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I’ve been reading for a couple of weeks about employers asking for candidate’s Facebook profile information, and watching the “WHA?!” response from the online community as a whole. I’ve got some thoughts on the matter, and more than that, some tips:
1. Your online persona is completely transparent, even if you think it is not. Period. If you look me up on Facebook, I’ve got pretty good privacy settings, but that won’t keep you (or anyone else) from somehow finding out that I went off on a tirade at my kid’s third grade teacher after he went missing for 40 minutes last month. When the teachers’ union came to me asking me to take down the post, I refused. But I was also reminded that, privacy settings or not, your posts are not private. Not a one. Even the private ones.
2. You have a right to your online persona and no employer can make you give up your private information. Unless, they do. If you’re a public person or a face of a brand or the name behind a brand (even more so for us entrepreneurs) your employer, in my opinion has some right to be concerned about your public persona online and offline. I can hardly be a coke-head stripper by night and be the face of BabyCenter in the day. I get it.
3. Check yourself. No, really. Run a Google Search on yourself frequently, or better yet, set up a Google Alert for your own name (sorry if your name is John Smith, that might give you some inaccurate results). Look at photos of yourself online, make a policy about photo sharing, tagging and blogging and stick to it. I have a strict policy about my kids online. You might want to, also.
4. The world of online communities dates back to CompuServe days and days when we used AOL accounts to troll around chat rooms. Its very core was the ability to communicate from our pajamas with people anywhere in the world, empowered by our ability to speak freely and anonymously. I recall in 1996 when someone in a chat room I used on AOL turned out to be questioned in the disappearance of another woman from our chat room. His name was revealed, unraveling, for me, the mystery of online communities. There is a name — yours — behind every word you say online.
5. Believe in transparency. I believe deeply in transparency online. From a brand perspective, transparency is known to deepen trust between people and products. From a personal perspective, I want to drop-kick the blogs that discuss how perfect life is — as though life is a perfectly set Instagram photo. The ups and downs of our lives are what make us as people, and as brands, humanized.
Should employers be asking for Facebook logins? Not a chance. Should candidates be aware that what we say online is fair game for judging your character? Absolutely.
To save you the five minutes, here is what the Internet says about me… there is comfort in transparency.
Samantha Fein: Google Search
On Twitter: Garza Girl
On Facebook: Samantha Fein
On LinkedIn: Samantha Fein