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Screening job candidates on Facebook? Good luck with that

Raul Arboleda | AFP | Getty Images

If the idea of a company checking you out on Facebook before hiring you kind of creeps you out, you're not alone.

Researchers at North Carolina State University recently found that companies that screen social media accounts of job applicants alienate those candidates and will have a harder time attracting the best workers.

In some cases, social media screening puts the company at greater risk of getting sued, according to Will Stoughton, a Ph.D. student at N.C. State and lead author of the research paper.

In one exercise, some two-thirds of online job applicants who had been told that their Facebook accounts had been reviewed for "professionalism" said the practice was an invasion of privacy that reflected poorly on the company doing the screening.

In a second exercise, half of the participants were asked how they'd respond to social media screening if it meant they got the job, while the other half were told they didn't get the job. Getting hired didn't change their opinion. In both groups, some 60 percent said they thought less of the company because their privacy had been breached.

(Read more: With teens in mind, Facebook pushes both ways on privacy)

And 59 percent of those in the second exercise said they were significantly more likely than a control group that wasn't screened to take legal action against the company for invasion of privacy.

(Read more: Facebook faces suit over data allegations)

"Elite job prospects have options, and are more likely to steer clear of potential employers they don't trust," said Lori Foster Thompson, a professor of psychology at N.C. State and co-author of the paper.

By CNBC's John Schoen. Follow him on Twitter @johnwschoen or email him.