Blogs and Jobs

An interesting article came across the wire today from the Chronicle of Higher Education, entitled Bloggers Need Not Apply. A few snippets from the article, with commentary:

What is it with job seekers who also write blogs? Our recent faculty search at Quaint Old College resulted in a number of bloggers among our semifinalists. Those candidates looked good enough on paper to merit a phone interview, after which they were still being seriously considered for an on-campus interview.

That’s when the committee took a look at their online activity.

In some cases, a Google search of the candidate’s name turned up his or her blog. Other candidates told us about their Web site, even making sure we had the URL so we wouldn’t fail to find it. In one case, a candidate had mentioned it in the cover letter. We felt compelled to follow up in each of those instances, and it turned out to be every bit as eye-opening as a train wreck.

I can certainly understand following up on the provided URL (since the candidate clearly wanted it followed, or he/she wouldn’t have provided it), but how much detective work is too much? Yes, a Google search takes 2 minutes, and can provide you with a lot of publically accessible info on the person. But LOTS of public information isn’t allowed to be asked in an interview (for instance, whether the candidate is married is public information, in the form of a marriage license, but it is off limits for a job interview). What would the legal ramifications be if Job Applicant A was denied a position, discovered that it was partially due to a Google search (which happened to reveal his/her marital status) and sued the university on that grounds? I don’t know the answer, but I’m willing to bet that it’s possible there’s a case there.

Worst of all, for professional academics, it’s a publishing medium with no vetting process, no review board, and no editor. The author is the sole judge of what constitutes publishable material, and the medium allows for instantaneous distribution. After wrapping up a juicy rant at 3 a.m., it only takes a few clicks to put it into global circulation

“Worst of all…”????? That’s the best aspect of the publication medium in question. The harkens back to the academic bias I talked about in the past, as well as the wonderful piece by Jeff Pomerantz that I’ve pointed to before. Unfiltered writing is powerful writing.

The most worrisome part of the article by far is this jewel of a paragraph:

The content of the blog may be less worrisome than the fact of the blog itself. Several committee members expressed concern that a blogger who joined our staff might air departmental dirty laundry (real or imagined) on the cyber clothesline for the world to see. Past good behavior is no guarantee against future lapses of professional decorum.

Sure…and a clean record of sanity and lack of criminal record is no guarantee that the applicant won’t come into work and bludgeon everyone to death with his copy of the OED either. If you don’t trust your potential employee because he/she writes things that others might read…well…let’s just say that’s a bit on the paranoid side. Ok, I’ll be a little more blunt: it’s fucking stupid (see, that’s exactly the sort of thing they were worried about…).

I’d love to hear others thoughts on this topic….esp. the legality of the searches/disqualifications due to online information. The “to blog or not to blog” question is one that came up repeatedly during both Betsy and my job interviews these past couple of years, and I’m not sure there’s an easy, across-the-board answer. I made a choice that if a committee decided they didn’t want me because of my blogging, then I certainly didn’t want to work there, and that was fine.

EDIT: Thanks to Justin, here’s a couple of other people discussing this article: Tygar-blog and Planned Obsolescence.

EDIT (2): Another note on the article over at PomeRantz.

6 thoughts on “Blogs and Jobs

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  2. Trish sent me the article the other day. I was floored at the people who voluntarily gave up their URLs. During my own job search I had my name removed from the blogosphere just so google wouldn’t out me.

  3. This brings up an interesting point. Today I was at a client site and the developer pulled up my personal blog, all proud of himself. I was floored. That is the first time my personal blog has crossed over into my professional life and it made me uncomfortable. I don’t really want my clients to know that I’m on a diet or that I had a fun weekend. I had to mention that I did keep a tech/work-related blog at blog.write-tech.com and perhaps he’d be more interested in reading that. But I was still uncomfortable. I put the information in the public domain though – I should have expected this to happen.
    Now, I never mention client names on my blog and I never air my grievances beyond “I’m just swamped!”, which in my case is not a bad thing, really. But think about the people who do use their blogs to bitch and moan about work. This guy just google’d me and found it.
    I fully agree with you that there are privacy issues that need to be addressed – how much is too much information? Does reading a prospective employee’s blog violate confidentiality violate their privacy when the information is public on the web? Probably not. But making a hiring decision based on information in the blog (such as whether or not the applicant has kids) should be considered wrong. I also think it’s wrong to make a decision based on information that may never, ever appear in the blog.
    On the flip side are the people who have corporate-sponsored blogs. Microsoft, for instance, gives their employees blogs, although there are rules. One Microsoft HR girl successfully uses her blog to ferret out the best and brightest to hire for Microsoft. Google also gives their employees blogs (of course, Google owns Blogger). Used correctly, companies can use blogs to help raise awareness of their firm through happy and clever employees.
    I suppose the Blogging Backlash had to start somewhere.

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