Before the age of the Internet, it was much more difficult to find information on a person's past job history. However, in many instances, it is possible to find someone's employment history simply by checking public profiles online. For job searchers, journalists and others conducting interviews, online searching makes background research for a particular person much easier. Even so, unless the checking is done for a legitimate purpose, there is the possibility for trouble.
Check social networking sites such as LinkedIn or Plaxo (See Resources) using the person's name or nickname as a search term. In the case of duplicate listings, check any photos attached to a particular listing along with the geographical area listed with the profile to narrow down the choices to the correct individual.
Search online discussion boards with the person's name to check for contributions. Sometimes a person will mention his job title or workplace along with a comment on a discussion board. Also, some discussion boards are only open to people within certain professions. General geographical information is often included with discussion board postings, although photos are less common.
Check online search engines for news articles mentioning the person, especially those which include a photo. Oftentimes news articles will contain a brief or even a detailed career history for the individual if she is the main subject of the article. Check older articles to obtain information about jobs the person had held in the past.
Check company websites or publications to determine job titles the person might have held. Annual reports are especially useful for management level personnel and are often available to the public for the asking. Company newsletters are often published online as well, and many times include photos.
- For potential employers, landlords or others with a legitimate purpose for verifying a person's present employment or job history, it is much simpler to obtain a signed release form containing the person's Social Security number along with a current resume. This will also allow for a much more extensive background check.
- If the checking is being done in advance of contacting the person for an information interview or an interview for a news story, it is totally proper to contact the person directly and ask for a resume or other documentation of her employment and background as part of your research.
- Extensively searching someone's background with no legitimate purpose may be viewed by the authorities as Internet stalking, even if the searching is conducted using publicly available sources. Cyberstalking is considered a criminal offence in many jurisdictions.
- Using lies or misrepresentations to obtain information which is not generally available to the public is immoral and in many instances illegal.