Archive for September, 2016

Applying for a Job? Googled Yourself Lately?

Monday, September 19th, 2016

My law clerk Emily is about to go away on a maternity leave.  Great for her.  Not so great for me as I have to find someone to replace her during this time.  But that’s part of the joy of being the boss and so the search commenced, people applied and decisions had to be made about who should get an interview.

In the old days when I had to hire someone – either on a temporary or a permanent basis – I had the cover letter and the resume and that was just about it.  If I recognized the names of any lawyers who someone worked for, or knew someone at a prior law firm, I might make a phone call to see if I could get a “quickie” reference.  But that was if I was lucky and, in most cases, I wasn’t so lucky.  Now with the boom in that Interweb-thingy (as my mother would call it) and social media, I have found out far more about candidates than I ever thought I would.

And what surprises me even more is that, in 2016, people still aren’t getting it clear that it might be a good idea to either not have public profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. or, if nothing else, to not have photos up so that potential employers can confirm identities.  Let me give you a simple example.  I had a potential candidate, let’s say her name was Sue Johnston (it wasn’t).  Sue has a profile on LinkedIn which looks very professional.  Good for Sue.  As part of that profile, it has a very nice, professional picture of Sue smiling and looking very proper.  Sue also has accounts on FaceBook and Twitter.  Problem #1: Sue has used the same name throughout her social media accounts, so if you search Google for “Sue Johnston” + Toronto, you find on the first page Sue’s LinkedIn profile, but also her FaceBook and Twitter profiles.  If Sue had used “Sue-o-rama” or “The Sue-in-ator” or any other pseudonym, I may well have not found her FaceBook or Twitter profiles.  Problem #2: Sue has used photos for FaceBook and Twitter in her profile that, while not the exact same photo as for LinkedIn, has made it very obvious that this is the same person in the various social media accounts – so Sue would not be able to say “Oh, but that’s not me” when it’s blatantly obvious it’s the same person and I didn’t have to do any scrolling down through the various posts to confirm the identity (which I might not have done if I had been in a rush).  Problem #3: Sue’s FaceBook and Twitter pages are publicly accessible.  I only had to click on the link from Google and I was reading all about Sue.

Fortunately for Sue, the fact that I now know when she lost her virginity, what her favourite alcoholic beverage is and how long she has been with her boyfriend means absolutely nothing to me and is completely irrelevant for the purposes of deciding whether to give her an interview or not (and, as it turns out, she did get an interview).  But think about this: if I had asked any of (a) when did you lose your virginity; (b) what’s your favourite alcoholic drink; or (c) are you in a relationship with anyone and, if so, how long has that been going on; not only would these questions be COMPLETELY unprofessional but, in fact, they could have easily resulted in my facing a complaint at the Ontario Human Rights Commission.  Now, let’s take those questions a little bit further.  Can I ask if she is married?  Can I ask about children?  Can I ask about her religious beliefs?  Can I ask about her ethnic background? In most instances, the answer to those questions would each time be “No.”  And yet, if she put this information up on her FaceBook or Twitter pages, I could find out all of this information and I (or any other employer) could discriminate against her on the basis of her family status, religion or ethnicity.  But how would she ever know it because she would simply never get the interview and never know why someone else got the job instead of her.

One of the purposes of human rights legislation is, among other things, to prevent discrimination in employment circumstances – including discrimination when it comes to hiring someone.  And yet, if everything is laid out for all to see on FaceBook or Twitter, whatever protections are provided by the human rights codes can be significantly reduced, if not eliminated (at least on a practical, functional level).

So if you’re thinking of looking for a new job, or have to look for a new job, go ahead and do a Google search on your name and see what you find.  And whatever you find, ask yourself whether an employer seeing that would be (a) impressed; (b) indifferent; or (c) unimpressed.  If anything falls under option (c), or if you see anything in your profiles/tweets/posts that you might not want to voluntarily disclose to a potential employer, then you might want to find a way to ensure a potential employer cannot see this.

Something to think about.