When Social Media Stops You Getting a Job

Is your online life putting your job – or potential future jobs – in jeopardy? Social commentator Mia Freedman wrote on her blog last week how she used Facebook and Twitter accounts to help sift through potential new employees. Having sorted through the pile of resumes and leaving five possible candidates, she looked online and quickly wrote off three of them.

“One had a constant stream of Facebook updates bitching indiscreetly about her current job. Another evidently spent much of her time getting drunk and a third had some very strident views I disagreed with. Stridently.” – Mia Freedman

Her post sparked a lot of debate in the comments, with the majority of people seemingly alarmed or appalled at her actions. Someone called N/L said: “I don’t think I would be happy to be working for someone who thinks it is appropriate to snoop into my private life before interviewing me,” and OhEmGee said “There is this thing called a life OUTSIDE of work. It is my OWN time. If I knew that I could be working for someone who felt that it is ok to use Facebook as a tool to determine the person I am…well I probably wouldn’t want to work for them anyway.” I found those sorts of comments fascinating. Why should people insist that publicly available information be kept out of the selection process?
The more information an employer has about job-seekers, the better they are able to decide if the person will be a good fit in their organisation. Surely that’s obvious? If you’re doing something in your private life that makes you unsuited to a job then perhaps you should either stop doing it, or get a different job. The claim that “it is my OWN time” and therefore has no bearing on your job suitability seems naive to me. What you do in your own time is a reflection of your personality. And much as we’d like to believe that jobs are always awarded based on merit we have to be aware that personality plays a huge part in our work lives. Particularly in a small business, where an individual can have a dramatic influence on the culture of the workplace.
As I’ve said before, I’m a very open person. The only part of my Facebook account that is private are my status updates and posts, which is largely in case I update my status from Work and The Boss wonders why I’m not working. And I’m perfectly happy with my current employers (many of whom are “Friends” on Facebook) or potential new employers looking around my public profile. In fact the most incriminating thing on my Facebook profile is probably that I’m bisexual, I don’t like Andrew Bolt very much and I watch a lot of TV. And I don’t really want to work for any employer who has a problem with that. I’m a person, not a collection of qualifications. Anyone who employs me gets the whole package, not just my skill set.
What do you think? Should people get jobs based solely on their merit and qualifications? Or is there room for personality as well? Do you lock your social media profiles so potential employers can’t see them?

2 thoughts on “When Social Media Stops You Getting a Job

  1. I actually read that column. I am happy with Mia’s actions. Anything which helps form a picture of an individual you’re looking to hire is helpful. Yes you can take some comments with a grain of salt, however if all you’re seeing is ‘got drunk… got drunk again’ then it does make the individuals character a bit more questionable. Plus, haven’t these people heard of privacy settings? Why are they whining? I certainly don’t want to employ someone who doesn’t have self awareness. If I’m looking to employ someone I don’t want my customers to be able to lookup my employees and have them tarnish my business.

  2. Very good points, Dave – I hadn’t considered that customers might look employees up. That seems a little… I dunno, creepy I guess.I’m in two minds about it, really. On the one hand, I can see why employers would want to control that side of their public image. As you say, nobody wants their business tarnished by what their employees tweet or put on Facebook.But then on the other hand, I don’t think my employer (or anyone else for that matter) should have the right to tell me what I can and can’t put on my own personal social networking sites. I spoke out strongly in when she was sacked for comments she made on Twitter. I supported her not because of what she said (although I had no problem with that) but because her statements had nothing to do with the paper. They clearly in no way represented the views of The Age.At what point does the line between personal life and work life blur? I’m not sure – I’m going to have to think this one over.

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