Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 


I've often wondered about those who go into HR.

Are they personable sorts who just want to build beautiful villages of people?

Or, as I've occasionally encountered, are they calculating individuals who think HR is a wonderful career if you want power without responsibility?

This is currently plaguing me because I've had an accidental fender-bender with a survey performed by the Society For Human Resource Management.

In this delightful work, 39 percent of the 410 HR humans surveyed said that they'd "allow" a candidate to explain items on their social media profiles or other online sources.

Items that "concerned" a company, that is. (After initial screening, that is.)

This led me to a disturbing conclusion: 61 percent of companies will automatically disqualify a candidate because they didn't like their ribald party pictures.

I know that people are prone to posting the most stupid, ridiculous, mendacious and even illegal things on social media. (Just as they put ridiculous, exaggerated and even stupid elements on their resumés.)

This is because we all do stupid and ridiculous things on occasion and Twitter and Facebook are too tempting and instant.

I find it odd, though, that the majority of HR professionals bathe in such sanctimony that they not only believe in guilty until proved innocent, but won't even offer the civility of a trial.

Last year, I tried a small experiment on this subject.

I hosted Quantcast's very enjoyable Supernova summit on the subject of Big Data.

I introduced and, in some cases, interviewed senior executives from some of the most dynamic companies in the world.

These were all experts in discovering everything about others and using that data for their companies' benefits.

So I trawled their social media profiles to see what I could discover about them.

Then, because I'm blessed of unhealthy cruelty, I presented this information before the audience. Yes, without warning the victims.

There was the executive who had a very peculiar obsession with the Dixie Chicks.

There was one who had several questionable pictures taken in party atmospheres with the likes of Mario Lopez.

Then there was the very senior figure who not only had an uncomfortable passion for cage fighting, but also once took a Facebook test to discover her mental age.

The answer was 19.

There was worse, but I can imagine that even one or more of these items might have caused the red flag of anti-socialism to fly inside the heads of HR professionals.

Only 39 percent, it seems, would even bother to ask: "So why do you feel so strongly about the Dixie Chicks?"

Or say: "Tell me about your vibrant 19-year-old inner self."

I do understand that social media is now supposed to be an additional resumé that makes job candidates seem interesting in three gorgeous dimensions.

I also understand that though some people might seem like unpardonable halfwits, they might not be quite as unpardonable as they seem when you get to know them.

And even if they have done questionable things in the past, don't they deserve at least a hearing?

Of course it could be, as reader Anthony Miller suggested, that boring people are simply easier to control.

But might it be an idea for all HR wizards to at least ask a potential employee if the video of them hanging from a church steeple and singing La Marseillaise while holding a bottle of champagne might have been some sort of artistic commentary?

Or are we all now so clear about the language of social media that we can immediately tell what other people are like?

You mean you wouldn't look at Donald Trump's Twitter account and at least ask him why he's, you know, that way?