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Bosses May Use Social Media to Discriminate Against Job Seekers

Many companies regularly look up job applicants online as part of the hiring process. A new study suggests they may also use what they find to discriminate.


The study, a Carnegie Mellon University experiment involving dummy resumes 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.

卡内基梅隆大学(Carnegie Mellon University)的一项试验性研究发现,在招聘过程的初期,有10%到三分之一的美国公司都会在社交网络上对求职者进行搜索。这项研究既涉及中规中矩的简历,也涉及了社交媒体上的档案。在搜索结果中,那些Facebook上的公开档案显示为伊斯兰教徒的求职者相较于信仰基督教的求职者更难接到面试通知。在美国相对保守的地区,这种差异格外明显。在这些地区,信仰基督教的求职者接到面试通知的几率约为17%,而信仰伊斯兰教的求职者接到面试通知的几率约为2%。

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.


'There is so much information we reveal about ourselves online, sometimes in ways we do not even realize,' said Alessandro Acquisti, an information-technology and public-policy professor at Carnegie Mellon and one of the study's authors. Even if people don't explicitly discuss sensitive information online or post embarrassing photos, employers can be influenced by other clues, the researchers said.

卡内基梅隆大学的信息技术和国家政策系教授、该项研究的作者之一亚历山德罗·阿奎斯蒂(Alessandro Acquisti)表示:“我们在网络上透露了太多关于自己的信息,有些时候我们甚至都没有意识到。”研究人员称,即使人们并不在网络上公然讨论敏感话题或粘贴令人尴尬的照片,但是雇主仍然能够受到蛛丝马迹的影响。

Quotes from a religious text could indicate a person's beliefs, for example, while mentions of a baby registry might suggest a woman is pregnant or has children.


Discrimination in this part of the hiring process could be conscious or unconscious, meaning the employer could be influenced without realizing it, said Christina Fong, a senior research scientist at Carnegie Mellon who also worked on the experiment. Even before the social-networking era, studies showed that employers discriminate based on subtle cues, such as whether a name on a r嗷sum嗷 was likely to be for an African-American.

卡内基梅隆大学的资深研究员、参与了这项试验的克里斯蒂娜·方(Christina Fong, 音译)表示,招聘初期的歧视可能是无意的,也可能是有意的,这意味着雇主可能并没有意识到自己受到了影响。研究表明,甚至在社交网络时代之前,雇主也曾根据一些微妙的线索歧视求职者,比如简历上的名字是否可能是非裔美国人等。

More than a third of U.S. employers say they consult social-networking sites during hiring at least some of the time, according to a survey of nearly 1,000 human-resources workers released this year by EmployeeScreenIQ, a background-check firm. But only 7% said they always look at those sites.

根据背景调查公司EmployeeScreenIQ今年发布的一项针对近1,000名人力资源员工的调查显示,有超过三分之一的美国雇主表示,他们在招聘中曾经参考过社交网站上的内容。但是,只有7%的雇主表示他们总是会查询社交网站。 纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com

'It's human nature to search. We want to fill in the blanks,' said Rusty Rueff, a longtime human-resources executive now on the board of careers company Glassdoor Inc.

长期从事人力资源工作的高管鲁斯迪·鲁艾夫(Rusty Rueff)表示:“探索是人类的天性。我们总是希望填充信息的空白。”鲁艾夫目前是人力资源企业Glassdoor Inc.的董事会成员。

Most employers say they use social networks to find evidence of unprofessional behavior, such as complaints about previous employers or discussion of drug use. Many employment consultants advise job hunters not to share such obviously problematic details on social media.


But the new research suggests social-media profiles can contribute to more fundamental discrimination. The researchers focused their experiment on categories like religion and sexuality, which some federal and local laws prohibit companies from using in hiring decisions. 'By and large, employers avoid asking questions about these traits in interviews. But now technology makes it easier to find that information, ' Mr. Acquisti said.


The Carnegie Mellon researchers sent out more than 4,000 fabricated resumes to private firms across the country that had more than 15 employees and were posting job openings online. The jobs included technical, managerial and analyst positions that required either several years of experience or a graduate degree.


Each resume used one of four male names chosen for their uniqueness, meaning Web searches were almost guaranteed to lead viewers to carefully calibrated Facebook profiles linked to the names. One profile suggested the person was Christian, and another suggested he was Muslim. Two others indicated the person was either gay or straight. (For each candidate, the researchers altered the large background photo that appears on Facebook profiles to reflect the person's supposed interests. The researchers also provided information on activities, interests and favorite quotes that alluded to religion or sexual orientation. The material was chosen based on statistical analysis of existing Facebook profiles for university students.)


Facebook declined to comment on the research. On its help site, the company tells people who want to limit what potential employers can find about them that they should protect the privacy of their photos, videos and status updates by choosing to share information with friends only. <纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com/>


Mr. Acquisti said the study isn't an indictment of Facebook but rather an example of the unintended consequences of information sharing online.


The Carnegie Mellon study involved only information that employers could access publicly. Researchers said they made sure the privacy levels of the profiles were normal for Facebook users so that the applicants didn't seem to be disclosing an unusually large amount of data about themselves.


The researchers also made professional profiles for the people on LinkedIn, as well as profiles for fake friends and colleagues, to create a more realistic online presence for the applicants. Those profiles didn't reveal such sensitive information. The names themselves were tested to make sure people didn't associate them with any particular race, religion or ethnicity.


The creation of fake profiles raises questions about whether researchers might be running afoul of the networks' terms of use. The study received approval from a university ethics review board, which weighs such issues in light of the potential benefit to society that revealing a new area for discrimination might provide.


Muslim applicants received 14% fewer callbacks nationwide, but because of the small number of employers offering interviews to any people at all, this difference wasn't statistically significant. Significant advantages for Christian candidates as compared with Muslims were clear when researchers looked at the 10 states--Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming--that were most strongly conservative based on 2012 election data.


Ibrahim Hooper, the national communications director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the findings didn't surprise him. 'You never know what an employer is finding on Google or Facebook or any other site on the Internet that they can use to eliminate you from consideration,' he said.

美国-伊斯兰关系委员会(Council on American-Islamic Relations)的全国公关主任易卜拉欣·胡珀(Ibrahim Hooper)表示,他并不惊讶于这些发现。他称:“你永远也不知道雇主可以在谷歌(Google)、Facebook或其他网站上找到什么能够用来把你淘汰的内容。”

But while there was evidence that some employers discriminated against Muslim applicants, the gay and straight candidates in the study fared about the same in all states.


Employment experts said the results show that businesses should be more careful about allowing people who make hiring decisions to look up candidates online.


'I advise employers that it's not a good idea to use social media as a screening tool,' said James McDonald, a partner at Fisher & Phillips LLP who specializes in employment law. 'You need to control the information you receive so you're only getting information that is legal for you to take into account.'

Fisher & Phillips 律师事务所的合伙人、精通劳动法的詹姆斯·麦克唐纳(James McDonald)表示:“我奉劝雇主们,使用社交媒体作为筛选工具并不是一个好主意。”他称:“你需要控制你所获取的信息,以确保你的行为符合法律的规定。”



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