This thread is about two separate but likely closely related topics!
Discussion topic the first. A friend (okay, it was Arch) directed me to a recent episode of PATV in which our lauded leaders of ludological levity interview for a Child's Play manager:
The salient bits start about 5 minutes in. The intelligent and attractive young lady lands the job (omg spoilers!) but not before Robert Khoo discusses a particular concern... during the screening process, Robert uncovered the interviewee's identity on a forum in which the interviewee had been posting for years.
Here's the thing. I would love to hire you, but I have some pretty major concerns. Primarily, what we had talked about earlier as far as your - I dunno whether it's your prowess on the Internet, or whether it's being very connected online. I have read everything that you have posted in the last five years.
Now, in this case, I understand and sympathize with Robert's actions. The Child's Play Manager is a very visible role, likely with PR-related duties, with a strong Internet presence. Anything that Khoo can find, the gamers of the world can find, and they will be far less forgiving than he is. There is a clear business justification.
That said, this is becoming more common, even among jobs that aren't nearly as Internet-reliant or as visible as the CP Manager. In the absence of a clear strong business interest, is it ethical for a business to use the Internet to snoop into their personal lives? I think it's fine to do some basic background screening - did this person go to the school they claimed to go to, do the companies they claimed to work for exist, etc. If the employer uncovers a personal blog, or Livejournal, or forum account, are they justified in reading those posts in detail?
Furthermore, if they don't find anything that is a professional red flag, but the interviewer finds something about that interviewee's personal life that they simply don't like - the wrong political affiliation, for instance - that is unrelated to the job responsibilities, is it ethically wrong for the interviewer to factor that into his or her decision?
That leads me to question the second: how important is it that employees, coworkers, and supervisors be personally compatible as friends? The general wisdom is that it shouldn't matter if you like your boss or your coworker as a person, as long as you respect them and get along professionally. A new poster started a thread earlier with the following passage:
Just got finished watching part two of the Child's Play new hire video. Maybe it’s just how the videos are edited, but it seems like the PA offices are extremely "cliquish". Working for a small company myself I can understand the importance of getting the right people in the right positions and that team chemistry is a very important goal, however it seems the staffing decisions at PA have gotten to the point where alternative viewpoints or lifestyles are shunned. Even though the PA definition of "outside the norm" is not your typical corporate ivory tower, it seems to be enforced just as vigorously and dogmatically.
Robert and the others clearly have a defined vision for where Penny Arcade is going, but by ruthlessly purging and avoiding any staff who might not perfectly fit the mold, they run the risk of losing out on the unexpected gestalt, the outsider point-of-view, and the benefits of new ways of thinking.
Personally, it sounds like a very fun “as long as you are having the fun we call fun” place to work, and I wouldn’t take a job there if they paid me in gold coins.
I sympathize with this. I don't want to feel like I have to be buddies with my boss. I don't always have a lot of choice about who I work for and as long as I get the job done, it shouldn't matter if I like golf or UHC, country music or techno, NPR or Fox. And I've found that at very small businesses, it's hard to keep your personal life out of the business - politics and hobbies end up topics of conversation at some point, and if you have non-work-related personal friction with somebody, there's really nowhere to go. In a small environment, there are no other projects or departments to transfer to, no other cubicles to move to. I tend to prefer medium-to-large organizations largely because of this; I like the impersonal nature of them.
However, I'm in the fortunate position right now of working for a boss who I personally like. We see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. I daresay, this alone has improved my working mood immensely. I recently read an article (sadly, I can't find it now) by a semi-famous writer (whose name I can't remember) who argues that finding a boss who you like, as a person, should be a goal for any worker. You will be happier and more productive if your boss is also a friend.
So, what do you think? Is it okay for interviewers to snoop on the personal lives of their candidates, and is it okay for them to base hiring decisions on personal compatibility?