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How to Use Facebook for Evil

April 19, 2010
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Kyle Gargaro

Are you using Facebook? Now before your eyes glaze over and you become agitated that we have wasted precious space in our magazine talking about marketing and social media, it is important to point out that I want you to use Facebook for evil. If you want to use it for good also, that is cool. But evil is more fun to talk about.

A recent CareerBuilder survey showed that 45 percent of employers research job candidates by visiting social networking sites. This was up from 22 percent of employers the previous year. I call this practice the “old high school girlfriend plan.” You guys know the drill: You search out the old flame on Facebook hoping she married some loser, or better yet, that she can’t push herself away from the kitchen table and has put on more than a few pounds. Of course, we conveniently forget the extra pounds around our own midsection.

I recently used this resource when The NEWS hired a new editor for the staff. While we hired a very talented journalist (Kim Schwartz, you will be reading a lot of her great work in upcoming issues), you can bet that before I brought anyone in for an interview, I was sure to do a quick Facebook search to see if any red flags were raised.

Could you call my actions an invasion of privacy? Yes, you could. Do I care? No, not so much.

And evidently I am not the only one. That same survey showed that 35 percent of employers said they have not hired a candidate because of information they found on social networking sites. The top reasons for that decision are:

• Candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information (53 percent).

• Candidate posted content about them drinking or using drugs (44 percent).

• Candidate bad-mouthed their previous employer, co-workers, or clients (35 percent).

• Candidate made discriminatory comments (26 percent).

• Candidate lied about qualifications (24 percent).

Now I would not decline to hire someone just because they have a few photos of them hoisting a beer or two at a tailgate party. But if there are references to drug usage, racist comments, or constant complaints about their current employer, there is no way they even make it to my office for an interview. Employers can also use the page to check if what the applicants say on their resume is actually accurate.

And sure, intelligent people can either not use their last name when creating a Facebook account or, better yet, make sure all their privacy settings are tighter than the XXL sweatshirt around that former high school flame. However, you would be surprised at how many do not. Not sure if it is negligence or the fact that Facebook changes the rules more often than a Democrat passing a health care bill.

My own experience in hiring showed that around one-half of the applicants had a Facebook page that was not fully protected. One interviewee even raved about the interview and our publication on his page after he had come in to meet with us. It might be a good tip for anyone looking for a job. My pessimistic mind, though, assumed he knew I was going to check his page, and therefore planted the comments to curry favor. I know, I might have a problem in that I think the world revolves around me.

CHECK CURRENT EMPLOYEES

And doing some spying on Facebook does not have to be regulated to prospective employees. If you check out your current employees, you can learn a lot also. Maybe your technician has called in sick and on Facebook his status update is “Nothing better than attending the Yankees’ home opener.” Or perhaps when your receptionist was supposed to be filing some paperwork, she was instead taking a Facebook survey to find out if she were a breakfast cereal, which one she would be.

The beauty of Facebook is there is a time stamp showing exactly what time you did each action. So please use this information and come over to the dark side with me. In this economy, you can use any edge you can get to run a productive and profitable business.

Publication date: 04/19/2010
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