Have you ever plugged in an ex’s name into Facebook to see what they were up to now? Oh, go on, hasn’t everyone? What about the new boyfriend of your annoying neighbour? Have you stalked his Facebook profile? What about the three candidates you are considering for hire right now?
In Canada, Employment Law is very clear on what can be and cannot be asked in an interview in order to avoid discrimination. Facebook stalking provides information that, as a recruiter, we would not be able to legally obtain in an interview. So stay away from it! Marital status? Yup, the 5-year old photos of the wedding are there. Children? Wow, you have four kids? You popped them out so quickly! Religion? Bingo, the baby is cherub-like in her Christening gown. And the list goes on. Natural origin, organizations, clubs, affiliations, drug or alcohol use, etc.
The same applies to other social media such as Google+, Twitter, Tumblr, FourSquare, Instagram. The only exception is Linkedin. Linkedin has morphed into the “business side” of social media. Profiles are comprised of resumes; Online recommendations are from business contacts; Groups joined are generally work-related. While Linkedin has its own privacy settings, its users are aware that their profiles will be viewed by others, most of whom they do not know very well.
The separation between the “work” and “play” aspects of social media will change over time as we increase our use of it. Many University Career Centres already incorporate social media content in their Interview Skills training, coaching students to edit their social media profiles to make them more “work-appropriate”. You are unlikely to see wild Frat party photos on the candidate’s page. However a photo from a cousin’s Bat Mitzvah may still be visible. Hiring practices will eventually evolve to incorporate some form of social media background check in the future. But we aren’t there yet. So close that Facebook url and put that Smartphone down….