Article by: Kashmir Hill, Forbes Staff – 3/06/2012 @ 12:02PM
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Why interview when you can Facebook stalk? Yesterday, I told you about a study suggesting that employers can judge candidates’ future work performance by spending five to ten minutes lurking on their Facebook pages.
Some readers were outraged by this. “I truly wish employers would stop using Facebook as a professional tool,”commented one. “That was never its intention! … Does it give employers a potential view into people’s somewhat personal lives? Yes! But truly what does that prove?”
Like it or not, Facebook and other sites like it are becoming the digital proxies for our real world selves. Our profiles on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, et. al. reflect our likes, dislikes, personalities, and best photo angles, and are likely more useful to employers in seeing what we might be like to work with than a short interview. If you don’t want employers (and love interests) to come snooping on your page to get a sense of who you are, set your privacy settings high; limit your content to “friends only.” If you are willing to let it hang out, here’s a sense of what employers will be asking themselves as they review your content. This is the sheet that the reviewers in the study used to rate the Facebooking college students on the “Five Big Qualities” that supposedly convey how good an employee will be. (High ratings are good for everything but “Neuroticism.”) After looking at publicly-available photos, status updates, conversations with friends, and Wall postings, the raters scored each candidate accordingly:
Potential love interests are probably asking the same questions, though they likely have a slightly different context for “openness to experience” and care more about how good you look in your photos.
While some readers were put off by the idea of being stalked by potential employers, others recognized the utility of tapping into all the information out there about a given candidate.
“If I’m an employer, and it’s legal, and I’m about to make a major investment in someone that I’ll have to work all day with, I’ll use it,” said “gugie.” Puneet Thiara agreed with her: “The costs associated with hiring and training a new employee far outweigh the risk of not doing ALL of your research. You could say it’s similar to me researching a company I am applying for and checking out members of its groups on Facebook to see what kind of people work for the company.”
But other readers want employers to stick to the social networks intended for professional use. “I — and I know many others are with me here — use ‘social networks’ (other than LinkedIn, that is) for just that. Networking SOCIALLY. In my opinion you have no more business examining my Facebook entries than you would crashing a private cocktail party,” wrote a person who spelled “anonymous” in a very eccentric way. “[S]ocial networks should not be used IN LIEU of face-to-face meetings.”
Brettb was of this opinion as well:
“[J]udging the character of an individual with such heavy weight on their personal life, which nine times out of ten will never interfere with their professional life, is wrong. The practice of physically sitting down and going through the motions of an interview with a candidate and asking probing intellectual questions while vigorously researching reference data is a much better way to select a qualified candidate. So what if Johnny had a few too many beers one night in Cancun when he was in college and someone took a photo, or if Susie openly supports her local death metal band. Does that make them bad people? No – get to know the candidate if you want to make a judgment of character. See how they handle themselves in a professional atmosphere and if they are personable or rather, someone you feel you can work with.”
In my opinion, those who don’t want employers looking them up on Facebook pages are fighting a losing battle.
Christian Miller won the comments section with this remark:
“Any candidate worth considering should be smart enough to set their privacy settings in order to hide all content from any potential employer. Anything a competent HR staff can find via google search is fair game.”
Good luck, job seekers. And along with polishing your resume, dry-cleaning your interview suit, and researching the companies you’re interviewing with, do pay a visit to your Facebook privacy settings page.