Tag Archives: Social Media

How Social Media Posts Can Bias Hiring Decisions

Back in 2013, I was contacted by a journalist (who’s now editor) for Fast Company about my thoughts regarding how U.S. firms are searching social networks for job applicants’ information. And while it’s been nearly 9 years since her article (link below in Reference section) was published, I feel that everything I shared with her then still applies (and perhaps is even more relevant) today.

I am reposting my response to her questions in its entirety below in a “Question and Answer” or “Q & A” format.

Question: I’m wondering if you would be willing to comment from a recruiter’s perspective on this new study from Carnegie Mellon that found between 10% and a third of U.S. firms searched social networks for job applicants’ information early in the hiring process.

Answer: I have heard about that Carnegie Mellon University study in which responses from U.S. employers suggested that a minority of organizations searched for job candidates’ information online. If you take into account the number of companies and recruiters searching online social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) for potential hires, the findings of that study should not come as a surprise.

Question: Do you think that social media gives a hiring manager an “unfair advantage” because profiles can contain everything from religious affiliation to sport team loyalties? What about photos?

Answer: Some might say that social media gives firms, recruiters, and hiring managers an unfair advantage because they can learn so much about a candidate before he or she ever steps foot inside the interview room. However, the reality is that we willingly post a great amount of information about who we are — from the headshot photos to our selfies, and from our professional advice to comments about how terrible we felt when our favorite sports team lost. We put ourselves on full display and share many things that, taken together, reveal our beliefs, tastes, and even personalities.

While some might argue that using this data about a prospective employee is unfair, others might argue that the information was posted online voluntarily for others to see. Perhaps the best advice I can share is this: We need to remember everything we post online can be viewed by millions of people and is often permanent. It is a good idea to sit back and really think before you post anything online.

Question: Should hiring managers simply resist the urge to look at candidate’s social media profiles before they’ve been interviewed? Is this any different than having an applicant walk in the door and judging them based on their appearance?

Answer: Should hiring managers resist looking at a potential job candidate’s social media profiles and activities prior to the actual interview? A criminal background check and conversations with the candidates’ previous employers are standard practices but some organizations may want to further examine job candidates and using social media sites can help the employer identify candidate qualities that match what the firms are seeking. It can also benefit the job applicant by helping him or her stand out from the crowd. For instance, a professional profile on LinkedIn can let employers know not only about your employment background, but also your interests, volunteer experiences, and recommendations from work colleagues. You can even share your work portfolio (e.g., presentations, documents, etc.). I contend that grouping all social media sites together into one group is misleading because there are “social” networks, like Facebook, where people share personal information about themselves to friends and families, and there are “professional” networks, like LinkedIn, where you connect with industry experts and other professionals and exchange career and professional advice.

One challenge that I see is the difficulties people have of separating their personal and professional social media presence. Some people keep them separate, while others blend the two. The problem is that hiring managers might not be able to tell the difference between job candidates’ personal and professional lives. For example, hiring managers may struggle with how to reconcile conflicting social media profiles, such as when an individual posts unflattering, crude, or even offensive things about themselves or someone else on their “personal” social media account (e.g. Facebook) in contrast to their more professional and polished presence on their “professional” social media profile (e.g., LinkedIn).

I think it isn’t as simple as employers looking at social media activities online because they do not always get the complete picture about a person. Obviously, job candidates would prefer that hiring managers look at their professional profiles on LinkedIn much more than their social profiles on Facebook. I also believe that it isn’t fair to judge a potential job candidate based purely on his or her social media profiles and activities. What’s more, while it can be tempting for hiring managers to look at job candidates’ social media profiles before being interviewed, I think it may cause what’s called confirmation bias, which is our tendency to prefer information that confirms our beliefs and expectations about people or things, while ignoring information that contradicts them. Of course, in reality, hiring managers can do this without ever using social media. Indeed, it may not be very different than having a prospective candidate walk in for a face-to-face interview and judging that applicant based on his or her appearance.

