A friend of my college-age son recently applied for a summer internship at a large, well-known consumer products company. He made it through the first two rounds of interviews (yes, two rounds of interviews for an internship!) and was about to be hired when the recruiter told him that, as part of the company’s normal procedures, they would soon be reviewing both his Twitter and Facebook pages.
Now, I’ve known this kid since he was 8 years old and rest assured -- he’s a good kid. Good grades. Fun to be around. Popular. But once or twice I’ve stumbled on an odd post he’s made online and cringed. Most teenagers do stupid things online, and bullying aside, most of the time it’s harmless. It’s usually crude, filthy, stupid and dopey comments, with poor grammar and questionable judgment.
Suffice it to say the kid sweated out a few days and a few bucks for a reputation-management app in a desperate attempt to erase his sordid online past. Whatever the case -- he got the internship.
I don’t blame the big consumer products company for wanting to see his online activities. I wholeheartedly I agree with them. In fact, I do the same. You want to work for me? Be my Facebook friend. Let me follow you on Twitter. If anything, just for a couple of weeks. No, I don’t want your password. But I want to find out every single thing I can possible know about you.
I want to know your friends, see who else you follow, what groups you belong to and your interests, hobbies, likes, hates, favorite celebrities and family. I want to know the language, grammar and slang you use when communicating. I want to look at your photos, where they were taken and under what circumstances. I want to see what kind of judgment you have. I want to know all of this.
Am I violating your rights and invading your privacy? Not at all. If this information is out there and it’s public, then I’m within my rights to see it. And if this information is private only for your “friends,” then I want to be your “friend” if at least for a couple of weeks while I evaluate you. Why is this so important?
It’s important because it’s not about you. It’s about everyone else who will come in contact with you.
It’s about my customers. No matter what capacity you’re serving in my company you will likely have some customer interface. In a small business, it’s nearly impossible to shield everyone from customers. Why should we? I want to know that my employees can not only work directly with customers or answer questions but I also want to feel confident that they will represent me and my company in a professional and courteous manner.
More importantly, it’s about my other employees -- your potential co-workers. These are the people you will be dealing with every day. They work hard and deserve respect just like our customers. I want to make sure the person I choose for the job will fit in with them and with my company’s culture. I want to give them the best work environment possible. I don’t want to subject them to someone whose hygiene, attitude, appearance, behavior or general demeanor is offensive or makes them uncomfortable. It’s not fair on them. It’s not profitable for me.
So when I look at your Facebook or Twitter activities, I’m looking at you as a person. Are you a hater? Are you offensive? Do you dress in a manner that would make my employees or customers uncomfortable? Do you use inappropriate language? Do you have political, religious or ethnic beliefs that are so far from the norm that your job performance would be affected because other people find it difficult working with you?
I want the best people possible for my company. I want people that other people want to work with. It’s my job to gather as much information as I can possibly get about a prospective employee from wherever I can get it and make a decision that I feel is best for my current employees, customers and company.
So yes, college kid applying for an internship, or 35 year old interested in a job. I may not be a big consumer products company. But I still want to see your Facebook page. Yes, I discriminate. Sue me.