Should you be checking the references of your potential hires using Twitter and Facebook, or the myriad of other social media outlets?
This is an extremely controversial topic; especially for those looking for work or contemplating a job change.
A short time ago, I shared what I thought would be a helpful article with my Facebook friends and family, alerting them to the fact that more employers are using social media sources such as Facebook as part of their decision making process when hiring. The article highlighted the importance of not putting anything on a social media site that you would not want your current or potential employer to see.
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Here’s what I wrote:
“Be careful how you use Facebook and Twitter. Hiring managers are checking social networking sites more often as part of their reference checking process. Any inappropriate or questionable content can rule you out as a candidate if you are looking for a job”.
Some of the comments that I received were fascinating:
…”you just can’t get a break, can you?”
…”isn’t there some sort of privacy infringement here?”
“Facebook and Twitter are social outlets and employers shouldn’t be trespassing on one’s personal life”
“…where do we draw the line?”
“If a company cannot solely use my cover letter, resume and how I respond during an interview as an apparatus to make a decision, than I really should think twice about wanting to working for that company.”
As you can see, some potential candidates view the use of Twitter and Facebook as “infringement” and “trespassing” on what is seen as a personal and private resource where they should be free to be who they are with friends and family. There is the strong belief that what is discussed on Facebook is no measure of the person that they are on the job, and therefore it should not be used to measure behavior when working.
Do we not take on a different persona depending on the audience or environment? Is the professional and focused person that we are when we are at work the same person that we are when we are interacting with our family and friends in an informal environment?
Some argue that is natural to have different personas depending on our environment and whom we are engaged with. Some may also argue that we should not be judged because we are letting our hair down through a medium that was set up for us to do just that. Essentially, a medium that in a very public way, allows us to share our everyday pleasures and disappointments with those we chose to share these feelings with.
Yet isn’t the information on the Internet public domain? If a person chooses to post on a public domain site, do employers not have the right to access the site in order to “see another side” of a potential employee?
I don’t profess to have the right answers on this subject but I do have some very specific advice. Employers should not use social media as the only source of reference information on potential employees. It’s important to get a rounded view of potential candidate’s by checking both current employer references and past references.
It’s also important for employers to weigh the content that they are seeing on the site and not make rash judgments with the exception of content that is clearly inappropriate.
For those looking for work, the new reality is that employers are using social media as part of their job reference process in order to get a “360” degree view of a potential hire.
The types of posts that can potentially rule you out as a candidate are posts with inappropriate language or pictures. Or posts that are derogatory or demeaning in any way. Employers are also looking for how you communicate online so be careful of grammar and spelling errors. Never use the Internet to post disparaging remarks about your current or former employers.
Delete anything that may be questionable before looking for a new job. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you are conversing on the Internet and not at the kitchen table. Remember that others have access to your information.
Make sure that you utilize all of the privacy options allowed with social media sites if you have concerns about who will be viewing your profile.
Use of social media sites are growing by leaps and bounds daily. Parts of our lives that were once very private really are available for all to review if you chose to participate in social media sites on the Internet. Both employers and potential employees need to be mindful of the power of this new medium and not abuse it. Proceed with caution.
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