Every time you log in to LinkedIn you see that little “% complete” bar just sitting there, nagging you. Maybe you give in and fill out all the details LinkedIn wants, or maybe you procrastinate and let that 40% stay at 40%. My advice? Complete that thing. You’ll thank me later.
Last week I did some research into various employer’s social networking policies in order to help formulate what my company will adopt. I came across the usual suspects like Telstra’s response to their bad Twitter publicity, which address employee commentary about/on behalf of a company. Then I moved on to how companies are utilising Facebook and MySpace as recruiting tools. Infamously, the town of Bozeman made news recently about their recruiting policy. Essentially, if you want to work for Bozeman, you have to hand over your login information to the social networks you use so that they may see what kind of person you are and base their decision to hire you on such information. (Due to massive criticism, they are rumoured to have reversed their policy.)
At first I jumped on the bandwagon and was momentarily outraged. Companies have no right to ask for personal information like access to one’s Facebook account, or do they? They often ask for personal references already. That seems to be OK. Why not social networks? It’s just like asking for contact of a friend or family member, isn’t it?
In addition to hiring for skills, companies hire for cultural fit. Judgement about fit is composed of many factors, but I’d venture a guess that among them are one’s personality, one’s values and one’s general behaviour, not to mention a “gut feeling”. All of us are different at work than we are at home, but surely we’re not a completely different person?
Social networks are an extension of our “private” behaviour. They provide an easy glimpse into a person, so why not use them as a “personal reference?” I’m not saying that they should be the sole basis for hiring (or not hiring) someone, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using them as one factor in the process. If you have no problem putting your name next to what you write in social media, then surely you stand by those words. Those words are who you are. If those words represent you, then why should they not be used as a reference when going for a job?
Whether you’re willing to give out your Facebook profile to an employer or not, think about Twitter. Twitter is a public social network. What you say is already available for everyone to see (yes, some people do keep theirs private, but not the majority). Do you hide your personality when you post on Twitter? Or do you treat it like your Facebook posts? Are you the same person you are on Twitter than you are on Facebook? I’d venture a guess that yes you are. So why are you comfortable with the whole world seeing your Twitter but not your Facebook?
I guess my point is this – you are who you are and you should be proud of it in all aspects of your life. I am. I have no problem sharing my Facebook, Twitter or this blog with my coworkers, superiors or potential employers. Social media is a reflection of me and I’m happy for you to decide what you think about me based on what you read, just as it’s your prerogative to make a decision of whether you like me or not when you meet me in person. I don’t see one set of rules for how an employer is allowed to judge my cultural fit into an organisation versus how a potential friend is allowed to judge my fit to enter their circle of friends.
I realise that I’m very lucky. I’ve had the privilege of working for a very open-minded company, full of people I trust and who trust me. I’m also quite a stubborn person who refuses to compromise her standards. I would never work for a company where I wouldn’t feel as comfortable as I feel now. For better or worse I’m also a bit cocky and believe I could easily find another job where I’m accepted just as I am, should my current situation change. So please take what I write with a grain of salt…
Social media is not going away. It will become a more integral part of our lives as time goes by. And it will happen faster than anyone’s expecting. Studies already show that we’re essentially trading our face-to-face family time for Twitter/Facebook time. I’m interested to see how recruitment will be affected 3-5 years from now. Who knows? For your next job you could be recruited via Linked in, interviewed on Skype, your references submitted via Facebook and your first day at the office could be logging in to a virtual office. You could literally go through the whole process (including doing your job) in your pyjamas. We’ve got an interesting (if not controversial) few years ahead of us, that’s for sure.