Don’t forget to use protection.

Recently a blog post on tlnt.com by the fabulous Laurie Ruettimann caught my attention, “Don’t Facebook Me: Why You Shouldn’t Google During the Recruiting Process.

Laurie writes, “I don’t believe it is appropriate for Human Resources professionals to hop on Google, root around the Internet, and look for incriminating pictures and create reasons not to hire qualified people during America’s worst recession in decades.

Cartoon by Hugh MacLeodGoogling is a sloppy, lazy, and unseemly method to verify a candidate’s character. And who the heck is HR to put itself out there as a judge of character? I told the audience, “Some of us in the room are human and screw up on a daily basis. If you can’t use Facebook to post pictures, where is the joy in life?”

My first thought was, “But I am not looking for information to rule candidates out. I am looking for information to rule them in.”

When I am using Google or any other search tool as a part of my sourcing and recruiting efforts, I am seeking information about individuals’ professional experience and expertise. When working on a search, the goal is to find the most qualified candidate. Most of the searches that I work on are highly-specialized; clients hire me to find qualified individuals at a certain level within a small, very specific niche.

There is typically an extremely limited pool of these people that I am looking for. So, when I start researching someone’s professional background, I am hoping to find information telling me they are the right candidate for the job.

I WANT this person to be the right person for the job – so I can fill it and move on to the next one!

The problem arises when things pop up during this research that provide some doubt as to whether the individual may be the right fit for a client. The reason I am always writing on my blog about how it’s not a good idea to have drunken, naked, or otherwise unprofessional photos that are available to the general public is that we recruiters don’t want to find that stuff when we are doing our research! If we do, it might give us pause: ”Well, now, what if my client researches them and finds this and I didn’t tell them about it?”

Let me give you an example.

During a search I was working on several years ago I came across a potential candidate’s resume. He was a consultant for a Big 4 professional services firm, and his education and work experience were impressive.

The problem?

His resume was outlined on his MySpace page…right next to pictures of him, um, hugging the Porcelein God if you know what I mean.  

There was also a lot of commentary about how he likes to drink and get drunk and there were pictures of naked woman all over his page.

My first thought was that if the partners of his firm saw this they would be mortified. And what if a client or potential client of theirs found it??

And then I thought the same thing about if the partners of the firm I was representing at the time saw that. They would be equally mortified. To have the name of the firm right there next to all of that…I still shudder at the thought.

Fortunately for me, it turned out his experience was not a direct match for what I was looking for so even if I had not seen all of that he would not have been a fit for that particular role. However, I just kept thinking…what if he had been? Then what am I supposed to do with that information once I have it?

Part of being a good fit for certain MOST roles is demonstration of good judgment. That, was not.

I think it’s perfectly fine to post your pictures on MySpace or Facebook or wherever. Naked or drunk or otherwise.

I think it’s also a really, really good idea to think long and hard about whom you want to see that stuff and whom you do not…and to USE PROTECTION THOSE PRIVACY CONTROLS THEY GIVE YOU.

About the Author: 

Stephanie A. Lloyd is Strategist-in-Chief, Calibre Search Group, located in Atlanta, Georgia at the intersection of Talent Strategies + Social Media. With more than 15 years of experience in corporate recruiting and executive search, Stephanie works with hiring managers, HR executives, business owners, and recruiting firms on recruitment and retention strategy including how to better utilize social media for talent acquisition and employee communication. Stephanie is a regular contributor to Talent Net Live and The Matrix Wall, and she partners with Todd Schnick to produce the video blogging series He Said, She Said.

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