There is a fine line between Facebook stalking and using social media networks (SMN) to gather pertinent information to do either a background check or a screen on a potential employee. There is Monster.com, Linkedin.com, or the fifty other professional/career building social media outlets, but those kinds of sites are streamlined for the employer for specific information. The information provided paints a professional portrait of the individual, which may not always be a true reflection. It’s a debate of morality and privacy, but more personal sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ may be a more accurate representation of the applicant incoming. Not only that, but they’re free.
Sure, if the applicant is smart, he/she would protect his or her identities behind privacy settings. But, it often happens, where an employer is in some way connected to someone else who is friends with the applicant. A bad situation can result from privacy settings that are not set on a strict level; i.e., friends in network or friends of friends can see photos or status updates.
Privacy settings aside, SMNs can play an important role in the hiring process. Most sites require the user to create a unique account and fill that profile with relatable information, not that the applicant won’t fill it very vigorously without sense of purpose. That information can be synthesized for various purposes.
One of the first things SMNs ask for is location. This can include both a current and hometown location. How is this useful? Well, are you as the employer willing to cover gas for a commute or pay for a move? How long is the commute? If it’s a long drive, remember to ask a reference about tardiness.
Just like on a resume, most SMNs have a place to record Job History and can be a great place to see what they have been up to in the last few years. Match them up with things on a resume. Likely, the applicant won’t put something if it’s not relevant; but, that applicant won’t put someone on a resume that is negative either…
Middle school, high school, college, graduate school… you can get information as specific as his or her area of study. Did the applicant spend college held up, taking pictures in the library? Was there a two story beer bong hanging from the second story of the loft? Is that library at home REALLY filled with an updated OED set?!?
Half of time spent on SMNs seems like basic updates to the things people are infatuated with. Between all the different things someone has ‘Liked,’ there will be pertinent information as to who/what that person follows, what kinds of activities he/she participates in or enjoys, groups and clubs he/she is affiliated with, and if that person is mature enough to understand what is Social Media Network appropriate.
After the hiring process, SMNs can still serve a purpose.
Again… privacy aside. Is he/she actually sick with a 101 fever and vomiting, or do those pictures of her playing Frisbee golf and drinking a beer mean something else? Check Twitter and Facebook for the location of posts made… meaning, if someone is calling in sick from home, he or she shouldn’t be tweeting in a different city… I don’t care how good the night might have been.
And maybe most importantly…
Think past the people that are screaming that someone’s personal life has nothing to do with anyone or anything else. Most companies expect their employees to conduct him/herself in a in such a way that keeps the company seen in high regard.
If you are making or paying out the big bucks, an individual should uphold higher standards in public life; representing the company with dignity, regardless of the setting, trumps anyone who wants to argue that the things they do outside of work, despite the consequences, should be seen as an action of that person, and NOT to be reflected on the company.
Just ask Ozzie Guillen, manager of the Miami Marlins who thought his comments should be a reflection of his thoughts, not the Marlins… the commissioner of baseball, his boss disagrees…
It wasn’t just put out in the world via Twitter, it was in the print of a major circulating national magazine! But people getting in trouble for their directed Facebook posts and Tweets are just as common…
The point is a company is going to expect you to act like a professional regardless of where you are and what you are doing in the public realm, even if it is a private matter. If it can be viewed by the public it can come back to you. If it can be connected with you, it can be connected to who you work for. You can figure out the rest.
Privacy Matters… Kinda
Ok, so I will address it quick because everyone is probably screaming that they have a legal right to not be judged by what someone else finds on the internet… (Although those people might reword their argument—what happens when a Google search turns up an old DUI or other offense that is noteworthy? Look at this from the prospective that PRIVATE information, placed on a public forum, should not be used against you.)
There is a BOMB of information regarding the use of such private material for employing purposes and I will sum it up with this:
Most, if not all companies are going to follow a policy that states information cannot be used against a person if that information is obtained using Twitter, Facebook, Google +, MySpace (if people still use it), and various other social media networks that are not linked in with the professional world.
So, that person is who was screaming about Privacy, we can call him Derek, says “I can put whatever I want on Twitter and that’s my private life… you can’t use that against me.” Derek is right. No one is going to use that against him in any kind of formal setting. There will be no secret file that records the bad doings of Derek’s Tweets and Status Updates that shall be referred to when asked… “Has this person had any wrong doings on the internet?”
That said, it DOESN’T mean that the job provider may not find another “reason” to forego calling you about an interview or extend a job. It would go a little like this…
Hiring Manager Stacy - “What do you think of Derek?”
Hiring Manager Julie - “I think he was a so-so candidate.”
Hiring Manager Stacy - “Why’s that? I thought he acted very professionally and conducted himself very well in the interview. His Resume was spot on, his cover letter and references were satisfactory. What could make him only so-so?”
Hiring Manager Julie - (First thinking to herself about the photos of Derek wearing nothing but a sock, while beer bonging a liter of boxed wine, during a riot after the 2011 Vancouver Canucks Stanley Cup Final loss) “I just don’t think he is AS right for the company as some of the other candidates… ”
Hiring Manager Stacy - “Ok, what do you think of Hannah?”
Hiring Manager Julie - “I think she would be a much better fit.”
So yes, a company is not going to come out and tell you that it was a few upsetting pictures, coupled with the language in various statuses/tweets that encouraged them to go with a different candidate that had the exact same qualifications and recommendations. They (the hiring company) can find one of a billion other reasons, that are perfectly legal, to not hire you.
This is going to sound very hypocritical, but the best thing you (the employer) will get out of Social Media Networks is Honesty. Someone one who represents you should understand that transparency is an important quality. Someone who writes “F my boss, I’m leaving this joint” might be the right kind of guy for one company (enthusiasm is important) but it may not be the kind of person others want to exemplify their company or business. SMNs are a great tool for fact checking: where did someone go to school, where did he or she work, where does he or she live, what are the kinds of interests he or she have in common?
There is a difference between the world that is a person’s private life and a private life that is available to the public. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and many other Social Media Networks are great outlets for information. They literally condense much of someone’s identity down to a screen; something the best resumes and interviews can’t do… They can be a tool to get to know an applicant and maintain a relation that extends outside the realm of cubical pinned photos or small talk conversations underneath the fluorescent jungle by the watering hole, cooler, machine, whatever.
Just remember you walk a fine line, privacy is no joke. And besides, I would hate for Derek to be right.
Categories: Social Media