I saw it for the first time just a year or two after I had gotten a job myself: An agency was asking prospective candidates to use their personal Twitter feeds as part of a drawn out application process for the kind of internship program that recent grads covet. I can’t remember the details; I just remember that I was mortified on behalf of those candidates and I hoped that this practice would not become a trend.
I hoped in vain. It has become fairly commonplace to ask young people applying for internships to use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and more to supplement, amplify, or in some cases pretty much supplant the traditional job application process, like this program Under Armour implemented a couple of years back.
This makes me cringe a little.
I should clarify here that I am speaking for myself–Kate–and my views do not necessarily reflect those of the agency. For all I know, at some point in the future, a social media competition of sorts might become part of our hiring criteria.
Let me tell you why I don’t think this is a good idea, and why traditional hiring processes continue to be a valid and effective way of selecting a solid job candidate:
1. Call me Victorian, but I think that people–even aspiring interns–have a right to keep their job hunts low-profile.
Asking candidates to create a public digital trail of their job hunting efforts really hinders their ability to do that. And then they have to answer awkward questions from their aunts at family picnics, like, “Hey! What happened with that job you were hashtagging about on the internets?”
[Tweet “Social Media Competitions: The New Job Interview? #SocialMedia”]
2. This lack of privacy opens the door for unfair biases to creep in.
Will you hold it against a candidate if you see on her Twitter account that yours is not the only ludicrous internship competition she’s participating in? Are you sure that it would not even subtly be weighed in your decision?
3. Friend count ≠ fitness for the job.
Are you using public voting, retweets, or a similar measurement to help you winnow the pool of possible applicants? Let’s do a little project. Go on Facebook and find who among your contacts has the most friends. Would you hire that person? Sure, maybe his friend count got that high because he’s a great connector and communicator. Or maybe he was just an RA for two years in college, and now you’re letting 600 alumni of Kegger State U influence your hiring decisions.
4. Remember MTV’s Show The Real World?
No, I mean, remember when it was good, and they cast smart, thoughtful people like Pedro the AIDS activist, Irene the cop, and Jay the playwright? In the early days of the show, the casts weren’t exclusively made up of the hard-partying trainwrecks you see today. Now though, the show’s reputation and its casting process have devolved to a point where it attracts a pretty narrow segment of the population, and any sensible person who sees a “Real World Casting” sign is going to keep on walking.
Is your internship application process going to cost you the Pedros, Irenes and Jays? It seems to me that the real risk might be overlooking an extremely intelligent and thoughtful candidate who just doesn’t feel comfortable creating and broadcasting a 40-second video of themselves for all to see.
I would be naive to think that agencies that host these competitions haven’t thought about the same points, and yet have decided they’re okay with the drawbacks. But for now anyway, I believe in sticking with the ol’ “resume, cover letter, and portfolio” formula.
We have yet to foray into the world of social media competitions, yet still manage to find great interns who can make some online noise when it’s called for. But the important thing is, they do lots of other things well too.
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