
…the case illustrates how social media sites have become an essential tool for many employers and recruiters, a productive fish bowl in which to trawl for, identify, observe and vet job candidates. It also suggests that many job seekers may be unaware of the techniques a company can use to parse the information they have publicly posted online — with possible consequences for their career prospects.
So, what should you do to prevent a potential employer from reaching out to a disgruntled former co-worker? Nothing… yet. This is one of those unavoidable, newly discovered twists of the ever-evolving digital life that is social media.