Do You Review the Social Media of Job Candidates?

It’s tempting, but the Harvard Business Review says there are reasons to be cautious.

Good morning! 

Here are today’s highlights:

  • Childcare employment is way down, and that’s a problem for all of us.

  • There’s opportunity in those vacant storefronts.

  • The president’s vaccine mandate is further proof that no one knows how to define a “small” business.

  • This week’s Dashboard conversation with Gene Marks.

MARKETING

As Google and Apple enact new privacy rules, small advertisers grapple with the fallout: “Consider Seven Sisters Scones, a mail-order pastry shop in Johns Creek, Ga., which relies on Facebook ads to promote its items. Nate Martin, who leads the bakery’s digital marketing, said that after Apple blocked some ad tracking, its digital marketing campaigns on Facebook became less effective. Because Facebook could no longer get as much data on which customers like baked goods, it was harder for the store to find interested buyers online. ‘Everything came to a screeching halt,’ Mr. Martin said. In June, the bakery’s revenue dropped to $16,000 from $40,000 in May.”

  • “To offset the declines, Seven Sisters Scones has discussed increasing prices on sampler boxes to $36 from $29.”

  • “Apple declined to comment, but its executives have said advertisers will adapt.”

  • "Google said it was working on an approach that would protect people’s data but also let advertisers continue targeting users with ads.” READ MORE

HUMAN RESOURCES

Should employers screen the social media of job candidates? The Harvard Business Review says no: “According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70 percent of employers check out applicants’ profiles as part of their screening process, and 54 percent have rejected applicants because of what they found. Social media sites offer a free, easily accessed portrait of what a candidate is really like, yielding a clearer idea of whether that person will succeed on the job—or so the theory goes. However, new research suggests that hiring officials who take this approach should use caution: Much of what they dig up is information they are ethically discouraged or legally prohibited from taking into account when evaluating candidates—and little of it is predictive of performance.”

  • “A significant share of profiles contained details that companies may be legally prohibited from considering, including gender, race, and ethnicity (evident in 100 percent percent of profiles), disabilities (7 percent), pregnancy status (3 percent), sexual orientation (59 percent), political views (21 percent), and religious affiliation (41 percent).

  • “‘You can see why many recruiters love social media—it allows them to discover all the information they aren’t allowed to ask about during an interview,’ says Chad Van Iddekinge, a professor at the University of Iowa and one of the study’s researchers.”

  • “‘We aren’t saying that the information there is useless,’ Van Iddekinge says, ‘but we don’t yet have the tools to find the signal in all the noise.’” READ MORE

The childcare industry’s business model isn’t working: “Hiring and retaining good workers has been tough in the child care industry for years, but it is escalating into a crisis. Pandemic-fueled staffing challenges threaten to hold back the recovery, as the staffing problems at day cares have a ripple effect across the economy. Without enough staff, day cares are turning away children, leaving parents — especially mothers — unable to return to work.”

  • “While many industries complain they can’t find enough workers, the hiring situation is more dire in child-care than restaurants right now.”

  • “Nearly 1.6 million moms of children under 17 are still missing from the labor force. They dropped out during the pandemic to care for children and have not been able to return ...”

  • “[The] Treasury Department called the current child-care system ‘unworkable’ with high costs for parents, low wages for workers and not enough spots for kids.”

  • “‘The pay is absolute crap for what’s required for the position,’ said Tanzie Roberts, who quit in June.” READ MORE

OPPORTUNITIES

Across Manhattan, store closings have created one vacancy after another, especially in midtown: “But in a city where one person’s downturn is someone else’s opportunity, some restaurant chains are taking advantage of the record-low retail rents to set up shop or expand their presence. In the second quarter, food and beverage companies signed 23 new leases in Manhattan, leading apparel retailers, which signed 10, according to the commercial real estate services firm CBRE. Shake Shack and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen were among those signing new rental agreements this year. So was the burger chain Sonic, which signed a lease for its first Manhattan outpost, replacing a Pax Wholesome Foods location in Midtown.”

  • “The Philippines-based chicken joint Jollibee, which enjoys a committed following, plans to open a massive flagship restaurant in Times Square.”

