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Is There Merit in Facebook Profiling?

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Facebook is a great source for networking and communication, but according to a new study, it also has its drawbacks. In particular, for those in search of a job.

When it comes to social media sites, often times we think of the ease with which we can connect with people. Old friends, new friends, long time friends, colleagues, acquaintances, business partners; no matter the network, we reach out through our computers and share information with one another. And while there are so many advantages to this type of communication, we are finding that sometimes, divulging too much information can actually put us at a disadvantage when it comes to looking for jobs.

Research conducted at North Carolina State University, which focused on people whose Facebook profiles were screened during the job application process, is now revealing statistics that leave many uneasy about the safety of their privacy. The findings are quite interesting:

In one exercise, two-thirds of online job applicants who had been told that their Facebook accounts had been reviewed for “professionalism” said the practice was an invasion of privacy that reflected poorly on the company doing the screening.

In a second exercise, half the participants were asked how they’d respond to social media screening if it meant they got the job, while the other half were told they didn’t get the job. Getting hired didn’t change their opinion. In both groups, some 60 percent said they thought less of the company because their privacy had been breached.

The results of this study are surprising. But, we have to wonder in which way? Is it shocking to people that profiling on Facebook occurs? Or rather that companies consider social media sites such as Facebook reliable enough to accurately depict a person’s professionalism? In either case, it’s time to examine why so much merit is being placed on the site itself.

Facebook profiling

© Flickr user ThemaTisch

It is unsettling that very little about our private lives is actually private anymore. But at the end of the day, aren’t we the ones airing our personal business online? Realistically speaking, our business consultants recognize that divulging information is a choice we make every time we post pictures, opinions and status updates on our profile. Therefore, it is our responsibility to post only that information with which we are comfortable sharing with the public. Because, despite our feelings on privacy, posting information publicly guarantees its transparency.

More concerning however, is the over ambitious merit given to profiles on Facebook by companies examining them for employee screening purposes. Indeed, the site is a popular outlet for networking, but in no way does it solidify with absolute certainty that profiles are reliable in depicting a person’s skill level as an employee. In fact, we have to wonder whether it’s just the opposite. After all, gone are the days where bravery is needed to make a statement or pass an opinion. When you have a computer or smartphone to hide behind, it’s much easier to comment in a way you would have otherwise screened before. So you could pose the argument that perhaps profiles are more misleading than they are informative.

More often than not, individuals utilize their Facebook accounts for social rather than professional interaction. But, as harmless as it may appear, indulging in the site can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, users must always be cognizant of what they are posting because despite the idea that profiles are private, really and truly they are not. On the other hand, companies should be cautious as to the value they place in a candidate’s Facebook profile. Because no matter what the conclusion, it’s not a resume and therefore cannot fully represent who a person is as a professional.

One of the best ways to learn about an individual’s knowledge, experience and work ethic is to interview them. Whether in person, over Facetime or on the phone, speaking directly with potential candidates is the only way to gain a full perspective of how they will fit within your company’s parameters. Simply stated: meeting face to face is one of the most effective and efficient way of finding the best fit for a position.

But really, the best method for determining the viability of a candidate for a particular job is to ask them to do some work. Call it a “trial period” or bring them on as a “contractor” or even an “internship.” You can only learn so much about someone in a conversation. The best way to see if someone is a good fit for you organization–and for them to see if they like the people, the work, and the culture–is for them to spend some time trying it out.

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Ashley Lee

Ashley Lee

Ashley has been working with the AccelaWork team since 2008. She is a communications expert with a background in corporate work, and a graduate of the University of Dayton with a degree in Public Relations. She lives in the greater Indianapolis area with her husband and four children. Ashley enjoys jewelry, fashion, and coffee.
Ashley Lee

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