Google Checks happen – Be Aware
This is going to be another of those posts popping up in the online Recruitment Community here in Australia. All was started with Riges Younan’s post, followed up with some Twitter banter, then Jarrad Woods started a tinychat(ummm) chat and now posts are popping up all over the place. It’s actually pretty cool, the debate is great, with some really great minds putting their 0.2 cents worth in. I thought I’d dilute the pool with some of mine.
Hold on… quick recap. The debate was all about the use of Social Media in background checking candidates. Heated agreement and debate raged.
I found myself swaying in the wind a bit during the debate, taking up the cause of one side, then the other, then finding myself on the fence. Hey, don’t hate me, these people made some awesome points. You try keeping up with comments and opinion from people like Jarred Woods, Justin Hillier, Kellie O’Shaughnessy, Aaron Dodd, Riges Younan, Michael Specht, Thomas Shaw, and Paul Jacobs and not getting swayed a few times.
My side of the debate? Is probably pretty simplistic.
Ethical or not… it will happen. How can you police it? What company will say “I didn’t hire you because of that photo on Flikr, or that Facebook comment you made in January 2009”
Turning it around a little I think Recruiters can and should stand at the forefront of awareness of this issue. We need to educate people to have ownership and control of their own image, especially when they are engaging in a Recruitment process. They need to be made aware that these kind of checks can and do happen (officially and unofficially) and they need to be prepared for them.
Recruiters also need to make sure this issue is known internally too. Inform HR and the rest of the company.. and then of course train HR, Hiring Managers, Execs etc (or those not as savvy in the Social Media side of things) to look at relevance and not to jump at shadows. Just like “tone” in emails, you shouldn’t try to read anything into it, a picture alone does not make a compelling argument, nor does a bold/brash statement on a forum. You need to dig deeper to find context…. Nothing worse than having to fight opinions taken from half the information… we’ve all been there.
As inhouse Recruiters you want to have all the information available. Nothing worse than 20/20 hindsight clouding a decision which could have been avoided. How do you explain to your CEO that there is information out there that you didn’t look at and could have saved you making a hiring mistake which ended up costing the company thousands! What do you say as a 3rd party Recruiter, when your client comes to you with a “Thanks for the candidate, he/she’s great, however we found this on site.abc and don’t think it shows a suitability to our culture. So we will pass” If you are not across this information how do you combat this?
You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t use Social Media to locate or source people and then say bad form to use for anything else. You cannot police the line drawing, it’s impossible. You need to be aware, and make your candidates aware of what is happening out there.
Should these checks be done in secrecy? I think we all need a disclaimer saying that “by volunteering to enter our Recruitment process you are agreeing to the possibility that internet searches may be made about you.” – But would that stop people from applying? (most likely)
Education is the key. Recruiters take ownership of that. Then people/candidates etc take responsibility of your own profile (mark your Facebook, linkedin etc profile with the appropriate privacy settings if you are worried). Do your own search on yourself, (“googling” (or “yahooing”, or “binging”) yourself is not a bad thing to do) then if there is anything dodgy found, be able to discuss it. Seriously. It’s not the fact that Big Brother is watching, it’s the fact that everyone can be watching.