Monday, September 26, 2011

Dear Congress: Can you fix the economy before you focus on Facebook?

Two related stories caught my eye last week:

Here’s the gist of these stories. According to a recent study by SHRM, fewer employers are using social media websites to vet job candidates now than three years ago:

Has your organization used social networking websites to screen job candidates at any point in the hiring process, or does it plan to do so?


No, and we do not plan to 67% 67%
Yes 18% 13%
Yes, previously, but do not plan to again 4% 2%
No, but plan to 11% 18%

Despite this relatively low use, certain Senators on Capitol Hill have turned their attention to employers’ Facebooking of job candidates. According to Kashmir Hill’s article, Senators Al Franken and Dick Blumenthal have launched a Congressional inquiry on the issue of whether “a job applicant could be unfairly harmed” by the use of social media in the hiring process.

Let me get this straight. Our country is nearly bankrupt, and Congress is spending its time worrying about whether John Doe job applicant can’t get a job because he recklessly posts public pictures of his debaucherous weekend binge, or comments trashing his last boss. People who are searching for a job need to take ownership of their online image, and realize that information that is publicly available is fair game for a potential employer to reach conclusions about your fitness as a future employee. Is it any wonder the Congressional approval rating has reached at an all-time low of 12%?

Another statistic from this SHRM study caught my eye. Only 15% of businesses have any kind of formal policy addressing the use of social media sites to screen job applicants. This number is disturbing. Even if your business falls in the majority that have not used, and do not plan to use, social media to vet applicants, don’t you think you should tell those doing the hiring not to Facebook people? Left to their own devices, curiosity will get the better of people, and we all know what curiosity did to the proverbial cat. You are doing your business a grave disservice if you do not have a social media policy addressing these issues, and if you don’t train your employees on what this policy means.

You can read more about the use social media in the hiring process in Think Before You Click: Strategies for Managing Social Media in the Workplace.