Facebook and Hiring Policies for Companies -A Violation of Rights?

July 30, 2010 at 5:51 pm (The Serious Stuff) (, , , , )

A friend of mine and fellow writer posted some concerns she has  – on Facebook – about having Facebook at all, after attending a seminar on hiring  policies.   Apparently, she has learned that some employers don’t want to hire people who have “too many” friends on their facebook pages.  Another colleague of hers has mentioned that she used the Facebook page to vett potential employeees, including their movie lists and likes or dislikes.  If they like different movies that her other employees, apparently this woman won’t consider them for the job – regardless of qualifications – because they “might not get along”.

I got all opinionated about it, because to me, this is an invasion of privacy.  What is this arbitrary number that is “too many friends”? As someone else pointed out  – what if these people are merely “friended” for the purpose of having friends so they can play the games on Facebook on their off time?  Or is this  arbitrary number a petty thing – the hiring agent doesn’t have as many as potential employee, and consiously or unconsiously dismisses the potential employee out of jealousy, recognized or no?

I had a lot to say about it in this poor woman’s thread – I pretty well took it over.  So I’m going to copy all that and put it here, and expand and expound upon it.

 I look at it this way- a company that refuses to hire me based on the number of Facebook friends I have or don’t have is focusing entirely on the wrong thing. My skill set should matter most, my past work history should matter second, and my facebook friends should matter least of all.

And if that is what the company is going to focus on – already distrusting me before I put a foot in the door, then I do not want to work for those people anyway. I do not need the stress of working in an environment of distrust – no one does.

I can honestly say that of the 200 plus people, I know and have met in person over 150 of them, and know enough about them to put them here on my list. Others I have becomes friends with online, and just a very few others have added me because of the work I do.

For me, facebook is for play, but it is also for my work. I have one page dedicated to my writing, about to start one dedicated to my hat making, since my daughter has convinced me to open an etsy shop for it, but it also keeps social connections open for various events I attend, provide seminars at, and in one case, am helping organize.

So if an employer is only looking at numbers, then he’s missing a great deal of me as the employee – and I’m better off working elsewhere.

But I wasn’t done:

I forgot to add – the ethics swing both ways.

Have you added a page for your writing yet, dear friend’s name that doesn’t need to be revealed? If not, you should – because that shows you ARE using social networking as a tool, and THAT should be more important to potential employer as well – its an increasingly important tool that is not going away – check the sidebar for all the politicians using it right now! Plus, if you create a fan page, that will take people off your main page that you aren’t sure you want there anyway. Main page = personal stuff and friends. Fan pages =work stuff.

And one more comment – told you I took over her thread:
And what Colleague of my friend whose name also doesn’t need to be in my blog said is the reason I keep my main facebook page set to private. You only need to know, as an employer, about my personal life what I want you to know. And focusing on what movies I like? I’m sorry, that’s just not right. And I wonder if it can lead to legal issues for the company that does that – something to think about and find out, truly.
Other people – some of them hiring managers themselves – stated that this was an odd policy, because employees will goof off in many forms, and did before computers and Facebook even existed, if they are inclined to goof off. Some stated the companies they worked for had blocks in place on social networking sites, others said they were allowed to use the social networking sites duing their lunch and other breaks, and I know I have read where some companies encourage the use of social networking sites to home their employee’s skills, because they realize that this is the future of communication, information sharing and advertising.
One gentleman said, depending on the job, a large number of Facebook friends would show they have social skills, are technologically savvy, etc – and would be bonuses for employers.
As I stated – Facebook is for my personal side, and my fan pages are for my work side.  I may post my articles on my personal side, but I NEVER post the funny picture link in my fan page that’s directly related to my work.  They are separate, and they DO show that I am using SEOs and social media to promote myself.  And while I’m not as savvy as I should and could be, I am at least trying.    In fact, this blog post will get posted on my Facebook page as well.
But to have an employer use my friendship with let’s say, a couple horror writers I know, as a basis for my employment answering their telephones, or as an historical interpreter, or even as a proof as to the quality of my skills as a milliner and costumer, well that’s just wrong and unethical – and I’ll bet it’s not legal as well.  It’s opening your company up for countless lawsuits.  and while you may say “well, you put your life out there for all to see”, actually I didn’t.  My fan pages? Fully public.  This blog? Fully public.  But my main Facebook page, friends only and yes, I did disable that search option.  and even then, I may say something trivial like I did today “It must be allergy season because my allergies are kicking in” that’s not anything I wouldn’t say in any work setting, because it is so trivial – and could well explain why I’m using up the office kleenex supply. But you don’t see we talking about any marital issues I may or may not have, nothing about my sex life, nothing about my finances. You rarely  see pictures of me, my family or my dogs.  My address and phone number are not listed.  These are highly personal things to me;  if you’re a friend who’s never been to my house before, I’ll give you my address.  My friends have my phone number.  Everyone else is on a need to know basis, and baby, you just don’t need to know. 
Of course, if I were a pure idiot, friended my boss and then got on Facebook and talked smack about them, well yeah, my stupid behind would deserve to be fired. And we’ve all seen examples of that on Failbook.com and other sources gone viral throughout the web, and laughed at them.  And clearly people do it!
But if I were to find out that my qualifications were totally dismissed, and my hiring was fully dependent upon whether I liked the Twilight series or not, there would be hell to pay, in a most legal way.  And when we were done, I wouldn’t need that job.
What am I saying? I’m saying it’s time for employers to back out of our social lives, our private lives again.  Before the computer age, you didn’t know, and didn’t care, and employment was based upon qualifications and personality. It’s time for it to go back to that again.  A silly or stupid comment on a Facebook page, a movie list, or even the number of friends I have is NOT the basis for employment if it’s not about the company, not happening on the company’s time, and doesn’t interfere with how the work is done during company hours.
Privacy  needs to return – and now.
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