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Dec 7 / Wayne State University

Cybervetting: The Hiring Process in the Digital Age

by Chelsea Dalgord

shareThe digital age has provided people the opportunity to speak their minds and also share their thoughts, ideas and beliefs openly online. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have created digital diaries where people share their opinions, life events and past mistakes. While social networking provides a chance to share with friends and family and make new acquaintances it also opens the door to the possibility of being cybervetted when applying for a job.

Cybervetting or online vetting is the “practice of using information found on the Internet to determine whether a person is a viable candidate for employment” (Donlon-Cotton, 2011). Cara Donlon-Cotton’s (2011) article “Using Social Networking for Cybervetting” explains, “Cybervetting is just another tool in the box to gather information about the person’s behavior. You’re looking to verify that the applicant’s behavior online is the same as you would expect in real life.”

There are hidden dangers of cybervetting that employers must be aware of including having the proper policies in place before cybervetting is practiced. Donlon-Cotton suggests that employers “need a policy that clearly states your agency will use cyber information as a supplement to pre-employment and pre-promotion screening” (2012). She continues to explain that while cybervetting may help with the investigation of a job applicant, cybervetting alone cannot be relied on for the final decision about the applicant.

Howard Levitt from Financial Post discusses in his article “Cybervetting, or Invasion of Privacy?” (2012) that “it is important for an employer to establish objective criteria for evaluating applicants to show decisions were made without relying on illegal criteria”. The article makes the following recommendations for employers to obtain background information on possible job applicants without violating their right to privacy:

  • Create a formal guide for gathering information on potential hires;
  • Access social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook, Linked In etc., but primarily as a background check rather than an evaluation tool;
  • Use the same cybervetting criteria for each candidate;
  • Proceed with caution — social media searches should exclude searching based on protected grounds; race, ethnicity, color, religion, sex, age or disability. If you locate such information, ensure the decision to not hire is based on non-discriminatory objective information;
  • Give the prospective employee an opportunity to explain any negative information;
  • Keep a record of the information used for hiring and the reasons for the decision (Levitt, 2012).

If employers have the proper policies in place cybervetting can be a beneficial tool for researching possible job applicants. An article by Yves Lermusi (2011) suggests “cybervetting will be used more and more by organizations, first to avoid surprises, and more as a digital background and fact checking tool. Second, it will be used as a way to assess the expertise, motivation, and in some aspects the character of the candidates. Finally, it will expand into leveraging the collective intelligence that social network contains.” He continues to explain that cybervetting will not be going anywhere and that it will continue to evolve in the future.

Advice for job seekers: Remember to be careful about what you post on social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter. You never know who might read something from your past that could impact your future.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”- William Faulkner



Images from

Donlon-Cotton, Cara. (2011). Using Social Netwroking for Cybervetting. Law &
Order. 59.12. 14-15.

Faulkner, William. (1950). Requiem for a Nun. New York: Random House.

Lermusi, Yves. (2011). Cyber-vetting’s Usage, Risk and Future. Retrieved on
October 25th, 2011 from

Levitt, Howard. (2012). Cybervetting, or invasion of privacy. Financial Post.
Retrieved on October 25th, 2011 from