Social media sites have created a quick, easy way to find out more about the personalities of the people we hire before they even walk in the door. Too easy, sometimes. Lately, I’ve been hearing more and more tales of hiring managers dropping candidates from consideration over the contents of their online profiles without so much as a single followup conversation.
While I think people should be very mindful of what they post on such sites, I also want to caution managers against relying on them too heavily. To that end, I offer four definite Don’ts when it comes to recruiting and vetting candidates via social media:
- DON’T assume “friend” means friend. Not everyone I am connected with via Facebook is a friend in the traditional sense of the word. New York Times ethics policy aside, it doesn’t even mean I’m a fan, in the case of politicians. For example, I count both Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. Mary Landrieu among my Facebook “friends,” but I’ve never voted for either. I do consider their Facebook pages handy ways to keep up with news in my home state, however.
- DON’T get offended if candidates and colleagues don’t want to add you. Some people use Facebook for professional contacts, but other people like to keep it purely social — and keep their profiles set to private. And doing that doesn’t mean they have anything nefarious to hide.
- DON’T get distracted by irrelevant information. Yes, you now know that your top candidate loves sci-fi movies, old-school Italian cooking and sky-diving, but does it matter? Does this actually have ANY bearing on whether a person could do a great job for you? You’ve also likely learned your candidate’s religion and race pretty early in the game. Do you trust yourself to still make a bias-free decision with this information?
- DON’T assume the profile is even really the person you think it is. Many people have similar sounding names. Even scarier: Identity theft is real. Several years ago, a friend of mine, a minor Internet personality himself, had his identity hijacked online. The impostors had set up a LiveJournal account pretending to be him, as well as various social media profiles. If you came across this fake LiveJournal instead of his real one, you would have thought he was a complete basketcase — and not the total genius and all around good guy that he is.
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