When the news broke that some companies were demanding Facebook logins from job applicants, people everywhere were horrified. Those who were employed, those who weren’t employed–even employers themselves were antsy at the thought of corporate America demanding passwords to personal accounts.
While a high unemployment rate has made many job seekers jump through any hoop necessary, even for undesirable jobs, there are signs that the unemployment rate may be dropping. As we potentially head away from an “employer’s market,” competition will become fierce for good employees, making it more important than ever that you not scare away a great future employee by allowing preconceived notions to cloud your judgment.
“Presumption is a horrible thing to have on the side of an employer,” says Jim Finkelstein, author of the book Fuse: Making Sense of the New Congenital Workplace. “You want to conduct the proper background checks, but going as far as checking an applicant’s Facebook or other private accounts will only lead you down a road of misconceptions about the potential hire.”
For small business employers on the precipice of a competitive hiring environment, here are a few tips to spotting and attracting the best and brightest:
- Don’t make unreasonable demands. Yes, for many of today’s job seekers, demanding personal account passwords is unreasonable. If an employer asked for passwords to bank accounts and personal e-mail accounts, you’d assume that employer was crossing the line, right? Just as you wouldn’t want your employees to give out passwords to work accounts to those outside the workplace, you shouldn’t demand your employees hand over passwords to personal accounts, either, including Facebook.
- Don’t profile. Long before employers were demanding Facebook passwords, they were scouring online accounts for information on potential new hires. Job seekers were warned not to post wild party pictures or other inappropriate personal data publicly. Why? Because employers were making snap judgments about employees who might otherwise be dedicated, hard-working, career-minded individuals. But one bachelor party or a few old college pictures ruined it. Think about the decisions you make and ensure they are based on all information and not some assumption you’ve made based on past experience.
- Review your job ads. “Unemployed need not apply.” Over the past few years, many great employees have become unemployed, but in any job market, good employees are subject to layoff, sudden termination, and even voluntary termination. Not only are you hurting your business by discriminating against unemployed candidates, you’re also leaving more people unemployed for longer, meaning they claim unemployment compensation for up to a year or longer. Negative statements based on preconceived notions have no place in an ad. Instead, emphasize the positive things about working for your company and simply toss out the resumes that you deem inappropriate.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover. So your last job ad received 400 resumes and you’re limited on time. It’s easy to immediately delete any resume that doesn’t have the font you like or comes via snail mail instead of e-mail. At least glance over those resumes, though, and make sure you aren’t missing out on a great potential hire who simply hasn’t quite mastered the art of job hunting. Not everyone is great at searching for employment. Would you want someone who had spent so much time searching for a job that he or she has become a professional at it? Besides, young, eager newbies can bring a fresh energy to your start-up, plus they don’t seek the extreme salary that many with decades of experience require.
- Do background checks. While it’s important to avoid generalizations, every employee should be subjected to a thorough background check. This includes checking references and doing criminal background checks, especially if the employee will be working in high-security positions or with money. Be sure to require proof of education. Anyone can say they have a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Make this a part of your pre-employment process to avoid unpleasant surprises down the line.
As a small business owner, you likely know how crucial good employees are to success. If you’re seeking qualified candidates, keep in mind that you need good employees as much as they need a great career opportunity. By approaching the employment process with a positive attitude and open mind, you’ll find the best employee for your small business.