11 June 2006

Jobbing It - Stories

A.D. Freudenheim, The Editor

Today's New York Times has an article about companies and their job recruiters using “social networking” sites like MySpace and Friendster to scope out and check on potential employees. It seems to me that there are two elements of the story that, alas, escape deeper analysis.

The first is an evolution away from people having “private” lives, as evidenced by these very public, online displays of an individual’s activities and predilections. In another era (that is, pre-internet), these things would generally have been kept behind solidly closed doors. This is not to say that one should be embarrassed or ashamed about one’s interests and hobbies – but there is a distinction between shamefulness and privacy, and it seems like both are being lost. Moreover, in losing this distinction, this borderline between different aspects of their lives, people also seem to lose any sense of the impact that their personal life may have on their professional life.

The second is the sense among college grads from the last five years, many of whom are now job hunting, that the manner in which they present themselves does not matter; this extends to online presentations, such as drunken photos posted to someone’s “profile” page, as noted in the Times article. The issue here is less whether one makes a decision to hire someone on the basis of their MySpace profile or other things that they say about themselves. The question is whether young job-seekers are presenting a complete, solid, well-thought-through package to a prospective employer – in which case an employer can evaluate that individual’s qualifications, and for a strong prospective employee might be more willing to make an exception for “private” behavior that is not to their liking.

Companies looking to hire people have to adapt to changing times, there is no doubt about that, and that includes accepting that sites like Facebook are a normal part of the life of a twenty-something adult. Changing times, though, do not necessarily mean changing business values; companies still need to hire employees who are qualified and capable and prepared to do their jobs. As someone who reviews resumes, cover letters, writing samples, and letters of reference on a regular basis, and who interviews job candidates too ... well, I have said it before (in 2005), and before that (in 2004), and before that (in 2003), and even before that (in 2002): if you do not want the job, don’t apply for it; if you are not prepared to say why you want it, figure that out first; and if you are unwilling or unable to meet the professional standards of the company – in your interview, and at work – then that might not be the company for you. After all, the “company” you keep says a lot about who you are, whether in MySpace or on the job.


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