Yes, Virginia, HR Execs Check Your Facebook Page

Have you ever applied for a job and wondered why you didn’t get it, even though you were qualified? According to a new survey, there’s a good chance that the person doing the hiring found something about you online that they didn’t like. The survey done by Microsoft (s msft) found that 70 percent of HR professionals in the U.S. have rejected a job applicant based on what they found out about that individual by searching online (that number is lower in other countries).

As part of Data Privacy Day on Thursday, Microsoft says it conducted a survey of 2,500 people, among them consumers, HR managers and recruitment professionals in the U.S., UK, Germany, and France, with the goal of learning more about attitudes toward online reputation, including how such information can have real life consequences. The survey found that the top online factors for rejecting a job applicant are unsuitable photos/videos, concerns about a candidate’s lifestyle and inappropriate comments written by the candidate.

“Our research shows that managing your online reputation can be a significant benefit. Everyone should think critically about the image they’re digitally portraying,” Peter Cullen, Microsoft’s chief privacy strategist, said in a statement. Cullen also wrote about the survey on his blog, and there’s a video about the findings here.

The survey also found that not only are HR staffers search for information about job applicants online, most of their companies have made online screening a formal requirement of the hiring process. Recruiters and HR professionals also said that they believe the use of online-reputation information will significantly increase over the next five years. And while the survey found that most consumers manage their reputation at least to some extent, a significant percentage (between 30 and 35 percent depending on nationality) “don’t feel their online reputation affects either their personal or professional life [and] consequently, they are not taking steps to manage their reputations.”

Data Privacy Day (known as Data Protection Day in Europe) is designed to increase awareness around privacy and data protection issues, and is a joint project involving Microsoft, Intel (s intc), Google (s goog), AT&T (s T) and a number of other companies as well as an organization known as The Privacy Projects, a non-profit think tank devoted to researching and promoting privacy policies and standards.

Post photo and thumbnail courtesy of Flickr user Felipe Morin.