— On Comms Design. From London

Are you really in danger of losing a job because of your crazy Facebook profile?

That is the question: are you selfie-ing yourself out of jobs?

I distinctly remember, a while back, one major TV station in Ro reporting on how social media profiles were becoming the number 1 go-to for HR specialists in their attempt to evaluate the suitability of candidates. The report went on to warn people about posting everything that went on in their lives on their social media profiles, with special emphasis on those late night party headshots or, worse yet, the sexy pics meant to attract attention from potential social suitors. Naturally, I can think of worse things once could post to detract attention from one’s professional accomplishments: liking pages of disreputable organizations, racial slurs or trolling are, to my mind, worse reasons to un-consider a candidate but the point I am trying to make below is that HR specialists should not look to social profiles for insight TO BEGIN WITH.

At the time of the report, I think I would have agreed with the general sentiment of it, particularly the idea that there is a bit too much personal exposure happening in a medium that isn’t controlled by clear rules around privacy and discovery. I also tend to agree with the view that people are generally untrained to manage their personal profiles as if they were public profiles.

What I don’t agree with is the view that HR specialists can and should find any meaningful hints in a person’s social media account and here’s why:

  1. New means unknown – We are currently under an avalanche of services that enable us to construct identities online. Most of us don’t understand the rules of any of them and approach all with the same naiveté as we would any new thing. Since there is no mutually recognized standard, these networks should be exempt from the pressures of scrutiny.
  1. The premise of privacy/intimacy – Facebook is the largest one and it openly does not pretend to be more than a place where you connect with friends. As such, it is inappropriate to believe that an HR person would “crash” your hang-out with your friends to obtain actionable information on whether you’re a suitable candidate. That’s probably why people don’t bother with censoring themselves on FB. Twitter operates much under the same assumptions. Until specific permission is granted (as below), lack of permission should be assumed.
  1. A designated destination for professional profiles – Linked-In is widely seen as the place where you would expect people to check for your credentials. Placing links to your Twitter and Facebook accounts on your LinkedIn profile opens up the option for recruiters to check on those pages, but then you would only link to them that if you knew that they were actually set up to support your candidacy not boycott it.
  1. No standards of measurement – what is the definitive information that looking at someone’s social profile can give you. I understand that assessing persons means playing with subjective impressions, but at the same time job interviews are based on standardized sets of questions meant to make the process as objective as possible. Can we apply the same standards when we scroll down someone’s Facebook page?

I reached out to Madalina Uceanu, who is a headhunter, HR consultant and overall recruitment specialist to ask her what her take on recruiting via social was. Below is what she told me:


“Even if I am a promoter of using SM channels in the recruitment process, I definitely suggest LinkedIn as being the first and most relevant one. While Facebook and Twitter could be also offering some info on the “tone of voice” of the respective candidate, I fear that subjectivity reins any initiatives of this kind. In the tens of recruitment trainings delivered it was always a subject of heated discussions, why SM and how to use it in recruiting, how useful would it be to know if the person is a “party animal” or has any special interests.

 I used to give my personal example, in trying to confirm the high level of subjectivity related to knowing too much information about a potential candidate. It happened to me once, deliverying a Saturday morning presentation to a group of 30 managers attending an MBA in Bucharest. We reached quickly the subjectivity in recruitment, as the presentation regarded Social Media recruiting, among other modern tools to target candidates. Three hours later I asked for a feedback on my presentation, asking targeted questions regarding the tone of voice I used and how useful they found the presentation. Since the debate was if someone partying till 4 am is someone who can deliver results, after getting their positive feedback, I was happy to inform them that, if they judged over my Facebook profile probably the impression would have been different, since it happened that I had a party the night before, which left me with only 3 hours sleep before the presentation.)

 Sourcing is one of the most difficult parts in the recruitment projects lately, especially in some specific and high demand industries at the moment (BPO, IT & Technology generally). This means that, using FB to target your candidates with the option to go in very niche areas could be a very good idea. As well as creating a community of talents interested in the company brand, so mostly for employer branding purposes. However, when it comes to labeling people, most of the efforts of recruitment professionals actually go towards removing the existing subjectivity, which is part of human nature, and is rather present even without having access to private information usually presented on Facebook. I am afraid that adding more subjectivity in the equation requires an objectivity and self-awareness level that few of us really master. Recruiters or not!”