Team Obama applicants face Web checks of Facebook pages, blog posts

jhack's picture

I noticed that news bit, too, and thought: how many at the age of 25 can possibly know if they will choose public service at the age of 50?

On the flip side, if your web presence casts you in a good light (thoughtful, engaged, respectful of others) it can work in your favor.


ashdenver's picture

I liked this bit at the end:

[quote]"In the Internet age, the odds are close to zero that there isn't a picture somewhere online of you picking your nose, or chugging a beer, or doing something embarrassing," he added. "Let's hope that the Obama vetters focus on the important stuff, like financial or ethical misbehavior and conflicts of interest. Let's not create a situation where people are afraid to express themselves online because someday someone might use their words or image to embarrass them or their boss."[/quote]

To one extent, I can appreciate that employers really are less inclined to hire someone who has Google results that feature predominantly drunken incidents or brash racisism, hate speech, or other tawdry unseemly stuff. But the other part of it that a decent hiring manager (IMO) really needs to consider is: how will it impact the job & company?

If there are no pictures of drunkenness or orgies but the person is really opinionated (and that opinion disagrees with the hiring manager's POV) or gets pretty staunch in defense of animal testing or polygamy or stem cell research or whatever else, does that really & truly impact the person's ability to do their job effectively? Does it really reflect poorly on the company if someone has deeply-held beliefs?

If I get into a debate online revolving around politics and put forth a slew of research that basically calls the candidate a no-nothing socialist, that may not reflect well on me if the hiring manager has socialist leanings or voted for that candidate but is that really relevant to my ability to deal with payroll taxes?

If my debate posts are filled with profanity, vulgarity, misspellings, obscene images, offensive slurs, etc. then I could see perhaps a case for "We couldn't trust this person to deal with clients or employees in tense situations in a professional manner" but the opinion itself should NOT be a cause for rejection. At least not in [i]my [/i](not so humble) opinion! (As it is, if I come across posts that are mostly coherent, using polysyllabic words with correct punctuation and capitalization, I consider it a win in today's college graduate arena!)

If anything, I would be sure to search out these online footprints [i]before [/i]checking referenes. That way I could see any potential weak spots and probe in that area from those who should know best. "Have you ever seen Jimmy cuss at an employee/client?" "How would you rate the professionalism of Suzie's communications?" Things like that.

On balance, I don't know that Facebook/MySpace or anything internet-related is necessarily a blackball offense. It can certainly be a factor but unless the information online comes from a Federal, State or Local government agency, I can't see that a nose-picking photo is grounds for outright rejection if all other things line up.

I also think the Google Search should be done only for the top three or five candidates. If you can't make it to the top of the heap solely on your resume / qualifications, why should a recruiter or hiring manager waste time searching out your drunken self on the internet? Once you've made it to the top of the stack, the Google stuff should be a way to add another dimension to the process -- if these three candidates are essentially equal in terms of qualification, skill, education and experience and the hiring manager is interested in all three but torn as to which would be the best fit for the team / company culture, that's where Facebook/MySpace can offer more insight.

Those who forget that the internet offers merely a snapshot of a person's life and personality at single particular moments is bound to end up with a bunch of boring, drab, unimaginative paper-pushers working for them. If a handful of snapshots show up, I'd think that too small a sample to call it representative. If there's a slew of results all trending to public drunkenness, that's more definitive.

(Sorry - don't mind me - I went without technology for a week & I think I got carried away! LOL)

US41's picture

There are two considerations for almost every MT recommendation:

* What we want to do to be effective managers
* The reality of what most people do, and therefore we need to be ready for in order to be effective employees

As a manager, I am not going to go look at your myspace page, nor do I care what is on it. I don't care what you posted 10 years ago. And if someone prints out some horrible text you posted on the internet, I'll ignore it. I'm all about results at work, behavior at work... what I see and experience myself. There would have to be a major, major, beyond the pale sort of thing on the internet concerning you for me to care ... and given how difficult it is to offend me, that would be something really bad.

It's just too likely you were kidding around, trying to spin someone up, or entertaining yourself at someone else's low-sense-of-humor expense. I can't see the value in it.

As an employee, I need to keep everything clean as a whistle because most managers stink at their jobs and so many people take offense at things almost as if it was their hobby to find things to be offended by.

The same goes for feedback. As a manager - I want my feedback from my directs. I am not getting enough and I am modifying my behavior to get more. As an employee, I do not give my boss feedback.

The same goes for O3's: As a manager - I want my O3's for my folks. As an employee - if my boss thinks O3's are a waste of time, then I'll work with what I've got.

I would never recommend anyone reveal their politics, religion, or anything else on the Internet about themselves without hiding their identity. I would never recommend any manager care about any of that if they found it, either.

jhack's picture

The choice between anonymity and identity disclosure has no right answer.

An opinion expressed by a "real person" (as in Amazon's "real name" program) carries more weight than an anonymous posting. There are, of course, ways for anonymous posters to gain credibility (US41 is an excellent example: smart and useful posts).

A public persona can create a wider professional network and "brand" than one can build posting anonymously. The value of this varies with your field of choice.

Many believe that a willingness to go public with political and religious beliefs is foundational to those beliefs.