If Facebook is a Bad Way To Rate People, What Do You Do About It?

Standing out at 6AM walking the dog, some days you just end up having a conversation that stops you and makes you think.  I was talking with one of my Dog Friends about various issues and he asked me how do I handle Facebook.  He knows that I do social media for a number of small organizations and what did he think about it for hiring.   I told him that it’s not the best thing to rely on, but it can be one tool, even if it is imperfect.

If you are looking through job boards, you see some pretty strange requests.

Applicant must friend (specific name of C Suite Employee).
or worse
Applicant must present Facebook sign-on credentials upon interview.

First thing first… skip that ad.  It’s a sign that that particular organization may not be too aware of the current trends.

Second, if a company demands that you give them your sign on information, it’s a sure sign that they don’t realize the importance of computer security. 

Since most people have layers of sign-ons where they repeat passwords, or worse, use the same place everywhere, that’s a bad idea.   If person goes in, gives HR their sign-on for Facebook, then their Amazon account gets hacked and they end up paying for all sorts of identity theft and fraudulent purchases, the company is liable for all expenses – especially if the thief is connected to the company no matter how tenuous that connection is.

But since “we all” have a Facebook account, is it a valid indicator of how well someone would work out in a company?  Studies say that it is a “weak indicator”. 

Most people will blindly click “like” on a picture that flies by if they are amused by it or it touches them in some way.  The assumption is that you have a preference toward the product when you’re really just being supportive of the poster.

It will be an accurate indicator if someone is somewhat out of control.  Posting lewd pictures, violent videos, or drug use most likely will show that someone might need some counseling.   Get back to me after you work out your issues with those things and we’ll talk.   You will be skipped over, I know I’d do that myself.

For someone in a technical field, poor writing skills are a definite problem.  I’ve been given what was intended to be programming specifications for a major upgrade to a program that I have had to throw away because the systems analyst was using circular references, sentence fragments, and missing bullet points. 

Much easier to go directly to the internal client and ask what they really want.  Besides, it got me away from the desk and a really cool person to work with…

But the mastery of technical writing is beyond some people and that shows up quickly in a text medium like Facebook.  It may not be germane to the position, but it will easily show if someone is writing long missives that get lost somewhere in the wilderness. 

Ok, I’ll admit that I tend to write prose and Hemingway is not my own writing style.  I’m Not Terse.

The bottom line is that these same HR people are being asked about their hires after they get in.  Six months after you start a job, you’re on your way.  That is if you make it past that sixth month review.  HR is being asked how did your opinions fit with their performance.  What they’re finding is that “Facebook Profiles were no better at prognostication than more traditional predictors”.

No better or worse than the old school “Lets Talk”.

So what do you take away from this if you’re out there looking for work and busting your hump?

If you have questionable material, look in the mirror.  Why is it really there?  Do you really need a picture of yourself standing in front of a Confederate Battle Flag with a rifle?  What does that say about your future anyway, you’re planning on running a plantation in South Carolina?  Not very likely.

Got a love for the herb?  Pot leaves everywhere?  You’re not a good candidate for the C Suite either.  You probably should move to Colorado and set up that legal dispensary if you can stay sober long enough.

Most people simply aren’t that “out there”.  They don’t proclaim their love of the edge so much simply because it’s way too much effort.  Society prefers the middle of the road and those people from the edge get nudged back into being more “normal” anyway, in many ways. 

I’d personally wager it simply doesn’t belong let alone having that sort of thing on Facebook.

But if it is you, remember you’re being watched.   Whether you can do the job or not won’t matter if you get a skittish HR person minding the gate.  Whether or not it really is a good predictor it won’t matter because you won’t get in the door.

Why it is a problem is that wonderful thing we call a “Herd Mentality”.  You’ve excluded what you consider the “nuts” but you end up looking at people who are just like you.  Since people who write more put themselves out more, those people who tend to will be more likely to be excluded.  In the US, the study found, those people tend to be Women, Black, and Hispanic.  So therefore the assumption is that diversity will be lowered and you’ll end up with a white male in the position.

Great if you’re a white male, but not so great if you are a latina or black woman who happens to be better at whatever the position is for.

So the solution is to self-audit what you post, and periodically go into your Facebook preferences and delete old posting’s audiences.  You can limit the posting’s visibility by going into the Facebook Settings, Privacy tab, and under “Who can see my stuff?” select “Limit Old Postings”.

What that does is to go through all your “old stuff” and limit the view to only your friends.   It doesn’t delete the material, it simply makes it so their friends can’t see them.

Or simply delete your Facebook profile.  If you don’t do social media professionally like I do, it may be your best bet.

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