I met a friend for drinks three weeks ago. He had just come from a job interview. And like I expected he said it went well. But he was a little put off when the interviewer alluded to checking his Facebook profile. Their conversation went a bit like this;
Interviewer: So, did you ever get up on that surfboard?
Friend: Umm pardon? I’m not sure I understand.
Interviewer: In one of your display pics, your were surfing. Did you ever manage to get up on the board?
I know people who don’t actively “censor” their facebook accounts. Probably, because they never thought it would be an issue. But it might become one if employers increasingly check them. Is this a good strategy – using Facebook as an initial screening tool for new applicants? I honestly don’t know. I only have this one anecdote to draw on and I haven’t done any real research. So here are my musings on what I think the consequences might be.
For University Grads
If employer’s are checking Facebook, users may start raising their privacy settings – especially if some content can be considered “unprofessional.” If large groups of employers increasingly use this approach, it may lead to self-censorship across other sites like Flickr, Myspace and especially CollegeHumor. For example, there may be less videos like this in the future. But that may be taking it a bit too far. Most likely, I assume people will restrict access to their Facebook profiles.
Taking a more proactive approach, Facebook users might tailor their profiles to reflect the type of candidate they think recruiters are looking for. So at the extreme this means BS’ing all their interests, favorite books or movies etc. Maybe even going one step further and creating a “corporate” Facebook profile that can be viewed publicly, while keeping their actual one private. These are obviously pretty extreme. I would expect users to take a more rational approach and untag themselves from certain pictures and delete inappropriate wall comments.
Using Facebook as an inital screening tool may not be in a company’s best interest. Is Facebook a good metric of how a person will act in a professional setting? Maybe? But probably not. I’m not saying don’t screen applicants. I am saying that using Facebook instead of other tools – i.e. phone calls, reference checks, group interviews – or disproportionately weighting it relative to other tools may lead to poor hiring decisions.
As recruiters go through an applicant’s profile, they may not “get” the person they’re screening. Recruiters may misinterpret a snoop dogg lyric for actual behaviour. They may see someone’s religious views as “uber-atheist” and fail to get that person’s inside joke. There’s just so much room for misinterpretation. Even worse, without anything that points to the contrary, there’s a huge opportunity for recruiters to fall into a negative evidence scenario and pass over great people.
I have a pretty limited knowledge on this subject. So if anyone has any thoughts/anecdotes please let me know.