Does Your Facebook Profile Really Influence Employers?

Last Updated Apr 19, 2010 5:20 AM EDT


"Facebook them" seems to be the spontaneous response of employers when recruiting a new employee.

It's an established norm for employers to use social media extensively in narrowing down candidates for a job, but do they really use Facebook to recruit people -- and is it considered best practice to do so?

Vanessa Robinson, head of HR practice development at the CIPD, thinks not. "We encourage employers to have clear-cut recruitment and selection criteria", she says, "A person's Facebook profile is in no way reflective of their ability to carry out the job in question. The only criteria candidates should be measured against are the job criteria."

Having said that, employers make no bones about the fact that they use social media to conduct background checks of candidates.

Over a 1,000 HR Managers surveyed by Microsoft admitted to using social network profiles to find information on job applicants.

Seventy percent of those surveyed admitted to rejecting candidates based on information they uncovered online. College graduates are regularly warned to clean up their Facebook profile page lest a potential employer find something objectionable on it. Yet people continue to post questionable content on the grounds that it is supposed to be private. But expectations of privacy are wrong-headed, according to none other than Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

UK-based recruitment specialist Lee Cooper of Transcend Executive Search says: "If you really want something to be private, why would you put it up on the internet -- especially in this age where the line between the personal and professional is getting increasingly blurred?"

Cooper predicts traditional CVs will soon be replaced by a hybrid version of Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, with added features of video, Twitter feed, testimonials and references. The better this profile, the more likely it is you'll be hired.

Employers, for their part, are trying to balance extensive use of social media with appropriate regulation. For those already in employment, more and more employers are creating social media policies that outline acceptable behaviour for the workplace.

IBM employees, for example, have to sign a document that outlines the kind of social media behaviour that is deeemd to be inappropriate. If you are posting your drunken pictures from last night, it really is not viewed as inappropriate but if you choose to berate your employer in a status update you might very well lose your job.

While employees have a right to their private life, employers have the right to protect their companies' reputations. With Facebook and other social media tools here to stay, employees and employers will have to meet each other half way.

While employers will turn a blind eye to those wild college pictures, they will keep a look out for a 'my boss stinks' status update.

(Pic: Global X, cc2.0)