The death of privacy

For Some, Online Persona Undermines a Résumé

When a small consulting company in Chicago was looking to hire a summer intern this month, the company’s president went online to check on a promising candidate who had just graduated from the University of Illinois.

At Facebook, a popular social networking site, the executive found the candidate’s Web page with this description of his interests: “smokin’ blunts” (cigars hollowed out and stuffed with marijuana), shooting people and obsessive sex, all described in vivid slang.

It did not matter that the student was clearly posturing. He was done.

Personally, I take a negative view of employers who would judge a person based on this. Students have always engaged in college escapades; the only difference with this generation is that they’re being recorded (and anyone with half a brain knows that what’s put onto these sites is probably exagerrated). I wonder what view we’d have of certain powerful people today, if we could easily Google their MySpace profiles from th 60’s and 70’s? The vast majority of their older employees would have done the same sort of stuff in college, it was just unknown to the interviewer at the time. Does it really speak that much to how a person will function in a professional work environment? (The answer is no).

The current generation is putting more and more of their lives online through blogs, social networking sites, and profiles throughout the internet. To judge them by what they put there is to deny them any separation of personal and professional lives. No one at that age is really thinking too hard about the future, and I think it’s wrong to expect them to. The onus we’re putting on students is to ask them to censor everything they say or do from Junior High School onwards in preparation for a future job interview. Do we really want the kind of individuals who are anal enough to do that?

In fairness though, the author of the article did go and find employers with a common sense attitude, and there’s some question of how commonplace this is:

Some companies, including Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Ernst & Young and Osram Sylvania, said they did not use the Internet to check on college job applicants.

“I’d rather not see that part of them,” said Maureen Crawford Hentz, manager of talent acquisition at Osram Sylvania. “I don’t think it’s related to their bona fide occupational qualifications.”

Some college career executives are skeptical that many employers routinely check applicants online. “My observation is that it’s more fiction than fact,” said Tom Devlin, director of the career center at the University of California, Berkeley.

My guess is that any employer who routinely judges applicants by their online persona will eventually suffer for it, as they pass up talented, qualified individuals due to unrelated factors. My other guess is that the vast majority aren’t technologically savvy enough to do it in the first place.

Aside from that though, what’s interesting here is that we don’t just have a generation gap, it’s a generation chasm. Some quotes from the article:

“A lot of it makes me think, what kind of judgment does this person have?” said the company’s president, Brad Karsh. “Why are you allowing this to be viewed publicly, effectively, or semipublicly?”

“I was just shocked by the amount of stuff that she was willing to publicly display,” Ms. Homayoun said. “When I saw that, I thought, ‘O.K., so much for that.'”

“I never really considered that employers would do something like that,” he said. “I thought they would just look at your résumé and grades.”

In other words, the adult world just doesn’t get it. And kids today, they just don’t get the adult world. Eventually the kids today will become the recruiters of tomorrow and bring their attitudes about online expression with them. For now though, it just serves as more evidence of the massive cultural shift happening all around us.

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One Response to “The death of privacy”

  1. Musings of the Great Eric » Blog Archive » Summer camps fear MySpace Says:

    […] Let’s see. Last week it was employers not getting it, so this week it must be summer camps. Camps say they are increasingly concerned about being identified in photographs or comments on these sites, even innocuously. They worry about online predators tracking children to camp and about their image being tarnished by inappropriate Internet juxtapositions — a mention, say, of the camp on a site that also has crude language or sexually suggestive pictures. […]

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