Wednesday, June 20

Facebook Screening: Executive Mistake In The Making

Hat tip to David Svet and Shelly Kramer for sharing Mark Story's rebut to bad career advice from Forbes. The original article, Social Media And The Job Hunt: Squeaky-Clean Profiles Need Not Apply, alludes to an idea that some headhunters and human resources pros want to be psychoanalysts.

Meghan Casserly warns that people who scrub their Facebook pages of unflattering poses or risqué postings run the risk of being labeled as having "no social skills." Her advice runs contrary to the other extreme, which is that every Facebook account ought to be polished, protected, and controlled.

Casserly also tells a story about her friend, a 21-year-old screener, who looks for the right "personality match" as conveyed by Facebook, along with the usual qualifications that might make a candidate shine. Her advice, much like Story concludes, is bad. Maybe even more than he might suspect.

Facebook is not your personality in print. Facebook is merely a crude character sketch. 

The comments are akin to Peter Shankman, who said after he reads a LinkedIn profile, he immediately visits Facebook to see what they are really like. His comment inspired me to write "Why I Stopped Worrying About Being Batman." I was equally inspired by Story's debut, but for the right reasons.

What Shankman and Casserly both fail to realize is two-fold. Facebook does not capture who people "really are." And, more importantly, people don't draw the same conclusions from what might be there. For every company looking for a free-sprited socialite, another wants someone buttoned down. For everyone scratching their head about an old college photo, someone else is holding it in admiration.

Nobody can really guess these things. So it's best not to play games with them. You neither have to scrub your Facebook nor plant an appropriate amount of embarrassing moments or poor judgements. All you really need to do is be comfortable with who you are, share what you are comfortable sharing, and always remember that old adage that eventually creeps up in public relations classes. What's that?

Never do anything you wouldn't want to see on the front page of The New York Times.

In fairness to Casserly, it seems she was mostly trying to vet the other extreme and built an article around people who subscribe to the notion of letting it all hang out. She cites the ugly survey: "One in five executives say that a candidate's social media profile has caused them not to hire that person."

What is less clear, as always, is the reason why. Few surveys delve into the reason that people decide not to hire someone because of a Facebook account. And even fewer delve into the reason some companies have taken to screening them.

Sure, there has always been the "X factor" in job placement. Candidates who do everything right but are ultimately passed over because of intangible gut instincts. And some, although human resources hopes it will never show up, for anything and everything ranging from haircuts to political affiliations.

But my thought on that is pretty clear. If someone won't hire you based on social differences or a social media profile, then be glad they didn't hire you. There is a good chance you weren't a good fit, but for exactly the opposite reason. They weren't a good fit for you.

Better yet, ask if they would be willing to marry someone based on nothing but a Facebook account. And if they say they are already married, then ask for their spouse's Facebook address. When they ask why, tell them his or her account will tell you everything you need to know about their judgement. Ridiculous? Exactly right.
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