Remember back in the old days of the internet when pictures took whole minutes to download and we just had the words people used to make a judgement on who that person was. Remember how you could get to know someone without ever seeing their face and the only way to find out what they looked like was to actually be in the same room as them? Well thank god that’s all over and done with, eh? Isn’t it so much better now that we have video and pictures to accompany those words? Isn’t it so much more preferable now you can really get to know people properly?
Well, yes, mostly – but if you’re a 21st century business and you’re using social media to recruit for new staff, there’s a couple of things you should bear in mind.
A couple of days ago Mashable posted a list of 10 creative social media resumes, and of their 10 examples, 8 included photographs/film of the applicants. “So what?” I hear you cry. “In this social era, it’s important to get to know the person you’re hiring – it’s all about the personality”. Which may be true, but it’s also means that you may be discriminating against large numbers of very talented people, potentially falling foul of equalities legislation *and* missing out on the best person for the job.
Now I’m not saying that *you* would discriminate against someone who was old/female/disabled/ugly/black/brummy/fat, in fact I’m absolutely sure that *you* would never dream of doing such a thing, but study after study after study after study shows that if you are a member of a minority group you are statistically much less likely to be invited to interview for a job than someone who is a member of the majority group – so plenty of people out there *are* discriminating.
This is particularly likely to be a problem in the creative industries, because if you want to work in this sector then it can really help to have a creative CV, and the industry is full of relatively small companies who recruit on an ad hoc basis when someone talented comes along – and the more social media CVs become the norm, the more we are likely to see direct and indirect discrimination.
A Victorian judge once remarked that “the doors of the courts, like The Ritz Hotel, are open to all”. And YouTube and Facebook CVs are just as equitable, since there is nothing to stop anyone creating their own version to send to potential employers. But unlike at The Ritz, the currency required is not cash, but the ability to be photogenic, or good in front of the camera, or just simply to look like the sort of person that the company is used to hiring.
Even assuming that the person who gets the CV somehow manages to set their preconceived ideas aside (which would probably require them to be Mr Spock), someone who is visibly part of a minority group, will be aware that they are likely to face some level of discrimination when applying for a job. An application process that assumes that they will display their ‘otherness’ up front may well put them off, and if they opt for a more traditional CV then they risk being thought of as less creative, less talented, than the person who is unafraid to stand in front of a camera.
In a standard recruitment process, where candidates apply for a specific job vacancy, there is usually an attempt to avoid these issues – personal information is used for monitoring purposes and removed from applications before they are processed . But when you are making judgements on a case by case basis, as CVs drop into your inbox, it can be much harder. How do you know whether you are dismissing or accepting them because you feel they would/wouldn’t be a good fit for your current team, culturally, rather than on the merits of their qualifications and experience?
The irony is, of course, that the creative industries thrives on new ideas and new points of view, and the more diverse the workforce a company has, the more opportunity there is for them to discover new concepts and new markets. If you limit your new staff intake to the shiny, the polished, and the self-assured standard, then you risk ending up with a shiny, polished, standard company that produces shiny, polished, standard results.
But how can you get round this without cutting yourself off from the talented people that want to approach you? If you’re happy to accept spec CVs resumes and applications then here are my suggestions:
Set some guidelines, for instance no photos, no details of your age or gender, and any videos must feature someone other than yourself – Unless you are recruiting for a job that specifically requires someone to spend time in front of a camera, there is absolutely no reason to expect them to have that skill in order to get the job.
Or set some creative job related tasks for them to do, let them show you how good they are – yes, you’re hiring the person, but this isn’t some cheap hook-up dating agency, you really do want them for what’s on the inside, so give them the opportunity to let that shine through.