“She’s too attractive, don’t hire her. She will cause all kinds of sexual harassment problems”, said by an operations manager to me when I was a Human Resource Manager. The statement was made after the Ops manager had reviewed the applications the HR department had provided him after HR had selected the qualified candidates from the applicant pool. The applicants provided to the Ops manager had been scheduled for interviews, but prior to the interviews the Ops manager checked social media sites to view pictures of the applicants. Note that the Ops manager was already blaming the applicant for causing future sexual harassment problems. Needless to say, the Ops manager received an immediate refresher course on the company’s hiring practices. The applicant in question was the most qualified in the group. She was hired and we didn’t have any sexual harassment issues.
Then there was an applicant for a sales position
No matter how many times I tell hiring authorities not to use social media to screen applicants, there are always some managers who feel they are entitled to do whatever they want. Hiring managers are sometimes given access to all the applicants for a position, not just those considered qualified by HR. This resulted in a Sales Manager walking into my office and throwing a picture of a woman on my desk and saying, “I don’t know why HR didn’t select her for interviews, she’s hot. She’s going to open a lot of doors just with her looks.” He went on to say, “I called her and she’s coming in for an interview tomorrow. If I like her, I want her to receive an offer letter before she leaves.” The Sales Manager turned and left my office before I could respond. The woman in question lacked the basic qualifications for the job, but the Sales Manager was a corporate Rock Star and was accustomed to getting his way. Many years ago when I had a similar situation that involved a senior executive not following company hiring practices, I sought advice from my boss who was a Human Resource Vice President. She told me that whenever a senior executive or corporate rock star does something outside of company policies or practices, it’s my job to meet the needs of the executive or manager, but to do so within company policy and practice. The advice she gave me has worked well throughout my career. In the case above I realized that the manager’s goal was to hire someone that could sign new accounts. I found one applicant in the qualified pool that had a lot of new account prospecting experience and convinced the Sales Manager to interview this other person in addition to the hot woman. Then, what so often happens to me in these situations happened again. God intervened, the hot woman was a no show for the interview and we proceeded to hire one of the qualified candidates.
Access to applicant images on social media presents problems that didn’t exist 14 years ago. HR departments need to establish and enforce policies and practices that are legal and provide a fair and equal opportunity for all applicants.
I need to point out that the above events did not take place with my current client.