HR is NOT your Friend

There’s been a lot of chatter online recently about employers asking employees for their Facebook passwords during the interview process. Most came out vehemently opposed to that as an unnecessary invasion of privacy. However, when the request switched to just “friending” candidates on Facebook, the consensus shifted and support split down the middle.

The argument in favor of becoming Facebook friends with employment candidates is that it will give you greater insight into the person. It tells you about out their interests and values. It tells more about their affiliations and types of things they support. It can also tell you if the person has any associations or tendencies that may be in conflict or problematic with the employer’s goals. And it may reveal a connection to a mutual acquaintance to serve as an additional reference that will tip the scales … At least according to THIS article recently published on the Huffington Post written by someone who admits he is “no HR expert.”

Well, I kinda am an HR expert. And I think that’s a bunch of crap and I want no parts of it — as a manager, consultant or potential applicant. The liability caused by the ambiguity and subjectivity of it is just too great. I want to stay far, far, far away from it for a long, long, long, long time to allow time for more research to be done and standards established.

And you should too. Here’s why:

  • Employment decisions should be based on a person’s experience, education and physical ability to do the job. These are determined using screening tools, checking references, performing background checks and conducting behavioral interviews. Not by perusing someone’s Facebook profile to see what things they “like” or what groups they are apart of or where they check-in or tagged photos of them doing the Electric slide at a wedding.
  • Not everyone is on Facebook. Or Twitter. One of my very best friends is an Attorney in Maryland where she has litigated and won landmark cases in her career. Another is a professor and department chair at a university here in North Carolina — she’s published groundbreaking research in her field. Neither one has a Facebook. They both down-right refuse. I was able to drag my attorney friend onto Twitter after months of badgering — but she participates moderately. It’s just not her thing! And that is OK. But an employer who based a final decision on Facebook friending would miss out on these awesome potential employees … Plus, not everyone on Facebook is an active user. Some people just login once in a while to see what their friends and family are up to without posting or liking much of anything … And then there’s that pesky thing called “the digital divide” that still keeps some people offline altogether.
  • There is a great likelihood hiring managers will misuse the tool. I don’t know about your organization but, in my experience, it’s hard enough to get a hiring manager to use the proper tools already at their disposal. Sending them off on some kind of wild-goose-chase on Facebook is not something I would do. Because chances are higher they will end up not hiring someone because they are a fan of Keeping Up with the Kardashians than because they are a fan of the KKK. Or that they will bring someone in for an interview because their profile picture is hottttt. Or not bring them in for an interview because they have kids or they are a Muslim or some other unlawful reason.

I’ve got more than enough employee relations issues to deal with because watching too much Judge Judy and reruns of The Practice has them thinking they can and should sue for everything that doesn’t go their way so they can make millions, never have to work again or end up owning the organization … Sorry. That was jaded. But true. I have more than my share of mess to sort through and I don’t want to add more.

Instead of friending candidates on Facebook to assist in hiring decisions, invest in developing hiring managers to conduct thorough behavioral interviews and identify red flags. Instead of using the acceptance of a friend request to tip the scales, invest in some proven professional skills and personality testing. And if you want to check out an online profile, connect on Linked In where professional networking is appropriate — then judge THAT profile based on how complete it is and who the candidate is linked with and what groups the candidate belongs to.

But unless part of the job is to manage the organization’s social media presence, don’t go friending or following employment candidates online.

And use caution even after they’re hired.






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