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What You Have in Common With Job Seekers From the 1970s

Back in the 1970s people listed things like age and weight on a résumé. This might seem arcane, until you realize that employers are more or less getting this same intel from your Facebook profile.
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When it comes to getting a job in today's technology-infused world, less isn't more.

From sifting your Facebook profiles to canvassing your connections on LinkedIn, many employers want to know more about potential workers personally. Seems a little strange, admittedly. But this more holistic hiring strategy is actually pretty old.

A friend of mine discovered a copy of her mother's resume from 1977. It included the following gems at the bottom:

BORN: 7/12/43 in Norristown, PA. Height 5'6″, wt. 125

MARRIED: 1963--4 Children, ages 11, 8 1/2, 7 & 5 1/2

HEALTH: G00D--no physical limitations

RESIDENCE: Buying own home

INTERESTS: Reading, plants, sewing and teaching Christian Doctrine Classes (past 3 years)

We laughed at how funny old resumes were. And then I found out that proclaiming that you are Jewish can be helpful in getting an interview. And, add to that, if you're a male, being both Black and Gay (but not only Black or only Gay) can get you a higher starting salary.

And then I went to LinkedIn, which has pictures (also common in the "old days"), hobbies, awards, organizations, and interests. Then many companies run credit checks, which not only tell us if you own your own home, but just how good you are at making those payments! As a final check on our complete return to 1977, companies turn to Facebook to discover all sorts of things about you that shouldn't be considered in a job hunt.

The funny thing is, all this additional information is being put out there by the job candidates, not required by the companies. No reputable company asks for a picture with your resume and I would never include my own picture on a job application, but my picture is posted at LinkedIn. Why? Because experts, which includes me, say that putting your picture up on LinkedIn is helpful. And it is.

I think we, as a culture, have begun to care far too much about people's personal lives. People get fired for saying things on Facebook that they've been saying to their friends and family for years. It's not that people never complained about bad customers or had racist thoughts, it's just that before our friends were limited to people standing in the same room, and not published where, even if privacy settings are set to "friends only," people can copy and paste it and send it to your boss.

And then we have bosses who demand to be connected with their employees with social media and it feels like the over-sharing that my friend's mom included in her resume. (I love how she included the 1/2 years for two of her kids--as if that should make a difference in the hiring process!)

Shouldn't we stop all of this? Shouldn't we rely on our job candidate's work performance rather than finding out clues about their personal lives? I'd say perhaps candidates should cancel their social media so that their lives aren't open books, but many companies use Facebook and Twitter to actually find new employees. If you're job hunting cutting yourself off from those sources is not a good idea.

But let's be careful. Just because we can figure out that someone teaches the youth Sunday School class, owns their own home and weighs 125 pounds is not reason to consider that in our decision calculus. Keep to the question of, "Can this person do this job?" Ignore everything else.

 

IMAGE: Everett Collection
Last updated: Jul 21, 2014

SUZANNE LUCAS | Columnist

Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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