I’m reading more and more articles about “privacy” online. I suppose I have a tainted view, I think once you step into the internet fish bowl, you’ve agreed to surrender some of your privacy. I also firmly believe, and I do mean firmly, that the internet is rife with user generated content. And I’m not the only one….this writer refers to online privacy as a “romantic illusion”.
User generated. Meaning the user generated it. From a sourcing perspective, that means you can give me your requirements, and I can creatively search to find the talent you need, because of the information put online by users. I search within the public domain. I do not hack. Everything I find has been indexed by a search engine. Does any of this mean I’ll find absolutely everyone? No, because it’s user generated. But quite often, if I don’t find the golden candidate I’ll find the lead I need to get to them. Sourcing is a component of the recruiting process and within that “internet research” is a facet. Just as cold-calling, face-to-face networking, job fairs, job boards, employee referral programs, etc. are additional facets.
So now, let’s consider your privacy and your user generated content. If you’ve made the decision to have a presence online, cool. If you have decided to live your entire life online, bully for you. If you have not at least considered the ramifications of friending people on Facebook whom you don’t really know and not editing the 12 different functions they can view on your page, I encourage you to do so. You’ll find the option to edit your privacy under account settings. Otherwise, if you’re living your life on Facebook, they’ve got a complete view. What do I have to hide? I protect my kids online. I’m pretty darn authentic, but I need to know you’re “good people” before I let you into that part of my world. And frankly, when you don’t edit these settings, you let your friends, their friends and everyone else see your content. If you’re okay with that, rock on. Again, it’s your user generated content. Your choice.
Birthdays are another thing that hang me up. Why do you need to put that online? To get birthday wishes? Wouldn’t your friends do that without a reminder? And in particular, if you are even blithely aware that Linkedin is used by HR professionals to find people and network, why would you submit your birthday to Linkedin? Why does Linkedin, a professional network, need to know your birthday? They don’t, and your prospective employers don’t really need that either. And then I start to go down the path of identity theft. Which if we talk about all these declarations of “I’m at Cosi on 14th in Downtown D.C.” we get into the whole, well at least I know you’re not home. Which leads us into a completely different type of theft.
As a sourcer, I’ve functioned in a land of requirements. I scan profile information online to see if the person is a CPA, attended a 4 year college and has 5 years of tax experience at a big 4 firm. I have never been handed a requirement that asked for someone to be of a certain age or background. I have serious concerns that there are HR professionals out there researching candidates online looking for information that does not pertain to the legal interviewing process. I understand you can do it, and it’s like a pandora’s box, but you are not supposed to. How can you be sure you are looking at the right person’s information? Or that it’s not misinformation? Decisions are to be made from the interviewing process, references, criminal background checks, and in some cases financial background checks. I appreciate that there are recruiters out there like Shannon Smedstad of Geico that include this text on their Facebook recruiting profile:
If you are concerned about your privacy, I strongly encourage you to run yourself through Google, but better yet, through Pipl. Pipl.com will give you detailed, and more importantly up-to-date, information on your online presence across the web. Then if you feel you’re too revealed, you can take the list of sites you need to edit and clean ’em. And if you want to blast away your identity? You’ve just had enough? Of course, someone has invented an app that.
Kelly is the Recruitment Manager for Westat, a leading social science research organization headquartered in Rockville, Maryland.