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May 22, 2019

Facebook’s talent problems

Written by Simon Gittings
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Facebook has a talent problem. As reported in CNBC, the world’s largest social media network has struggled to recruit people in the aftermath of the 2018 Cambridge Analytica data abuse scandal. Facebook has realized a decline in job offer acceptance rates to software engineer candidates from nearly 90 percent in 2016 to about 50 percent in 2019. CNBC also reports that it’s getting easier for startups to poach talent from Facebook. The struggle to recruit is especially troublesome for Facebook, which relies on a steady pipeline of engineering talent to innovate. According to CNBC:

Among top schools, such as Stanford, Carnegie Mellon and Ivy League universities, Facebook’s acceptance rate for full-time positions offered to new graduates has fallen from an average of 85% for the 2017-2018 school year to between 35% and 55% as of December, according to former Facebook recruiters. The biggest decline came from Carnegie Mellon University, where the acceptance rate for new recruits dropped to 35%. 

Based on input from former recruiters, Facebook faces two problems:

  • Lack of transparency and trust: job candidates are concerned about the company’s approach to privacy. Facebook has committed multiple gaffes that demonstrate a less-than-open stance toward how it manages consumer data and reports
  • Misalignment of values: there is a perception that the company’s values are out of favor with students who seek employment with places where they can make a difference. A number don’t use Facebook as much as previous generations do and therefore don’t believe in its value to connect people.

The CNBC story hits at a time when Facebook continues to face scrutiny and criticism. Co-founder Chris Hughes wrote a highly cited New York Times editorial calling for the break-up of Facebook, citing a lack of accountability and breaches of public trust.

Facebook can ill afford this kind of ongoing criticism. Millennial-era recruits, the largest generation in the workforce, want to work for companies that align with their personal values. Three quarters of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company, and they increasingly value purpose over pay. In addition, millennials crave transparency. These are areas where Facebook has been suffering a black eye.

Where does Facebook go from here? When it comes to the misalignment of values, Facebook can and should emphasize how it works to make the world better. Its Careers page features stories from employees who are proud to be making the world better. But the Careers page is not consistent with what candidates are hearing and reading the news media. Facebook needs to do a better job addressing those issues more transparently on its website. Being more transparent won’t solve all of Facebook’s challenges, but transparency is an important step in the right direction.

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