A new study suggests that many companies regularly look up job applicants online as part of the hiring process and may also use what they find to discriminate. The study, a Carnegie Mellon University experiment involving dummy résumés and social-media profiles, found that between 10% and a third of U.S. firms searched social networks for job applicants’ information early in the hiring process. In those cases, candidates whose public Facebook profiles indicated they were Muslim were less likely to be called for interviews than Christian applicants. The difference was particularly pronounced in parts of the country where more people identify themselves as conservative. In those places, Christian applicants got callbacks 17% of the time, compared with about 2% for Muslims.
The same experiment, conducted from February to July of this year, found that online disclosures about job candidates’ sexuality had no detectable impact on employers’ early interest.
The research is the latest example of how people’s digital trails can have far-reaching and unintended effects, particularly in the job market. Employment experts said the results show that businesses should be more careful about allowing people who make hiring decisions to look up candidates online. ” James McDonald, a partner at Fisher & Phillips LLP said, “You need to control the information you receive so you’re only getting information that is legal for you to take into account.”