Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Facebook fallout continues

The fallout from earlier reports of employers asking applicants for their Facebook passwords continues. Obviously a nerve was struck.

Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Charles E. Schumer formally asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to launch an investigation into whether this practice violates federal laws.

From the press release:

"Blumenthal and Schumer argued that this disturbing practice represents a grave intrusion into personal privacy that could set a dangerous precedent for personal privacy and online privacy, make it more difficult for Americans to get jobs, and expose employers to discrimination claims"

"'With few exceptions, employers do not have the need or the right to demand access to applicants’ private, password-protected information.'”

"'In an age where more and more of our personal information – and our private social interactions – are online, it is vital that all individuals be allowed to determine for themselves what personal information they want to make public and protect personal information from their would-be employers. This is especially important during the job-seeking process, when all the power is on one side of the fence.'"

"In their letter to the Justice Department, Blumenthal and Schumer pointed out that two courts have found that when supervisors request employee login credentials, and access otherwise private information with those credentials, that those supervisors may be subject to civil liability. Although those two cases involved current employees, the courts’ reasoning does not clearly distinguish between employees and applicants."

"Blumenthal and Schumer also announced that they are currently drafting legislation that would seek to fill any gaps in federal law that allow employers to require personal login information from prospective employees to be considered for a job."

In related news, on today's Talk of the Nation show, they discussed this issue with a reporter from Wired magazine and an HR consultant.

There are a lot of issues here, ranging from online privacy to public reputation to discrimination, but one that I think deserves more attention is how employers can legitimately get the type of information they're seeking. Again, we're not talking about a background check for, say, a peace officer position, we're talking about your run-of-the-mill clerical job. Basically employers are hungry for any information like displays of poor judgment, a negative attitude about their employer, duplicity in their application, etc.

How might an employer get this type of information without resorting to asking for applicant passwords? It's pretty simple actually, we go back to the basics such as:

1) Reference checks; highly under-used and maligned, with many organizations unaware of technological advances made in this area that make it more likely they'll get the information they need.

2) Work sample/performance tests that simulate actual job tasks. These can be very effective in determining how an applicant will respond in an actual situation (i.e., where things like judgment are important).

3) Situational judgment tests: a lower fidelity version of a performance test that nonetheless can be very effective at assessing candidate's knowledge of, and propensity to engage in, appropriate behavior in various situations.

4) Personality inventories: made to measure things like conscientiousness, openness to experience, and extraversion, which may all be good or bad things depending on the needs of the position.

Bottom line: there are other--better--forms of assessment out there that have been around for a long time and when done well, do the trick. No need to ask for someone's online diary.

As a reminder, for those of you that are IPAC members, I gave a webinar about this topic about a year and a half ago where I gave an overview of the technology as well as a summary of many of the major challenges inherent in this practice. The recording is available in the Members Only area.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Epic fail: Employers continue asking applicants for Facebook account

The Associated Press put out an article this week about the ongoing trend of employers doing something stupid: asking applicants for their Facebook passwords.

Why stupid? Let me count the ways:

1) It makes the applicants feel like they've applied to a totalitarian regime. And they'll tell others, which goes to your reputation. And what do we know about employer reputation? It drives who applies for your jobs.

2) Employers are likely to see things they wish they hadn't. I don't just mean people passed out drunk at a party, I mean things like religious affiliation.

3) If you're trying to access their profile on your own, many are marked private and you won't see anything.

4) If you ask them to log into their account during the interview, it's like asking to see their personal diary.

5) The content on people's FB page is largely outside their control (e.g., comments, photos they're tagged in).

Oh, and let's not forget:

6) The content of someone's profile--aside from things like education and work history which you should have already--is likely to be totally unrelated to job performance, regardless of its potential usefulness, because frankly most employers aren't graduate students in psychology who have received training on interpreting Big 5 characteristics.

The only caveat I can think of is when this request is made as part of a full background check, in which case pretty much your life is an open book.

Facebook, notoriously unpredictable regarding its privacy policies, subsequently warned employers not to do this...but I don't anticipate that this will stop. Why? Because employers are obsessed (rightfully so) with getting as much--and as varied--information as they possibly can.

This just isn't the right way to do it.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Has your organization given up on rigorous assessment?

I'd like to hear from you:

Has your organization given up on rigorous assessment? Given in to the incessant demands for "faster, cheaper"? Sold its soul to the T&E gods? Failed to replace seasoned, trained, and passionate assessment experts and replaced them with generalists?

Or have you gone the opposite direction--are you innovating and experimenting with new forms of assessment (like the feds are)? Are you selective in whom you choose to work on assessment? Do you resist efforts by management to "dumb down" your selection processes?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Credit scores: Useful for selection, but not for the reason you think

Many employers use credit scores as part of their hiring process, despite the lack of evidence regarding their usefulness, the unpopularity of this practice with applicants, and the fact that the EEOC is not a fan.

Adding to our understanding of the issue, in the March 2012 issue of Journal of Applied Psychology (which I will review fully in my March research update), Jeremy Bernerth and his colleagues describe the results of their study where they found:

1) A significant positive relationship between credit scores and task performance

2) A significant positive relationship between credit scores and OCBs

most likely due to

3) Credit scores being positively related to conscientiousness

because there was

4) No significant relationship between credit scores and workplace deviance, such as theft

Interestingly, credit scores were negatively correlated with agreeableness, which the authors say suggests that more agreeable people are more likely to do things like co-sign on questionable loans.

So the bottom line is credit scores may be valuable because they link to performance ratings and OCBs (likely through personality), not because they predict things like theft.

Which leaves the obvious question: why not just use a personality inventory, which is designed to measure conscientiousness and has little adverse impact (unlike credit scores)?