A 2009 survey by Careerbuilder reveals that in the US, 45 percent of employers check the social media presence of potential employees when recruiting. Some 35 percent of them found content on social networking sites that made them reject job candidates. In an alarming incident at the Maryland Department of Corrections, a man was recently asked by his potential employer to surrender his Facebook login details. Outraged, he lodged a legal complaint, leading to an updated policy that job applicants will be asked to log into Facebook “voluntarily” as an interviewer looks over their shoulders.
It is a universal wish for people to have friends to socialize with on a personal level. However, today’s hectic lifestyle makes face-to-face interaction difficult. This has created room for social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to step in and fill the gap. Social networking, especially on Facebook, has become a great way to communicate with friends, family, and business associates. For example, how many times have you heard of stories of people discovering long-lost friends on Facebook?
However, this social networking site has developed way beyond just connecting friends and associates, becoming all things to all people. Companies have now hopped onto the band wagon, using it to advertise products and services, jobs and events. Facebook has even entered the job market, becoming a useful tool for recruiters. In the United States, Facebook profiles are now routinely checked by future employers. Indeed, gone are the job-hunting days when all you had to do was clean up your CV, spruce yourself up, wear your best interview clothes and appear before a recruitment panel. These days, you have to make sure that what you post on Facebook will be considered “safe” as the prying eyes of interviewers scan your profile.
Mmoloki Mmolotsi, a Human Resources practitioner at one of the big corporations in Botswana and commenting in his personal capacity suspects this could happen in Botswana.
He says security sensitive areas or organizations like Foreign diplomatic missions, ministries such as Foreign Affairs and Finance, Banks could possibly need all the information from would-be employees, including social networking status. “Traditional organizations like most government institutions like Local Authorities etc have clear guidelines and I doubt they can do that,” he said.
In most cases, Mmolotsi says, potential employers will be interested in your political affiliation, criminal records, views on issues like gay or abortion rights, as a background checks. While he has not come across an employer digging for this information, he says some job seekers revealed to him that their recruitment involved this. “Employers who would want to view someone’s Facebook profile would do it merely as a background check for compatibility purposes,” he says. “But it depends on the requirements of the job.”
Dr Thapelo Otlogetswe from the University of Botswana believes the issue of employees prying into Facebook profiles of job candidates does not affect Botswana. He says Facebook is a relatively new phenomenon here and many local companies have not really embraced it. “Facebook is still seen as a youth thing by many companies and organizations, so I doubt this is happening in Botswana,” he says.
Dr Oltlogetswe adds that it would be unethical and intrusive for any employer to scan the Facebook profiles of job candidates “because one’s Facebook profile is personal and private.” He says not all Facebook profiles are accurate as people may give false information. CVs and formal websites are better guides of someone‘s work experience and educational achievement, he says.
Nevertheless as a job seeker, you still need to make sure your Facebook profile is as clean as your CV profile. It is way too tempting for a potential employer to “steal a peek” at your Facebook page. After all, your Facebook profile will tell the interviewer more about your personality than a CV would. So that picture you posted of you and your mates hopelessly drunk at a party, empty beer bottles littered all over, will not score you any extra points from the interviewing panel.