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Organizational & Leadership Development Leader

Reference

Dishman, L. (2013, December 13). The Surprising Ways Social Media Posts Bias Hiring Managers | Fast Company. https://www.fastcompany.com/3023263/the-surprising-ways-social-media-posts-bias-hiring-managers

Don’t Waste Time Trying To Discredit Others

better-to-know-quote

Whether in my personal or professional life, when I observe myself and others around me, one of the biggest personal and professional missteps I witness is being a blocked learner. More than blocking learning, I think of it as repelling learning — as if it were a mosquito or bug.

On professional networking sites (e.g., LinkedIn), I now observe, much to my dismay, individuals going out of their way to put other people down and/or intentionally trying to harm other people’s professional reputations. It’s shocking and very sad how ugly some people treat others! It’s also not surprising that the individuals being targeted are quite successful in their fields.

Lombardo and Eichinger (2006) wrote that three problems for blocked learners are: (1) they are closed (unwilling) to learning new skills and methods, (2) they do not seek input from others (why would they since they think they know everything already), and (3) they are not insightful about themselves.

Two remedies Lombardo and Eichinger recommended for blocked learners:

1. Watch other people’s reaction to you. Observe the reactions of other people to the things you’re doing and saying. It’s easier to do this in the real, physical world than when you’re online. For instance, if others on professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn, are upset, irked by, or tired of the offenders’ relentless criticisms and put-downs, they may simply ignore or tune the offenders out or unfollow them. Thus, the offenders will never know that their behaviors turned others off.

2. Signal that you’re open to and interested in what other people have to say. Here, the blocked learners are so closed off from learning that they really don’t care how they are perceived by others. In fact, communication really becomes one-way for them. That is, the offenders use professional networking sites (e.g., LinkedIn) as an educational pulpit, where they view themselves as the expert, know-it-all “professors,” and their role is to teach/educate others. And, they go out of their way to point out flaws, mistakes, bogus, and/or unconvincing stories and writings of other professionals (at least according to their own views and biases). For these offenders, their way to improving yourself and the workplace is the only correct path and they are angry, even offended, that other professionals (in other fields) dare to talk about or share different ways to improving yourself and your workplace.

It’s sad to see how much time these offenders waste tracking other people’s conversations on professional networking sites and then spending the time to try to jump in and discredit them. As a father to a toddler, I pose this rhetorical question, “Who has time to do that?” I mean really? In my free time, I like to go the park and play on the swings with my wife and daughter. I don’t have the time nor do I want to spend time trying to find people to discredit. That must be so time-consuming, wasteful, and tiresome!

I often share with my wife and friends that if we’re busy living our own lives and doing our best, we will not have time to worry about what other people are doing! When you’re happy with your life, you won’t have time or energy to worry about other people or feel the need to talk bad about them.

Thus, in attempting to discredit other professionals who, in the offenders’ eyes, should not be in the business of writing about or sharing personal and professional improvement tips, they (the offenders) end up discrediting themselves and revealing, for all the world to see, their bitterness and resentment of someone else’s success. Indeed, engaging in these types of negative, mean-spirited behaviors (of putting others down) shines a very bright and unflattering light on your character or lack of one.

Takeaway: Don’t waste your life and your precious time trying to discredit others. Your way of improving yourself and the workplace is not the only path. Be humble and open to learning from others. Focus on being your absolute best at work and at home. When you are busy living your own life and doing your best, you will not have time or energy to worry about what other people are doing.

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership & Talent Development Consultant

Reference

Lombardo, M. M., & Eichinger, R. W. (2006). Career Architect Development Planner (4th ed.). Minneapolis, MN: Lominger Limited, Inc.

Social Media And Its Impact On Working Professionals

Woman and social network concept | Credit: Petar Chernaev
Woman and social network concept | Credit: Petar Chernaev

I was contacted by a freelance journalist with the BBC for my thoughts about what social media has taken away from working professionals. I am reposting my response below (in a “Question and Answer” or “Q & A” format).

Reporter Question: What do you think social media has taken away from us? In terms of taken away from working professionals.

My Answer: One key thing I believe social media takes away (or we allow it to take away) from us is the ability to self-filter. It is too easy to post a quick one-word or one-sentence thought or vent to express our beliefs, our joys, our anger or frustrations at anything and at any given moment. The ramifications, especially as they apply to working professionals, (whether you’re an executive or a clerk) is that posting unfiltered contents online for the world to see, read, and/or hear about means that our social lives are now dangerously intertwined with our professional/business lives. And make no mistake, just because you’re “off the clock” from your paid job does not lessen the risks of getting yourself into trouble by posting things on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social media sites.

