Should You Hire that Guy Who Pissed on the Neighbor’s Lawn Last Night? Heck Yes!

Quick question for anyone who makes hiring decisions:  Would you hire a job candidate whose tweets, Facebook postings and other social media scribbling point to someone who likes to get wasted, comes to work with a hangover and sleeps around? All things considered, between this randy candidate and a seemingly straight candidate with similar credentials, who would you choose?

If only it were that simple.  Add to the question that the first candidate has a few more critical skills and upon further research knows a thing or two about Web design and programming that could really help you move the needle. And despite his predeliction for alcoholic beverages on weekends and lack of bladder control,  he volunteers and gives back to the community – details you might not find on his LinkedIn or Facebook page. Oh, and he probably doesn’t get drunk at work.

Social media is a great hiring tool, isn’t it? You can’t see into a candidate’s future, but you can surely see into their past, often as recent as the night before.  At the PRSA annual conference in Orlando this week, one “older” attendee tweeted sarcastically to the many young PR students and recent grads in attendance to keep acting foolish and immature to ensure they don’t get hired.  These attendees, often part of the student section of PRSA, are PR’s future, so it stands to reason that they should show some decorum while at a professional event. And 99% of them probably do.

As for background checks on social media and a quick Google search of job candidates, it’s not a bad idea provided it’s tempered with reason and a big fat dose of reality. Think about it – if you were looking for a job 15 or 20 years ago and there was a such thing as Twitter or Foursquare, would there be posts from you that might catch a hiring manager off-guard? Probably is my guess – but maybe it’s just my past!

Social media discovery about a job candidate – short of that person having a criminal background – should be filed into the “good to know” category.  You shouldn’t ignore it, but you shouldn’t hold it against the candidate either. And once you do hire that person for the job, don’t friend him on Facebook. A friend of mine – an executive at a healthcare company – confessed to me that for about a month he was living vicariously through one employee who was posting very interesting updates on Facebook.  One morning as they were both grabbing some coffee, he asked her about the party the night before and whether she finally got a ride a home.  Her face screamed “Creepy!” and her fingers did the talking by immediately unfriending her boss. They are off to one good start!

— Diane Schwartz



  • Larry Tenney

    That the younger set is more honest, forthcoming, transparent should be seen as a good thing.

    After all, nearly every talented PR Pro would counsel it’s generally better to disclose than to be discovered, right?

    When considering the sorts of things one might “discover” about a job candidate searching social media realize you found it because the candidate disclosed the information. It’s a sort of raw honesty.

    In the near future, should you be tasked with such a search/investigation, expect that you’re likely to find something earlier generations might have classified as scandalous, unspeakable, simply rude or just irreverent. Then consider this, if you come across candidates without such a “blemish” you might well consider them suspect and worthy of further investigation.

    That Millenials are in effect adopting the disclose rather than be discovered philosophy is creating significant positive paradigm shifts. It’s already changing our way of life, how people see the world and how they see their world.

    Consider this for instance, while a Boomer or Gen Xer might find it, as you described, a little “creepy” that an executive asked if they’d ever found a ride home from the party they were at the night before; Millennials are likely to be flattered and pleased to know that the executive was paying attention to them and showing interest in their lives. They might see it as sign the executive “cares,” rather than creeped out or suspect of the executive’s intentions.

    My fellow “older attendees” can snicker and think somehow they have a current advantage but the world is changing rapidly and as professional communicators you’d better get on board. If not, a world increasing ruled by Millennials might quickly become foreign or even unnavigable to you. Start practicing a little authentic transparency or displaying/admitting some vulnerability now; absent that, you’ll be seen as suspect and “fairly odd.”

  • Chris Florentz

    While new technology and the media platforms that it evolves have a major impact on the communication in general and PR in particular, there are constants that remain relevant in any age. One of these is the truism, “Discretion is the better part of valor.”

    PR isn’t about raising red flags and pushing people’s comfort level, though in the latter case it can at times be an effective tactic. PR is about building relationships based on trust and using good judgment. Would I hire a guy who pissed on the neighbor’s lawn the night before? Maybe. But not if he posted it on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Drew Evans

    I completely agree with this article! As a student in college getting ready to apply to graduate school, I believe that social media sites like Twitter and Facebook should not influence a company’s/school’s decision to hire or accept you. While I can honestly say that I’m not a big party person, I do enjoy going out and having a good time every once in awhile. I spend a good amount of time making sure my Facebook doesn’t contain pictures of me at parties or with people doing ignorant things in the background, even though it shouldn’t matter. I very much liked the “you can’t see into a candidate’s future, but you can surely see into their past” quote. I really hope companies and schools will start to realize that social media sites should not be a factor when determining who to hire or accept in the years to come.

  • Robin Palin

    It’s not what he did that’s at issue. It’s about judgment–something critical to all practitioners. If he cares so little about his own reputation that he would let something like that be broadcast to the world, how could you put him in a situation where he is expected to manage a client’s or an employer’s corporate reputation?