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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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royatkinson0
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royatkinson0,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/22/2012 | 12:22:38 PM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
I hope that candidates realize that they would be giving up far more than their Facebook password. Without even going into the privacy issues, there are larger dangers here. Because social login is becoming so common, the username and password they give up could allow login under their credentials to hundreds of sites.

Those who refuse to give up the information should be hired on the basis of being trustworthy: They probably wouldn't give up their company username and password, either.

Or are we training people to give up everything to get a job?
aeisen079
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aeisen079,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/22/2012 | 10:34:36 AM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
As an Active Directory and Messaging Administrator in my organization, I've told other account admins in no uncertain terms that, if it were up to me, anyone who provides access to another person's account by changing the AD password should be terminated post haste. It violates the integrity of the environment and invalidates auditing. This situation seems similar to me.

Why would I work for a company that requests user passwords to access information as the user? It makes me question the policies of the company itself
just_me
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just_me,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/22/2012 | 3:08:52 AM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
I would never show my facebook page during an interview. My personal life and time is none of their business as I am being hired to work 8 hours a day, five days a week - baring any overtime.

The interview is a two way street as I am interviewing the person who is interviewing me to see if I want to work for them as much as they are seeing if I am a good fit for their business needs. Any place that asks such a backwards question would immediatley be written off in my book and the interview would be over as far as I was concerned.

Questions during an interview process like that show me it might not be a place I want to go to everyday. All they need to see is my portfolio, work experience and reccomendations. If there are still questions after a couple of indepth interviews it just wasn't meant to be.
ssedghi142
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ssedghi142,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/22/2012 | 1:38:39 AM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
Before this article, the last time I heard anyone was asking for your Facebook id and password was after Iranian rigged election in 2009 and the riots following that. Any Young Iranian who was entering the country at that time was asked by intelligent officers for Facebook id and password, to check if they have not posted anything against the government.

Unfortunately the current job market allows these companies to invade people's privacy, and the same time downgrade themselves to the level of the intelligent officers of countries like Iran and Syria.
Bprince
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Bprince,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2012 | 10:17:22 PM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
Sounds pretty invasive to me. The only exception I could see is if it were some sort of national security-related position.
Brian Prince, InformationWeek/Dark Reading Comment Moderator
Bseitz
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Bseitz,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2012 | 9:08:01 PM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
I've no problem with potential employer reading my facebook or blogs; in point of fact several of my employers have. I don't consider either of these private, if I restricted access to these that would be another story as I wouldn't give them access to a written personal diary.

Now asking for the password I think goes above and beyond rasonable. I guess I'd be o.k with it as long as they're willing to give me the password to corporate financial and legal accounts, their D&B account, etc. After all, they're trusting I'm acting legally and ethically, shouldn't I be able to verify the same regarding the company and Executive Officers...
CNAYAKWADIM4
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CNAYAKWADIM4,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2012 | 8:18:14 PM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
As far as social profile is considered ,most of the times people always try to resemble some thing different on there social profile than what they are as a person to be Great or to get more marketing of themself.So i wish good luck to the HR if they are more interested in the social profile than the real person who is sitting in front of you, and we should leave the de-scion to the person who is attending the interview whether he want to take the job with the company where the people doesnt belive in people but in Virtual Profile .
ShadJC
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ShadJC,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2012 | 8:17:34 PM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
It's pretty ridiculous! Any company that would request access to your personal Facebook account is seriously behind the times and clearly doesn't understand the role and importance of the social media channels today. In fact, it could be used as an applicant screening question, because anyone dumb enough to give someone the username and password to their personal account is clearly willing to do anything in a given situation if it could potentially benefit them. I for one would like to see a website that keeps an up-to-date list of all the companies that have requested a job applicant's Facebook username and password. We can call it the 'Wall of Shame'! I think it would put a quick end to the use of that tactic, as it would be a reference site for job seekers to use to quickly rule out those companies. Then we'll see how much leverge they have once their total number of qualified applicants plummets! No one should have I waste their time with some lame organization stuck in the dark ages!
tmmaurer
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tmmaurer,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2012 | 8:08:55 PM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
I don't understand how it is defensible. By law, prospective employers aren't allowed to ask age or other discriminatory questions. Yet most of this kind of information would be instantly available by viewing someone's Facebook account. Highly inappropriate, and I would think also highly illegal.
iosax
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iosax,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2012 | 7:57:06 PM
re: Job Seekers Asked For Facebook Passwords: Debate Roars
i would give it to him then sue the company, i'm sure there are enough hungry lawyers out there
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