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Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars

As part of the vetting process, some companies are asking job candidates to provide their Facebook credentials. Would you? Should you?

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It's the job of your dreams. Your resume was one of those selected from among hundreds submitted. You've made it through a phone screener and then several in-person interviews with key company players. You can feel it--the job is yours. Now, all you have to do is provide your Facebook password.

Would you? Should you?

An Associated Press story picked up by the Boston Globe, among many other media outlets, tells the tale of a New York statistician who was surprised when asked by a job interviewer for his Facebook user name and password. The candidate withdrew his application, saying he didn't want to work for a company that would ask for such information. But this was apparently not an isolated incident. It's common practice for companies to check out job candidates' social media presence as part of the vetting process (hence, all those recommendations about not posting compromising photos, inflammatory comments, and the like), but as more and more people utilize Facebook's privacy controls to lock down their profiles, companies are apparently asking job candidates to give up the keys to their Facebook kingdoms.

Is that as invasive as it sounds? Yes, according to social media and HR experts contacted by The BrainYard, not to mention a group of Facebook users who responded with a resounding and collective "No way!" when asked on the social network itself if they would give up their password to get a job.

"I have heard about recruiters and hiring managers performing searches on social media channels when vetting out candidates, but directly asking for a password is akin to asking for the password to an employee's email account or other password-protected material," said Jake Wengroff, global director, social media strategy and research, Frost & Sullivan. "It is a clear invasion of privacy."

The fact that companies feel they can even ask is a sign that we're still in an employer's market, said Bruce Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing. "They think that in this market, they can do whatever they want," he said. "They don't need the candidates; the candidates need them. They think they can get away with it."

Ari Lightman, distinguished service professor, digital media and marketing, and director of the CIO Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, said the practice may be surprising but is in many ways understandable given the fact that we're dealing with newer technology where legal precedent has yet to be established.

[ Perhaps these hiring managers should consider 4 Rules For Managing Millenials In IT. ]

"Employers and some colleges have been asking for Facebook passwords as a mechanism to better profile potential applicants," Lightman told The BrainYard. "From the employer perspective, they are trying to rule out any illicit behavior that would lead to diminished performance at work or dismissal. I don't think it is too prevalent, but the few cases are becoming very public, especially as watchdog groups like the ACLU become involved."

Lightman said he believes that it will eventually be deemed unlawful to require an applicant to provide a Facebook password as part of the recruitment process. But, in the meantime, what are applicants put in this awkward position supposed to do? Given the still-tight economy, would you hand over your password if asked during an interview?

"I would probably friend the interviewer, but hand over a password? I think not," said one Facebook user in response to this question.

"I would not. There's nothing on my wall or news feed I'd be embarrassed by, but who wants to work for a company that goes to such measures?" said another.

"No way, no how."

"No ... as I would not give my password to ANYONE."

"I would say have a nice day and leave."

"[It's] an invasion of privacy in my book. I don't think [the interviewer] would give me theirs if I asked.

"Not unless they have a court order! I don't want to work for ANYONE that much."

"NO WAY! If they want to know what I post, friend me, but anything else is a huge invasion! Plus, how do I know they won't post something that is totally inappropriate?

"Nope. I'd delete my account before I'd give someone else access to it."

"No! I would tell them what they can do with their job, even if I were desperate for work."

Frost & Sullivan's Wengroff suggests a middle ground, as well as some general advice: "I would agree to walk a recruiter through my Facebook page that I signed in to, but I would not hand over the password," he said. "However, as a best-practice, job seekers--or anyone with a public-facing persona--should always think twice about posting, sharing and commenting on potentially objectionable content on Facebook. It shouldn't have to come down to a job interview to think twice about what you post on Facebook.

Would you give up your credentials under any circumstances? What do you see happening with regard to this issue moving forward? Please comment below or write me at debra.donstonmiller@gmail.com.

