You’ve spent almost four years and $80,000 on a college education, and you’re looking forward to graduation and earning some money to start living independently. You spend time with “resume experts,” craft the perfect resume, and then utilize LinkedIn to make the right contacts to find out who’s hiring. After months of work, you get a fantastic lead, and send your resume to “Integrity Prevails, Inc.” Two weeks later, you get a phone call from the Human Resources (HR) Department at “Integrity,” wherein they express great interest, and then schedule a phone interview with you. Phone interview! You’ve gotten that far! Shine through this and you’ll get an onsite interview! Three days later you get an e-mail indicating that “Although your credentials are noteworthy, we have found another candidate whose qualifications more closely match those for the available position.” What just happened?
There are only a few things that could have happened, and none of them have to do with “Integrity” having found a better candidate. First, someone in HR may have “jumped the gun” when calling you, i.e. calling candidates before actually being ready to interview them. This does happen occasionally. Second, one of your references might not have come through for you in a positive manner. This is highly doubtful if you’ve given careful consideration to whom you’re using as references. The third possibility, and a very likely one these days, is that you were quite literally “screwed” because of what appears on your Facebook account or other places on the internet. HR representatives practice routine disqualification tactics to eliminate candidates from the pool of resumes and/or potential interviewees.
It appears as though George Orwell’s predictions based in the novel 1984 are coming true: we are slowly and surely losing more and more of our personal privacy rights every day. Big Brother now has more rights than we do. Welcome to the real world, the one you’ve been preparing yourself for. No one hands out manuals for this, hence the article, “How Facebook Can Cost You a Job.”
You’ve spent almost four years and $80,000 on a college education… and you were quite literally “screwed” because of what appears on your Facebook account.
With some employers, a practice known as “Shoulder Surfing” is now being used as an “on the spot” tactic to see if you have anything potentially embarrassing in your closet. You might get to an interview with “Integrity Prevails, Inc.,” and at some point the HR representative will ask you for the password to your Facebook account. What did he say? Yep, you heard me right. Thank the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for this one. Current law entitles potential employers to use your Facebook history as part of the background checking process. You might not be applying for a position as James Bond with British Intelligence. In fact, you might just be applying for a position as a laboratory technician, however they can still “coerce” you by indicating it’s a necessary requirement for getting the job.
What can you do about this legally? Not one thing. The FTC in its infinite wisdom gave employers the right to violate the privacy of your personal life by invading your Facebook account. What can you do about this strategically? Two things. First, if you plan on looking for a job in 2013, then start “sanitizing” that Facebook account now. Get rid of every last detail that could possibly be misconstrued as “unworthy of Integrity.” Second, once you’ve done this, if you’re still concerned about your privacy, you can tell the employer that you’ve forgotten your password. This does happened. I went for one year without using Facebook, and forgot my password, so now my personal account is inaccessible. Uh oh! Hate it when that happens!
Although I hesitate to post a link here, there is a rather amusing video on YouTube that gets the point across unambiguously. Search “Facebook Ruins Job Interview.”
If you absolutely need Facebook, then make up a fictitious name, and be VERY careful about the photos you post. Once an embarrassing photograph of you appears on the internet, it’s almost impossible to remove. Keep in mind there are now 6-7 people in the United States applying for every single job. Employers routinely get inundated with thousands of resumes within two days after a job announcement. They use tactics such as this one to eliminate “undesirable” candidates, and hence reduce the number of people they need to consider in greater detail.
It’s a strange world out there. Clean up that Facebook account as soon as possible, and eliminate Facebook as a potential “eliminator.
© 2012 Joseph Lennox, Ph.D.
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