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Q. We're in the final decision stage on a new hire, and one of my team members happened upon the MySpace profile of our top candidate. There is some questionable material in there, and I'm trying to decide how to weight that. She looks really good in all other aspects, and I'm inclined to ignore the web site. How are other people handling that?

A. There is no question that this will be an increasingly common issue as a new generation of workers grows-up conducting more and more of their personal lives online. There doesn't seem to be a consensus as to how employers should use the information that they can now find.

On the one hand, everybody is entitled to a personal life, and there are some things that many employers would just rather not know. On the other hand, many people feel like they can make better decisions if they have better knowledge, and it does at least speak to the candidate's level of discretion. If discretion is important to the job, then that might be worth considering. Ultimately, your best option may be to trust your instincts.

Some employment attorneys have suggested that web sites like MySpace may contain information about age or medical history and that accidental exposure to that information may open employers up to potential discrimination suits. In that case, it may be better to avoid sites like that entirely just to be safe. Of course you should always consult your own attorneys before making a policy decision like that.

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