A friend of mine conducted this informal poll about what a person should do if she were asked to show a male interviewer her Facebook page. Only 12% said they would agree. Thirty-three percent said they would walk out of the interview or refuse. Fifty-five percent said they would ask why and then decide.
It’s time to “face” two facts: First, most organizations are either already looking at candidates’ Facebook profiles, or they are going to start soon. (How many business owners are doing this now?) Second, people who are worth hiring either have a social-networking profile on some service or will soon—indeed, recruiters may already think that a candidate who doesn’t have a profile is hiding something, disconnected, or clueless.
Given these two developments, the defensive advice that experts are pedaling to “be careful what you put on your Facebook profile because recruiters may look at it” is ass-backwards. Instead, you should assume that organizations are checking you out (in fact, I blogged about a more efficient way to do this here) and use this to your advantage.
That is, rather than cleanse profiles in order to escape rejection, enlightened candidates will use Facebook profiles to market themselves—perhaps even asking to show their Facebook profiles in interviews. Think about what companies are looking for: bright, diligent, honest, well-rounded, socially-responsible, green, and connected people. Now imagine that you were giving a tour of your Facebook profile to a recruiter. Would you be able to make these kinds of statements?
- “This is my graduation picture. I completed a four-year program on time while working full time.”
- “This is one of my favorite professors. I took ABC from him (where ABC is a subject area relevant to the job).”
- “This is a photo essay of when I traveled throughout China. I was totally blown away by the entrepreneurial spirit of the Chinese, and I made many friendships that will help me in your position.”
- “Here’s when my hockey/soccer/basketball/whatever team won the championship. I learned so much about hard work, discipline, and team play because of sports.”
- “Here’s a bunch of my friends hanging out with me (this picture should contain people of multiple genders, ethnicities, religions, and sexual orientations) right before we went on a mission to build schools in Guatemala.”
- “This is the day that I got my iPhone/iTablet/iWhatever—I have to admit that I’m an early-adopter of technology.” Even better: “This is a picture of how I use what this company makes.”
- “Here’s when I went to Demo/TechCrunch50/World Economic Forum/G8/whatever in order to learn about what’s happening in the industry.”
- “This is the tweetup/meetup/faceup/whatever that I coordinated to help people network better.”
- "Here’s where I volunteered to work at SXSW so that I could attend all the sessions for free. This is the most amazing conference—have you ever been to it?”
- “Here’s when I met Robert Scoble/Mike Arrington/Charlene Li/Jeremiah Owyang/Chris Anderson/Steve Rubel/Ariana Huffington/Steve Ballmer/Steve Jobs/ Muhammad Yunus/David Pogue/Walt Mossberg/whoever.”
You don't need to get all Forest Gump, but you get the point. Some folks might make the case that I'm missing the point of Facebook: It's supposed to be one's personal, "let my hair down," silly world. Yes, you will lose some cred with your friends for selling out. Welcome to the real world—you have to make tradeoffs all the time.
As an entrepreneur, I would look at candidates who made this kind of a Facebook profile as people who are clever and “get it.” At least these candidates are clever enough to work the system—that shows cleverness and chutzpah.
Also as an entrepreneur, are you playing the defensive Facebook game? Because you shouldn’t—your Facebook profile should make people want to do business with you and work for you. It’s only a matter of time before customers and candidates are checking you out on Facebook, too.
For a while, people who work Facebook like this will stand out from the crowd. Then recruiters will figure out that you’re playing them. Still, I would look at it this way: “At least this candidate is clever enough to work the system.”
The irony is that if enough people start doing this, recruiters may tire of looking at Facebook profiles, and then you can go back to showing pictures of when you barfed your brains out at a party while wearing no clothes.