Thursday, July 19, 2007

Don't Hire Me

I hope that the recent trend of employers investigating job candidates online is replaced by employers actually analyzing facets of potential employees that pertain to work. I think it is much more important for an employer to find out whether the person they are interviewing has good interpersonal and communication skills than it is to peruse their social networking site profiles or judge them based on their credit score.

Finding out what a person reads, what they do in their spare time, and how they express themselves regarding topics of interest -- be it politics, education, art, history, etc. -- would seem to me to be much more useful information than the plethora movie quotes and "Hey, I fucked your mom!" comments left by friends on the profile pages of social networking sites. There seems to be several pitfalls with judging the character of potential employees based on their online presence.

An employer might find posts or pictures suggesting that a job candidate has participated in some illegal hijinks, casual drug use, and overindulgence in alcohol. But how does one does one distinguish these probably true admissions from failingly humorous allusions of bigotry or hopefully false claims of violence? It is a fact that this information has been published to public forum, the Internet. But it hasn't been published in the journalistic or literary sense that most people are used to. This type of content has not been reviewed. Rarely has it been edited. And it does not claim to stand up to the same ethical or professional standards that traditional publishing does. Truth is often mixed in with falsehood. Exaggeration is accepted, sarcasm expected. How can an employer expect to parse all this information fairly?

Also, many people adopt an online persona when publishing information to the Internet. They may portray themselves differently in cyberspace than they would in meatspace. Perhaps they might act how they wish they were. Or maybe they act how they are afraid of becoming. The Internet can allow them the freedom to act in different ways, ways that are drastically different from how they would ever portray themselves "in real life."

Lastly, what if an employer strikes the candidate from the list due to having googled that potential employee and finding several results with links to websites that are offensive or frightening? The employer may be glad that he caught this wacko early in the interview process, but what if the offending sites belonged to another person by the same name as the candidate? The potential employee would actually have done nothing wrong in the eyes of the employer; his only crime would be having the same name as a pervert or bigot.

The adage goes "Don't believe everything you read." This is doubly true for things read on the Internet. Employers need to find new, more useful ways of finding out the relevant information about their future employees.

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