UPDATE July 2008: I'm hosting a webinar for Recruiting On MySpace on May 21st, 2008. If you're looking for a live walkthrough of how to source, filter, and generate referrals in MySpace, join the Social Media Headhunter Series and register at this link.
The following is an excerpt from a speech I gave December 7th at the AACE Fall Conference.
A college student posts videos of himself drinking from a beer bong during a party. He has a 3.8 average, cleans up well, has a business major, and interviews like a champ. On his Facebook profile, he also is the biggest organizer of keg parties on campus and has pictures of drunken underage classmates on his site.
Do you hire him when you find out what he’s posted on his site? It’s not an easy question. The Millennials worship their privacy, and react strongly to anyone researching them, at the same time that these technologies have a major impact on careers.
Let’s say that you extend a job offer to this student, and two weeks later, his campus police use a video on his site to prosecute a fraternity house for underage drinking. The story gets out in the paper, and you now have a new employee who is the center of a media firestorm, and the reporter just happens to mention that the student has just been hired by your company (because he put it on his Facebook page). Do you go through with the hire? Do you let him go?
If you let him go, the story gets more oxygen, and all of a sudden your company is part of it. Are you ready for that kind of scrutiny for a new hire?
Maybe that example is too extreme. Rather than a hard-partying senior, let’s say that you have a hard-working student, socially respectable with good grades and a good reputation. She interviews for your company and gets the offer, but it’s less than she had hoped for.
On her MySpace page, she tells her friends that she got the job, but at far less than she expected, and she thought the recruiter was a bit rude about the offer, telling her she had only 48 hours to reply. Her friends leave comments insulting the recruiter and calling your company cheap. If you run across that comment, do you withdraw the offer? Now remember, her comments aren't bad - it's her friends that insult the company and the recruiter. What is your answer?
Let's say the comment is on the first page of Google Results for a search of your company, and your CEO comes across it. Does that change your answer?
There is a line to take, a path that allows you to connect to this generation without infringing too much on their privacy, but the line is not set in stone. The question in front of us is the balance between people knowing not to publish material online they wouldn't want seen on the front page of the newspaper, and how far companies should go to intrude on the lives of their employees.
For those who think this is a Millennial issue, imagine what would have happened if cameras followed you around to the bars at 2 a.m. When you first started working? Would you prefer to be judged by your actions at 2 a.m. Or 8:30 a.m. When you arrived at work?