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Years ago I worked with a man in his early 20s  who drank nightly, and not just a little.  Every morning, when he managed to actually show up to work, he was so hung over that he could barely function.  He had continually bloodshot eyes, when you could see them, and he reminded me of the Morlocks in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine because had eyes so sensitive to light that he had to avoid bright lights and sunshine. Only wearing sunglasses to allow him to function.  One morning one of his eyes bled because a blood vessel broke from his excessive drinking. No, he didn’t last long, and was summarily fired one day.


Today he would probably have been taking drugs nightly, but result would be the same.  And today, he could well have been celebrating his excesses on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or Whatsapp.  In those days, employers could rely only on resumes, employment applications, and references.  Likewise landlords could only rely on rental applications, previous landlords, and references.  They had no access to credit reports, of course, as there is now.  But just as telling, there was no social media, either.


Today, some four out of five people have a social media profile, reports statistica.com.  Young adults are even more present, with some 88 percent of 18-29 year olds and 78 percent of 30-49 year olds using social media reports Pew Research.  The younger the person, the more likely he or she is to broadcast on social media what we could consider unflattering information, and the more likely he or she is to leave that information open for anyone to see rather than just friends and acquaintances.


Resumes always look good; employment and rental applications always are at least neutral and try to look good; credit reports can often be telling, but they probably won’t catch the kinds of behavior that might dissuade an employer from hiring or a landlord from renting.  Peeking into someone’s social media posts can be informative and might provide information that would affect the hiring or renting choice.


Depending on the social media and the settings of the user, it can be easy or not so easy to look at what an applicant-user has posted.  For when it is not so easy, you can find numerous YouTube videos that explain in detail how to go about locating someone and reading their posts even when they try to make them private.  I won’t go into the process here; just check them out yourself if you want to see what an applicant might have shown the world.  Instead, let’s look at things that might affect hiring and renting and things that don’t matter.


A Forbes magazine article from April 16, 2013 reported that “A third (34%) of employers who scan social media profiles said they have found content that has caused them not to hire the candidate. About half of those employers said they didn’t offer a job candidate the position because of provocative or inappropriate photos and information posted on his or her profile; while 45% said they chose not to hire someone because of evidence of drinking and/or drug use on his or her social profiles.”


A Computer World article on July 1, 2013, reported, “24% [of employers] said they had rejected applicants after finding information that indicated that a candidate had lied about qualifications.”


A typical response from an applicant is often that it is none of an employer’s or landlord’s business what the applicant does on his or her time.  That is often true but in some cases, not so much.


The obvious “none of your business” social media posts would be gossip about friends, usually, but not always, pictures about a vacation or family get together, usually, but not always, and political beliefs, usually, but not always.


When posts are concerning is when they show irresponsible behavior on the part of an applicant or possibly his or her friends.  For example, if an applicant is applying for a job as a delivery driver and posts about his recent drunk driving arrest, that is definitely a cause for concern and likewise for a landlord.  Drunk driving fines can be financially crippling and drunk drivers may lose their driver’s licenses, which means they may not have the money to pay the rent and they may not be able to get to work to earn money to pay the rent, likewise if someone posts pictures or videos about debauched behavior.  Think about the young man I described at the beginning.


Drinking and even drug use is not a concern if it doesn’t affect someone’s ability to get to work and do the work, but it often does.  The problem with drug use is that it may well affect work and could result in an arrest and jail.


Then there are posts about wild parties. There’s nothing wrong with a party, even a wild one, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the quiet enjoyment of neighbors.  If it does, a landlord might want to think twice or even three times about renting to this individual.  The explanations about why he or she was evicted from the last place will be interesting and will argue that the applicant is entirely blameless and maybe even the “victim of a conspiracy.” Never decide to rent to an applicant while you are listening to him or her.  Check it our further.


Similarly, domestic violence issues can affect someone’s ability to work.  If you were to see a post that said “I beat my old lady because she wouldn’t shut her mouth,” that would definitely be cause for concern for obvious reasons.  Does he have anger issues?  Does he carry them over to the workplace?  Might he not show up for work one day because he had to spend the night in jail for “beating his old lady”?  It’s hard to believe that someone would post such a thing on social media, but people surprise us every day.


For the most part, political beliefs should have no bearing on hiring or renting, but they might if those beliefs involve hate groups.  An employer and landlord can count on problems with an applicant if that person is a racist or has a prejudice against people of another religion. There will be workplace contention and possibly neighborhood contention depending on the racial and religious composition of the workplace and area around the rental.  No, that person’s opinion is usually none of our business. But when it carries over to problems at work or home, it becomes our business.


Resumes, employment and rental applications, references and credit reports are great places to find possible candidates for a job or a rental, but to get a more complete story, use social media to see if what this person does in his or her spare time could affect work or home.


By Robert L. Cain

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