NOT hiring someone based on Facebook or Twitter

It’s dangerous to Google someone and then not give them a job – particularly if you tell them what you found and also keep a copy somewhere. Here a potential employer blogged about not hiring someone because she tweeted “I can’t bludge anymore”. Commonsense says you wouldn’t want that person as an employee but what…

It’s dangerous to Google someone and then not give them a job – particularly if you tell them what you found and also keep a copy somewhere. Here a potential employer blogged about not hiring someone because she tweeted “I can’t bludge anymore”. Commonsense says you wouldn’t want that person as an employee but what does the law say?

I did a co-presentation with Nick from Tresscox on the law and recruitment. Now I’m not a lawyer – I don’t even charge $$$ like one 😛 – but what he had to say about the Privacy Commission was interesting:

  • collecting tweets – e.g. copying and pasting them into a personnel file or a blog post is uncool
  • copyright – using material from the social networking site for business purposes might contravene Facebook etc. T&C
  • Collection includes “gathering, acquiring or obtaining personal information by any source and any means” is a no-no

most of this applies to companies with annual turnover of $3million or more. At that point I went back to sleep – wake me when I’m making that much.  Lawyers pfft. 😛 But the one message I did get was that Googling someone, finding their tweets and facebook stuff, making a decision on not hiring them due to that, then telling them that was the reason can get you into hot water. The example Nick gave was telling someone they didn’t get the job as they said they were pregnant on Facebook and the position couldn’t afford to give time off for maternity leave.

Here’s Jen Bishop’s Dynamic Business post:

We’ve been advertising for an online journalism intern for the website. On Friday, I was emailed what sounded like a very promising application from a second year uni student. I was about to get her in for an interview when I forwarded it to my colleague Dave, the web editor.

Social media-minded as ever, he checked out her Twitter profile. You would not believe her most recent tweet to a friend: “Did I tell you I can’t bludge anymore at work? My boss sits RIGHT next to me… I think he knows I do jack all!”

Two words: oh dear!

These days it’s pretty standard to Google people who apply for a job you’re advertising. It’s now the norm to check people’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, especially when you’re employing Gen Y people and when you’re a Gen Y employer, which I am. We were of course hoping to find out that someone applying for an online journalism internship was social media savvy. We weren’t trying to catch anyone out. But suffice to say she won’t be getting an interview. [LP italics]

The girl I mention is a student so some would say let her write what she likes in her personal Twitter profile, right? Maybe. But would you want her in your office after reading that?

Did I mention her Twitter bio simply says ‘potty mouth’?

I rest my case.

Now I don’t like putting Jen on the spot  but she won’t be the only potential employer that treads a fine line. She’s a smart cookie, and probably making less than $3m a year anyway. Other incredibly intelligent people – i.e. me mates  on Twitter – disagree with me on the danger:

DJackmanson My point remains. Just because they’re dumb enough to admit the reason publically doesn’t mean others will make the same mistake

RobIrwin But that’s not the employer giving a direct reason to the applicant, is it? For all we know, there could be some artistic license

Cacotopus might be, but try proving that is why you weren’t given an interview…

Caveat: pretty sure none of ’em are lawyers either. Not sure what they do for gainful employment. Probably unemployable due to what they tweet. *end fake snark*

I think Privacy laws should be changed. Will make for a much more honest and transparent workplace though I guess our young non-intern might not appreciate that honesty… not now anyway.

Cisco Fatty story looks interesting in this light as well.

and one more time: I’m not a lawyer. If you take legal advice from me you are a complete and utter nutter.  This is just here to start a discussion…

here’s the Privacy Commission on Social networking:

