Ask the HR Guy – Facebook Follies

“Dear Internet Comedy Writer,

I am worried people will look at my Facebook and not hire me? What can I do to prevent this?

Sincerely, made-up person used to set up a blog entry”

For those who don’t know, sadly, Internet comedy does not pay enough to make a living wage unless you want to bust your ass constantly. Which I don’t, at the moment, so I work an office job. Since I have a theatre degree, this of course means I have spent the last five years working in Human Resources, so I know what recruiters look for.

To answer the most obvious question; cleaning up your Facebook (or locking your profile) can’t hurt, but nothing will save you from Google. If your old shame made the news or a bunch of blogs, forget about it, they ARE going to find it. I’ve gone through and removed tags from certain pictures of me. I’ve got nothing truly embarrassing, and if my running around Harvard Square in a gorilla suit comes up in an interview, hey, it makes a great icebreaker. But why risk it?

For me, the larger issue is why recruiters are even doing this, or allowing hiring managers (the people looking for somebody) to do it, in the first place. Facebook is, from an HR perspective, a fucking nightmare to be avoided at all costs.

The entire idea of the first-round interview is that the hiring manager and the employee sit down and try to see whether they would be a good fit for each other. It’s a “getting-to-know-you” type thing. Research has generally shown the first interview is the most important, so candidates and managers both work their asses off to make a good impression. And just like any getting-to-know-you session there are certain no-no questions. Like “What’s your religion?” Or “Tell me about your sex life!” Or “So, what are your politics?” Go ahead, ask any recruiter what he thinks of a hiring manager asking those questions. You might want to wear a helmet.

This is why any smart recruiter cheers gleefully when the IT department blocks Facebook, because a Facebook profile is rife with all the shit a hiring manager literally does not need to know. Hell, it’s stuff the hiring manager doesn’t WANT to know. Most of what’s on Facebook is absolutely immaterial to how a reasonably professional and intelligent human being does their job. Anything that IS relevant will turn up on other tools an HR department already uses, like a credit or background check. The only thing you can learn from Facebook is things that shouldn’t be a hiring consideration. I’m betting it’s only a matter of time before somebody sues a company for looking at their Facebook profile and says that they were unfairly discriminated against.

And that’s really the problem: if a hiring manager is hitting Facebook, what they’re looking for is ultimately an excuse not to hire. And that’s just not fair.

If you’re really worried about it, you’ve got two options: go through and untag yourself from pictures and remove any embarrassing notes, or just simply lock your profile.

If you’re confronted with the scenario where a hiring manager actually demands that you log into your Facebook so they can poke around, challenge them. Ask them what specifically they’re looking for, tell them you’ll be happy to answer it directly. If they just say they want to look around, tell them sorry, but it’s private for a reason.

Or ask them if you can log into theirs, first.

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