Social Networks and Hiring
The 1979 movie The Jerk is about a nai¨ve character who invents slip-proof eyeglasses. At one point the character played by Steve Martin is euphoric upon seeing his name in the new phone book. He remarks, “Page 73—Johnson, Navin R. I’m somebody now! Millions of people look at this book every day! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity—your name in print—that makes people. I’m in print! Things are going to start happening to me now!”1
Fast forward to the present day and substitute Facebook for the phone book. The rewrite might read something like this: “I’m somebody now! Millions of people log onto Facebook every day! This is the kind of publicity that makes people. Things are going to start happening to me now!”
While few people could ever claim to be as excited about seeing their name in a phone book as Navin Johnson, the underlying similarity between then and now is both apparent and relevant to this chapter. In varying degrees, most people enjoy seeing their names in print and the social interaction that comes with it. That interaction currently comes in the form of social networks, touching our lives on both a personal and professional level.
For some, like most members of the Millennial generation, the sharing of information through social networks is not only acceptable, but a necessary part of their daily routine; they wouldn’t have it any other way. Others find the inherently intrusive nature of social media excessive, quickly learning that once connected with friends, family, colleagues, and in many instances total strangers, your life becomes public in a way unlike ever before. For them, sharing is one thing; living in a fishbowl twenty-four hours a day, every day, is another.
Not surprisingly, with hundreds of millions of users sharing information and interacting online, our uses of social networks continue to evolve at a rapid pace. Social networks have expanded into, and become part of, how we make employment decisions. What started out primarily as a means to socialize has turned into a way for individuals to look for jobs and for employers to gather information about whom to hire.
Using social networks as evaluative instruments to help make hiring decisions is not without its challenges. Let’s look at some of these sites and see how employers use and misuse them.