Social Networking

  1. What are social networking sites? Answer
  2. Are there any privacy risks associated with using social networking sites? Answer
  3. Do I have rights under the Privacy Act when I use social networking sites? Answer
  4. I have a privacy-related complaint about a social networking site. Who can I complain to? Answer
  5. Are organisations allowed to use the personal information I post on social networking sites? Answer
  6. How long does my information stay on social networking sites? Answer
  7. What can I do to protect my privacy when using social networking sites? Answer
  8. What can I do if someone posts information about me on a social networking site that I want removed? Answer
  9. What can I do if I’m being threatened, harassed or defamed online? Answer
  • Where can I go for more help? Answer
  • Hat tip to Michael Axelsen for the Privacy Link.
    There’s probably two issues here – can employers use personal information (married/not married, gay/religion, pregnant) from social networking sites to base a decision on employment. I’m guessing no. Can employers google you then collate that information as part of your HR record? I’m guessing no again. If you publish – that word that noone but journalists understand – on a public broadcasting site (Twitter or an open Facebook account) that you hate the job you are going to and only doing it for the fat paycheck e.g. Cisco Fatty case above, I think you might be skating on thin ice.

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    1. I think you covered it when you said that if you publish things in a public forum then you are skating on thin ice. Actually, I’d say you haven’t got a leg to stand on.

      Employers don’t have to divulge why they didn’t hire you (or in this case, give an interview), and even if they choose to divulge why, they can always find other reasons. I think it comes down to the fact that if you want to get into an industry that is web savvy then check yourself online.

      Like I have been told a million times, before posting something on a public site consider whether you would be happy for your partner, mother and employer to read what you just wrote.

    2. As an employer myself, there’s two iron-clad principles I must follow as a responsible corporate citizen: People I hire must be:

      1. Qualified and capable (skills)
      2. Appropriate for the environment (personality)

      I reserve the right to determine suitability of both factors to the best of my capability and if anyone thinks I don’t Google their name in advance of an interview, they’re pretty naive.

      That said, I think I’m fair in my assessment. I wouldn’t be put off at all by a candidate’s tweet saying they do sweet FA at work because, frankly, if we excluded all candidates who said that, it would be pretty slim pickings. There have been points in my career where it was true for me as well, it certainly doesn’t define me. Some perspective is important.

      it’s pretty difficult to “unknow” information about someone; once I read a candidate has been bragging about committing fraud, or abuse, or demonstrates an inabiilty to communicate well …. I’m afraid this will be considered.

      I’m not a lawyer either, but I do know this: privacy online is an illusion. Any prospective employees working for me would be well-advised to be prepared to live with their digital footprints, warts and all.

    3. An interesting article, but isn’t using someone’s information via Google eg tweets and public facebook status messages to gather for HR purposes not classed as an invasion of privacy or discrimination?

      Are there new Law’s in place (or is it a grey area) on the dissemination of information gathered from Social Networking sites? What do employers say to let the candidates down (those who didn’t get the job based on the public information they’ve gained) – without divulging specifics, and opening up claims against them for discrimination etc?

      Firstly, to protect yourself I suggest you make sure your twitter and facebook profiles are friends only, do not add work colleagues to these sites and if you must have work colleagues on social networking sites make one specifically for those people but don’t forget which account your posting messages to, otherwise your message, however innocent, tongue-in-cheek could get you fired, or at least reprimanded.

    4. I teach my business students that whatever you put out there is PUBLIC information. What do you want people to know about you? Even a totally private confidential email can be sent on to someone in a fit of the nasties and you’re in trouble. It may be dangerous to google someone and then not hire them, but only if you tell them that’s why. How many people out there are not getting interviews because of something they’ve posted and have no idea why…

    5. I put everything out there – I get better employers then, those that “get” me. Same whacky sense of humour. Transparency and authenticity have always worked for me.
      Clash of values will always exist – Jen calls herself a Whinging Pom, the applicant called herself Potty Mouth. Better they find out BEFORE they end up in an office together that they don’t suit.
      As for me as an employer, better the devil you know. We shall be very suspicious in the future of too perfect, too manufactured reputations, no?
      Davids right- someone mucking around in social spaces could be hamming it up. Like me – I fake being a ditz. Well sometimes it’s fake…. :p

    6. The fact is that we are now as public as celebrities and everything we do has an impact in our image we should learn to be careful on what we do an post out there. The reality is that employers have now access to more private information about us, if we are using the social networks for our businesses we should also be careful in what we publish about our personal life.

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