Medical students and junior doctors are being warned that their past Twitter and Facebook posts are increasingly being checked as part of shortlisting for medical school and jobs.
A study, the largest of its kind published online in Postgraduate Medical Journal, found that one in 10 (9%) staff involved in selection admitted to using social networking sites to evaluate applicants. One in ﬁve (19%) said they used some type of internet search to pick up information on applicants. A small proportion (3-4%) said they used the information they found to reject a candidate.
Admissions staﬀ disagree that gathering information this way is a violation of privacy. Two out of three respondents said they were somewhat or very familiar with researching individuals on social networking sites.
The responses were from 600 staff involved in admissions procedures for medical schools and residency programs across the the US. Most respondents were either program directors or residency coordinators.
Only around one in seven (15%) said they plan to use the web/social networking sites to search out information on candidates in future, but 29% were neutral on the issue, prompting the authors to suggest that the use of this method could therefore increase. 58% disagreed or strongly disagreed that it was a violation of privacy to search for an applicant’s name on social networking sites.
Furthermore, over half (53%) agreed that online professionalism should be a factor in the selection process and that “unprofessional behaviour” evidenced from wall posts/comments, photos, and group memberships should compromise an applicant.
“Social networking sites will inevitably affect future selection of doctors and residents,” say the authors. “Formal guidelines for professional behaviour on social networking sites might help applicants avoid unforeseen bias in the selection process.”