  • “A quarter of the ground-floor storefronts in Lower Manhattan are available for rent, while about a third are available in Herald Square, according to a report by the real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield.” READ MORE

THE COVID ECONOMY

With winter still months away, natural gas prices are surging: “U.S. natural-gas futures ended Friday at $5.105 per million British thermal units. They were about half that six months ago and have leapt 17 percent this month. It is supposed to be off-season for demand, and prices haven’t climbed so high since blizzards froze the Northeast in early 2014. Analysts say that it might not have to get that cold this winter for prices to reach heights unknown during the shale era, which transformed the U.S. from a gas importer to supplier to the world. Rock-bottom gas prices have been a reliable feature of the U.S. economy since the financial crisis. Gas crashed and never recovered thanks to the abundance extracted with sideways drilling and hydraulic fracturing.” READ MORE

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STARTUPS

The founder of Kayak has a startup that offers a way to sample podcasts: “There are many high-quality podcasts out there — maybe too many. But Boston entrepreneur Paul English, cofounder of the popular travel site Kayak, thinks he’s got the solution to finding the ones you’ll want to listen to: an app called Moonbeam that works like speed-dating for podcasts. Moonbeam, which launched this summer, lets smartphone users rapidly sample audio snippets from hundreds of popular podcasts, simply by swiping a finger. ‘I have to admit it was based in part on the app TikTok,’ said English, who’s also chief technology officer of Lola.com, a Boston company that makes travel and budget management software for businesses.”

  • “After installing Moonbeam, the user can choose from a host of topics, including science, politics, history, comedy, religion, and crime. The app will display each podcast’s logo, and begin playing a clip from a recent episode.”

  • “‘We give you the best two minutes of every show,’ said English. ‘If you don’t like it, swipe up.’ Instantly a new podcast will appear, and a sample begins to play.” READ MORE

Formr is a furniture maker with a social mission: “The name of the one-year-old company starts with the word ‘form’ and relates to the formerly incarcerated individuals hired to produce the pieces from formerly used (repurposed) wood. The minimalist, playful lap desks, candleholders, floating end tables and wine racks (there are 12 designs) come in quirky colors such as pink, chartreuse or mint and have offbeat names like the ‘HANGover’ coat rack and the ‘SHELFish’ shelf. Priced from $89 to $619, they are handmade in a one-time car repair shop in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley, a once gritty area that has become a hip neighborhood in the heart of the city.”

  • “He set a launch date of March 11, 2020, an inauspicious choice, as the world started shutting down because of the coronavirus.”

  • “But he had at least two good things going for him: He was making small-scale furniture suitable for people working at home, and it was sold online.”

  • “In June, West Elm added Formr to its Local online program, which showcases handcrafted and artisan-made products from 150 small businesses, bringing the designs of underserved communities to a national audience.” READ MORE

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CYBERSECURITY

The Biden administration is targeting ransomware attacks by sanctioning financial exchanges that facilitate crypto payments to hackers: “The sanctions could be imposed as early as next week, said a person familiar with the matter, who like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an initiative that is not yet public. The move is part of a broader administration strategy to deter ransomware attacks, in which cybercriminals lock up victims’ computers with data-encrypting malware and then demand exorbitant fees to unlock them. Those fees are generally paid in cryptocurrency, a digital form of money traded through a series of private wallets and public exchanges that can be difficult to track.” READ MORE

REGULATION

Why are companies with fewer than 100 employees excluded from the mandate? “It’s an appealingly round, easy-to-remember number, and it captures a broad swath of the American workforce. President Biden estimated that his order would apply to 80 million employees and cover two-thirds of all workers. But as a dividing line between a ‘big’ business and a ‘small’ one, it’s a threshold not found in any other major federal or state law. There was no explanation for how or why the number was chosen. And for entrepreneurs who employ a smattering of workers, that’s an increasingly common challenge: Every time lawmakers invent a new regulation, they also make up a new definition of which businesses count as small.”

  • “The Affordable Care Act set 50 as the number of workers after which employers would be required to offer health insurance.”

  • “Most [companies] become subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act — the law that governs minimum wages and overtime rules — when sales surpass $500,000.”

  • “One of the few federal rules to draw a 100-person line is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s requirement that businesses that size and larger submit annual reports on their workforce demographics.”

  • “The Small Business Administration, which orchestrated the popular Paycheck Protection Program, generally considers any company with fewer than 500 employees a ‘small’ one.” READ MORE

THE 21 HATS PODCAST

Dashboard: Gene Marks and I are back today with our weekly conversation where we highlight the news stories business owners should be watching this week. Today, Gene explains why he changed his mind about the president’s vaccine mandate. Plus: how smaller businesses can pay $3,000 hiring bonuses—and get the government to pay for it. How some restaurants take advantage of their tipped employees. And are we finally done with business cards? You can find Dashboard in your 21 Hats Podcast feed or subscribe wherever you get podcasts. You can also try it here.

If you see a story that business owners should know about, hit reply and send me the link. If you got something out of this email, you can click the heart symbol, you can click the comment icon below, and you can share it with a friend. Thanks for reading, everyone. — Loren