Scientific American reports on a study that shows job applicants who know their prospective boss viewed their social media profiles are more likely to think that their hiring process was unfair. This is even true in cases where the applicant gets the job.
Half of this is obvious. No one wants their fitness for a job to be judged by a deep read of their online life. But what I found interesting about this study in particular is that the authors suggest pre-employment online snooping hurts the businesses that do it:
“There could be all kinds of negative consequences for creating a selection process that is perceived as invasive and unfair,” says Lori Foster Thompson, a psychology professor at N.C. State and one of the paper’s co-authors. “When you think about the fact that top talent usually has a lot of choices as to where they want to go to work, it begins to really matter.”
Of course, the only way an employee is going to find out that their boss looked them up before hiring them is if their boss tells them. Which they don’t have to do, and likely won’t.
It feels like in this case the study’s authors are trying to do the lord’s work through a tiny bit of chicanery. We’d all like to live in a world where our Google trail is never held against us, and the authors are trying to convince businesses that getting caught snooping might make them lose out on the best possible employees. But it’s hard to imagine that really happening, which means that bosses will Google.
Also, while I personally would love it if no prospective employer ever looked at my Facebook before hiring me, I also get that the onus is on me to manage my own privacy settings so that that doesn’t happen. In my own life, if I’m in front of a computer and talking to a stranger on the phone (for work) I’ll often almost reflexively Google them. It seems painfully optimistic to expect employers to refrain.
PS. A more extreme way to deal with the problem of your Google trail haunting your job prospects is to kill your name. Awhile ago, Nazanin Rafsanjani did a story about a guy who held a funeral for his own name. I still think about it a lot.