You might be missing out on great candidates while setting yourself up for a discrimination suit.
Her name is Lily. And in late 2019, she was hunting for a job. The healthcare company she applied with loved her CV. Then they went looking at her social media. Or at least one person did. And that’s where it all went wrong for Lily. Lily had the typical selfies, she’s a young woman with tattoos and a social life, a lot of which, like almost everyone today, she posted online through her Facebook page. As you can see in this interview with A Current Affair, Lily’s Facebook page was the typical page of almost anyone online. What’s ironic is when compared, the human resource specialist who went researching Lily’s social media, and then denied her an interview after this social research, had a Facebook page that not only mirrored Lily’s page for posting content, it was actually more risqué. The human resource specialist was even running a side clothing business and modelling clothing in video, while showing R-rated snaps of her blouse open, of her drinking on a night out, and other snaps and videos that were even more egregious than the job-seeker Lily’s pics. The human resource specialist’s excuse? “Well I’m not the one looking for a job am I?”
This arrogance and hypocrisy would have been kept a company secret, embedded into policy, if the HR specialist hadn’t mistakenly left this recording of her and a man talking about Lily’s candidacy. You can listen here.
In an age of selfies and social media, it’s easy to interpret and heap scorn on candidates who post a lot. Many young people today have tattoos, most people go out with friends, and the entire social landscape is full of photos and videos that track the every day lives of those posting to social media. As the comic Norm MacDonald said, over 100 years ago everybody only had one picture of their grandfather, done with pinhole camera and sulphur flash. Now, you could show people 100,000 pictures of your grandfather, and every minute of every day he was alive. Social media has made it so that there are thousands of every day photos, recording nearly everything in a life in ways that could have never been dreamed of by your great grandparents.
So what to do with social media scans of potential candidates or potential companies and partners?
The interesting thing about this story is when you compare the human resource specialist’s Facebook page and Lily’s page, the only real difference between them is the age of the women. They both put out photos of themselves loving animals, loving fashion, and loving nights out with friends. The only other real difference is one woman had the power over another to offer a job or not. This kind of power dynamic is the way things are in career situations. But if you are the holder of this power, you should want to wield it lightly. And take a look at yourself before you criticize the actions of others.
Most things should be taken with a grain of salt. This is social media after all, and TikTok is the most popular app going – will you scan someone’s TikTok account and deny them a job because they sang Whitney Houston in costume when they were 10 years old? If you do, perhaps think again about posting to your Facebook the pics of you and your chums at that conference getting tipsy on Chardonnay. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Or as my grandmother used to say, “lighten up”. And don’t forget to smile for the camera, lest someone interprets you as morose or depressed. And goodness knows you don’t want to appear too happy or carefree, you might not be serious enough! Make sure the animals you love and what you wear aren’t unique as you might be pegged as weird or strange. Actually, stop posting anything at all. This might be the best advice.
But, if it was me looking at Lily’s Facebook, here’s what I saw instead from this promising, 20-something candidate:
Sense of humour
Sense of cultural engagement
Sense of self confidence
Sense of family and friends
Sense of caring
Sense of welcoming experiences and people
Happy and kind
She knows how to use social media
Do your research on candidates. Just don’t judge them in ways you yourself wouldn’t want to be judged. Maybe you have your own social media scrubbing to do, too.
Keep up with interesting videos and articles every week. Become a magazine subscriber.