It’s a well-known fact that employers are often looking into applicants’ online activity before offering them a role or even an interview, but one boss has learned that it should be done with care, and for the right reasons.
Australian website 9News broke the story of ‘Lily’ (whose full name has now been revealed by other sources as Lily Rose-Wilson) and the unusual voicemail message she received in response to an admin role she had applied for with Perth-based STS Health. The message was left by Michelle Lines from the company, who accidentally appears to have not hung up correctly before chatting with a male college about Lily’s social media profile and her own recruitment habits.
In a discussion not meant to be heard outside of the office, the two colleagues chat about Lily’s habits of posting selfies, joking that she probably missed the call due to getting a tattoo or fake tan, before Lines, who admits to ‘Facebook stalking’ during the conversation, concludes “I don’t like her anymore”.
Perhaps most controversially of all, the male worker appears to suggest that scrutinising social media wouldn’t be necessary if it were “a guy” or “a technician”.
In an interview with 9News, Lines defends her tactic of checking out candidates’ social media accounts, but admits she understands why this particular applicant feels discriminated against.
Nosy or necessary?
The idea that recruiters are snooping on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts should come as a surprise to nobody. Some studies suggest as many of 70% look at applicants’ social media as part of the process, with provocative images being one of the biggest turn-offs, along with overly political or discriminatory postings.
Last year, the astute businesspeople on BBC’s Dragons’ Den showed that they understood this when they made offers for the online reputation management tool BrandYourself, which analyses social media accounts and highlights anything that might be seen as a ‘red flag’ by employers. In theory, this could be used by either recruiters or those looking to clean up their social media image before applying for positions.
This latest story is another reminder that we are judged by what we share online, and not always fairly. It’s questionable whether Lily’s appearance or social media behaviour really has any relevance to how well she could do the job she applied for, and the content of the conversation also adds to the ongoing debate over whether women are treated equally in the working world.
Perhaps the main social media learning we can take from this, however, is that if you must make catty comments about somebody, make sure you haven’t left any devices recording. In this era, you can bet it will be more than one person who ends up hearing something they shouldn’t have!