The kinds of information available on an applicant's webpage raises important ethical and legal considerations. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces several laws related to employment, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; the Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA); the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Sections 501 and 505; Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA); and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Taken together, these laws are designed to prevent employers from discriminating against prospective employees based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability.
Although prospective employers are supposed to consider information relevant only to the applicant's ability to do the job, employers are frequently able to access more personal information about an applicant. Even with the standard resume or vita, employers can often identify an applicant's sex, national origin, and age. With applicant homepages, this kind of information is typically much more accessible. For example, when I first visited Andy's website, Andy/Space, I noticed that he mentioned his daughter and wife. In addition, Motel Americana is linked to his home page; this is a joint project developed by Andy and his wife. Much of the Rogue Communication Domain is space that my husband and I share. While some parts are more his interests and other parts are more my interests, visitors to the site undoubtedly figure out that we're married (although there could be other reasons for the same last name, such as s sibling relationship).
In our recent job search at SJSU, the Affirmative Action Office told the members of the recruitment committee to simply ignore any personal information we might learn about the applicant and not consider that information in our deliberations. Yet, we couldn't "unknow" information. Job applicant websites are an important source of information for prospective employers. However, those employers may find information on those websites that can reflect negatively on a candidate. Even if that information should not be considered in making employment choices, once it is known, it plays a factor in the decision-making process.
There are also political issues in examining a job applicant's webpage. For example, what links are included on the applicant's page? Political parties, religious groups, or environmental organizations? Does this mean the applicant supports these groups? Although prospective employers are not supposed to consider this information, once known, it can be difficult to ignore. Politics can also be closer to home. What communication organization (link) URLs does the applicant include on the webpage? Links to other scholars? Communication programs? These links can reveal the ways in which applicants are (or are not) networked in the discipline, and can influence how prospective employers view applicants. Andy, what were key issues that influenced construction of your website? How did you design your site with these issues in mind? Your site was up before you started looking for a job. What changes, if any, did you make once you entered the job market?
Andy: the most fundamental choice I made in the construction of my virtual self was to call into question its location. During the job search, I called the site "Andy/Space" - an obvious play on all things "cyber." A more serious reason for this rhetorical turn was my concern with the metaphor of "home" as a container for my body. I am interested in the liminal nature of both the website and the online job-seeker. In Bosah Ebo's Cyberghetto or Cybertopia, Tyrone Adams and I explored the need to pose liminality (what Foucault calls heterotopia) as the site in which moments of personal and social transition are managed. From a somewhat heavy-handed political sensibility, I therefore found the home-metaphor as problematic. The home is, after all, a more or less private space. In this location, public interaction is regulated by rules of tradition, ritual and (some would argue quite persuasively) patriarchy. Long before I became a job applicant, I saw a need to position myself at a critical vantage point apart from that discourse. Thus, Andy Wood's homepage became Andy/Space.
Dr. Andrew Wood and Dr. Stephanie Coopman - last updated April 13, 1999