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NJ Mike
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NJ Mike,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2012 | 6:22:36 PM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
I wouldn't even log on and walk through my Facebook page with an interviewer. How do I know they don't have a keystroke reader, so they can get my log on information that way. And even if I don't have any inappriopriate posts or pictures, what if the interviewer doesn't like a political or social group that I "LIKE". I wouldn't even friend them. What I have on a social media site is my personal business. What next? A webcam in my bedroom?
pmoore520
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pmoore520,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2012 | 6:38:40 PM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
My Facebook page is no one's business but mine!
so my answer is "Hell No!!!"
YG100
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YG100,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2012 | 6:55:34 PM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
There is nothing even to discuss. Should you give them keys to your apartment/home to do some search/investigation?
pgreen017
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pgreen017,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2012 | 7:09:06 PM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
In cases like this I think it is useful to come up with a real-world analogy. I submit that handing over your Facebook (or Twitter, or whatever) login ID and password is analogous to handing over the key to your house. Would we let a potential employer walk around our house, opening drawers, looking at our letters, checking our diary, little black books, and contents of our liquor cabinet? I think not. (I just re-read the story and realized this very point is raised in the story by Orin Kerr of GWU, who calls it "an egregious privacy violation." Quite).

But who are these rumored employers anyway? The AP story has just two examples, only one of which names a specific organization (the Maryland Dept. of Public Safety and Correction). Is the story getting ahead of the game?
lhassan606
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lhassan606,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2012 | 7:15:40 PM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
Wrong on a couple of different levels. Password sharing is illegal in a couple of places since sharing accounts makes the RIAA twitch and squirm and this, technically is account sharing. So in some instances a potential employer could be asking you to do something illegal. Next of course if a person decides to give up their FB password (or any social network account access) they are exposing their friends and relatives without permission or authorization...In the case of the article picked up by the Boston Globe there was also a pretty clear case of profiling, really stupid on the employer's part. Most firms that we work with, will do background checks but always with authorization of the person being checked. @NJ...check out the latest Wired, the NSA is already in your bedroom :-)
cyberscan
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cyberscan,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2012 | 7:23:56 PM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
Yes, I will be glad to hand over the password to my Facebook account, at least the one set up to make me look like a shining employee that is. That way, they are happy, my privacy is still intact, and hopefully, I get the job.
ANON1241631011972
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ANON1241631011972,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2012 | 7:30:30 PM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
No. And it reflects poorly on the company's security policies that they would even ask for access to an account not on their system. The correct response is for the candidate to ask the interviewer to reciprocate by giving the candidate a password to the CEO's email inbox and stored correspondence so that the candidate could check out what kind of character the leadership of the company has. Fair enough?
ANON1246035364753
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ANON1246035364753,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2012 | 7:36:16 PM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
That's a security violation. Everybody knows that you're never to give anyone your user ID or password. DUHH!!! Seriously though, I would consider it an invasion of privacy and respectfully decline. I don't have anything to hide but I don't need everyone knowing all of my business. Should I give them my email credentials and a spare key to my house and car too? GET REAL!!!!
STRATEGICITCONS
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STRATEGICITCONS,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2012 | 7:43:06 PM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
While it's puzzling a prospective employer would request login credentials to sign in as you in order to evaluate you for potential employment, in my opinion it's only Facebook and not your credit report or your college transcript. Actually logging in as you on social media should be reserved for high level government agency background checks and not run-of-the-mill employers. Potential employers should consider nothing more than having you friend them and affording the same privacy settings as friends. In actuality, there are plenty of other sources available online to determine candidate suitability that may reveal more than Facebook. One thing is for sure, prospective employers are pushing the envelope with regard to FCRA and other federal and state laws by requesting access to personal accounts effectively bypassing certain protections afforded individuals.
PAH
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PAH,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2012 | 7:49:06 PM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
Any organization that thinks they need this and can't discuss appropriate professionalism with employees and candidates is just a poor organization regardless if they are corporate, non-profit, state/provincial or federal /national. This definitely shows laziness and lack of understanding of proper use of websites, privacy etc.
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