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Facebook Timeline will know everything about you

Facebook wants to know everything about you. Should employers as well?

We recently heard from Facebook’s Head of Recruitment – Richard Cho – at a social media conference. His dream is that in the near future, candidates will be recruited for who they are as people, not just a history of job titles.

Sounds like a simple aspiration: We’re obviously all more than a combination of our employment history. But consider what this means for just a moment. Facebook already knows a lot about us. Perhaps too much. How much of that should be shared in an employment setting?

For most people, the answer is probably none. Or very little.

If that’s the case, pay attention to how your Facebook experience will start to change over the coming months. And keep an eye on those privacy settings.

In September 2011, Facebook announced the release of the Timeline. They describe it as a way to tell your life story, through a collection of all your top photos, posts and apps. Here’s a quick video demo explaining more.

What’s the Timeline got to do with recruitment?


Potentially a lot.

With the release of the Timeline, Facebook hopes people will capture their entire life story within its walls. Yep – everything. From photos of you growing up as a kid, going through school, experiences with friends (including those keg stands), family, having your own kids, then watching them grow up.

And yes, that includes your work and professional life as well.

I mean, the concept makes some sense. Most of us aren’t the pedantic scrapbooking types who document every moment of our life. Where do we turn to reflect on special moments, memories and relationships? Probably a combination of old photos, (increasingly) digital. Maybe some scribbled notes or old emails (if they survived your switch from hotmail to gmail, or you’ve even bothered to folder/tag them). I can see how a central, single record of many of your online experiences would attract some people.

But should everyone have access to our life stories?


Facebook already provides a grey area for many hiring managers. Should they or shouldn’t they check before making a hire? 55% say they already use it in some form.

As more of your professional history is stored within Facebook, it will become an even richer hunting ground for recruiters, hiring managers and employers.

There’s a big watchout here for both candidates and employers.

Candidates need to get smart, fast, about the information they’re sharing on Facebook.

Those old photos from uni where you had a few too many, and were caught in that slightly embarrassing position? Don’t expect an old privacy setting to mean they’re still hidden from view. In fact, assume anything you’ve shared on Facebook can be accessed by someone, somewhere.

As the Facebook Timeline is rolled out to more users (you can currently get it here), double, triple and quadruple check what people can easily learn about you online.

Employers need to understand the boundaries for social profiling.

We’ve all been dumbfounded by stories of employers asking candidates to login to their Facebook profile in front of them, in a job interview (if not, check here!). This may not just be unethical practice. It can also be illegal.

Employers need to know what they can and cannot use as the basis for a hiring decision. This will differ from country to country. In Australia, for example, it’s illegal to make a hiring decision based on anything outside the core competencies required of the role. This includes the obvious stuff like sexual activities and preferences (duh). But also extends to areas many employers might consider ‘fair game’ such as age, political affiliation, religion, medical history, or even suspected physical or mental impairment.

This is serious stuff. As tempting as it may be to use this information in hiring decisions, it’s likely to be more trouble than it’s worth.

But the more important question: Should Facebook know everything about us? That’s another discussion, but we should all be getting comfortable with these links:

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. Previously with McKinsey. Passionate about startups, health and technology. Surf when I can; ride a bike most days. Follow me @mboverell.