Reporter Question: Are people vilified for their views? Are they held in check for their political opinions? Does this stop people really expressing themselves? Has social media muted our opinions rather than giving us a platform to express ourselves?

My Answer: I would argue that, rather than social media muting our opinions and our ability to express those opinions, it has, in fact, AMPLIFIED it to the nth degree. We have so many avenues through which we can record our views/opinions and there really are not many checkpoints to prevent us from writing/posting contents that might later prove to be extremely detrimental (personally and professionally) to ourselves and/or others.

Reporter Question: What’s the cost of all the self promotion that goes on in social media?

My Answer: The cost of not self-censoring/self-filtering is that anyone can get themselves in hot water. The other thing I see is that too much self-promotion means that sometimes, attention is paid to whoever is the loudest, flashiest self-promoter. For example, there are many brilliant industrial/organizational psychologist who are academics and who spend significant portions of their lives and careers in research and writing for academic journals. Because these professionals, by and large, are not big self-promoters, their works tend to not be recognized by the public and the news outlets. It is only when business professors, like Adam Grant or Bob Sutton, write great books that translate research into applicable business principles and practices and then have book publishers promote their works on social media that they become “known.”

Reporter Question: Are we scared to over-share? Where has this fear come from?

My Answer: I think we should all be very scared to overshare and those who aren’t scared should be very afraid. We share way too much of ourselves and our families online. People post pictures of their families and small children and talk about where their kids go to school, what their teachers’ and classmates names are, where the school is located, or that they’re on vacation hundreds or thousands of miles away, or they’ll overshare about their medical problems or surgeries. What these people have done is to freely give away important information about themselves and their loved ones to complete strangers online. This is how identity thieves and other perpetrators get your information or find out where you live and where your children attend school. I have heard about a person who posted on Facebook that she was away enjoying her vacation. Thieves broke into her home because one of the men saw her social media posting and knew that she wasn’t home.

Reporter Question: Has social media actually taken away our freedom of expression? Because we want to be liked by everyone so we self censor?

My Answer: I believe there’s actually less self-censoring because of the ubiquitous nature of social media. With our insatiable demand for short/witty/shocking infotainment-type of news bites and short video clips, there tends to be more weight/value placed on (1) being first to post anything, and (2) posting something that shocks and/or entertains. Because of this first-to-publish mentality, we can see why we’re less inclined to self-censor because we’re in such a hurry to produce something (anything) that’s funny or shocking.

Reporter Question: And if you do over-share? How are we treated? Can posting something “inappropriate” get you fired? Or worse?

My Answer: This has absolutely happened — that is, individuals posting something “inappropriate” which resulted in them getting fired from their jobs. Just Google, “posting something inappropriate and getting fired” or “employee fired over Facebook post” and see how many hits you’ll get!

I’ll end with this —

Many young adults do not support the use of social media in the hiring and firing decisions, and instead endorse a “very liberal view of the types of material that people should be able to post online without the threat of job termination” (Drouin, O’Connor, Schmidt, & Miller, 2015, p. 127).

But, regardless of how one may feel about it, the consequences are real and can negatively affect an individual’s professional life and career. In fact, it has even acquired a not-so-friendly name — “Facebook Fired” — whereby employees are terminated from their jobs because of posts by them or even of them on social media (Drouin, O’Connor, Schmidt, & Miller, 2015).

“[T]his generation of upcoming workers (young adults) must be informed that regardless of their opinions of the fairness of these policies [i.e., using social media in hiring and firing decisions], as it currently stands, their short-term social media use could have a long-term effect on their future careers” (Drouin, O’Connor, Schmidt, & Miller, 2015, p. 128).

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership & Talent Development Consultant

Reference

Drouin, M., O’Connor, K. W., Schmidt, G. B., & Miller, D. A. (2015). Facebook fired: Legal perspectives and young adults’ opinions on the use of social media in hiring and firing decisions. Computers in Human Behavior, 46, 123-128.