Employers often snoop on the social media sites of their potential employees to gather information about them. However, Social media sites are not always an accurate representation of the individual in search of a job.
In about two years, I will be in search of an entry-level job. At that time, I will also delete my Facebook and Twitter pages and do a complete search and delete everything on every website I ever signed up for. Not because I want to, but because I have to.
Social media websites have been helping people lose jobs they have or are applying for since the early 2000s. With the invention of Friendster, classmates.com, Myspace, Facebook and Twitter, among others, our generation gained an outlet to share their likes, dislikes, opinions, fleeting thoughts, pictures and videos with their friends and family. With that invention they also lost all privacy, despite countless efforts to protect personal information from reaching the wrong people.
The ever-changing Facebook (I didn’t say ever-improving) has actually made changing privacy settings a difficult task. I like to think that I am technologically savvy when it comes to figuring things out on the Internet, but hiding my profile from certain individuals was quite the challenge. After a series of Web tutorials and haphazard clicking, I manually blocked those choice individuals from viewing my information.
Privacy settings are fine and dandy, definitely necessary, but what happens when a prospective employer demands you give them your username and password for such websites, giving them full access to your account? Any information that you have been hiding from them can now be seen, through a process called “shoulder surfing,” where employers investigate an applicants social media sights so that they can see the “real” you.
After researching candidates online, employers often make decisions about hiring based on the information that was posted online. I have a real problem with that. Who’s to say that there is any correlation at all between what people do in their spare time and their work ethic while they are on the clock?
Before social media, the hiring process was based on your resume, your experience, sometimes a background check, your overall knowledge, your attitude, your interview, and how you present yourself, (depending on the job you are applying for.)
Now, candidates can be judged off their Internet identity, an identity that can be whatever you want it to be.
Employees have a right not to disclose personal information to employers. So do employers have the right to punish their current or prospective employees based off information they legally shouldn’t have access to?
I want to know how you can judge an applicants work ethic off of a website designed for family and friends to keep in touch and share their lives electronically.
I can tell you what a website cannot possibly show. It cannot show drive. It cannot show good leadership, communication skills, adaptability, problem solving or creativity. No profile can ever adequately show that a person is dependable, self-motivated, confident or willing to learn — all of which are of importance when hiring an applicant for a position.
I analyzed my own profile as if I were a prospective employer just to see if I was “hirable.”
On my page were the following: picture of my friends and I, pictures of me with puppies, pictures of British Olympic diver Tom Daley (yum!) and song lyrics. There were a few random opinion statements, my relationship status, my religious views, my political party, and a several of my “likes,” (linkable pages for quite literally, things I like) which included but were not limited to: sleeping, whole wheat bread, sloths and bacon.
Even I wouldn’t hire me if I based my decision off of that.
My Facebook or Twitter account does not tell you anything about my education other then where I went, it does not show any of my work samples, leadership positions, or accomplishments.
I firmly believe that social media websites should be eliminated as a means of gaining information about an applicant. They do not always accurately represent the individuals or how they will perform in the job that they are hoping to acquire.
Of course, there will always be situational events in which people should be reevaluated because of their social media, including distasteful comments, racial remarks and drug references that might be offensive to others. It would be impossible to single out every situation in which people should be fired or not get the job because of social media.
What I will say is that social media is here to stay whether we like it or not. In recent years it has seemly gotten out of hand and is not being used how it was intended. Employers should really refrain from judging people one-dimensionally on information on a website for personal, not professional, use.