Facebook accounts? Fair game or not?

· by Herb Dew

Herb is the CEO of HTI. He founded HTI in 1999 along with John Knight and David Sewell, and remains heavily involved in the organization today.
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It’s funny, this issue came up with my son 2-3 years ago when he was still in college. He had some fraternity pictures on his page that were “edgy” and I remarked to him the need to be careful. “Son, it won’t be long before companies look at that stuff and judge you on it.” “Dad, it’s not their business what I do on my Facebook page!” He did take my advice though and was more careful about monitoring what he put up there and the comments he made.

There has been a lot in the press recently about public access to social media. Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook are the latest rage. Even Pinterest! I was looking at a girl I know on Pinterest the other day. She had pinned all sorts of alcoholic drinks and some weird stuff on her page. All the world could see it. I remember thinking “does she know her parents can see that?” Maybe more importantly, since she is graduating from college, does she want ALL THOSE EMPLOYERS seeing that? I don’t think so.

I think companies exploring social media to help them see the nature of who they are hiring is SMART. In an interview process you might get 2-3 hours to decide if you want to hire that person. How they will represent your company, their ethics and morals are almost impossible to assess. BUT. The posts and images an applicant diligently posts and updates gives you an accurate look into the persons’ focus. If the persons’ social media has profane language, caustic comments, immature photos, then how can you ignore that about that person?

I was reading about a company that would during an interview ask the interviewee to actually LOG INTO Facebook. If the person said no, they were out of the process. The applicant and the interviewer would then review the persons’ Facebook page and discuss the content. It was one major piece of the overall hiring decision. Is this fair? I guess it depends on the perspective you’re coming from. Facebook is public domain. What you place on it is fair game. More and more employers are using it to learn more about who they are hiring. Whether it was fair or not doesn’t matter. It’s public domain. Your cute, edgy Twitter posts can be seen. Don’t like being judged on that? Then don’t post stuff you wouldn’t want to face up to.

Like it or not, this is going to grow. My advice to young people? Read your page like you were going to defend it in an interview. If you can’t get comfortable with it, make changes now. You will eliminate the risk of embarrassment.

Herb Dew