The Job Interview: “We’re Going To Need Your Facebook Password…”

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Unemployment18If you are reading this article on LinkedIn.com, chances are pretty favorable that you also have an account on Facebook.com, which you use for networking with family and friends, or keeping up with topics which interest you.

Within the last couple of years, Corporate Recruiters and Interviewers have integrated some surprising and controversial new job seeker screening practices into their quest to find viable Job Candidates for their clients/corporations. These practices have come to be known as “shoulder surfing” and “force friending”. This new arrow in the Recruiter/Interviewer’s quiver ultimately involves asking the Job Candidate for their Facebook password.

“Shoulder surfing” is a practice which involves the Interviewer asking a candidate in an interview to log in to his or her Facebook account, in order for the Human Resources Department to screen “friends-only” postings for lurid party photos, questionable activities, drug use or racial/religious/gender slurs that might be revealed in a job seeker’s private online life.

“Force friending” frequently occurs among college athletic departments where administrators require players to friend them in order to keep tabs on potential non-compliant activities by their NCAA athletes.

Additionally, some types of employers, particularly law enforcement agencies, have been requesting the Facebook password of a job seeker, right on the job application.

By now, you are probably thinking,

Wait a minute. Isn’t that an Invasion of Privacy?

Unfortunately, as wrong as one might find these practices from a privacy and free speech perspective, there is no specific law preventing them, at least for now.

According to legal experts, employers are walking a fine line in demanding access to employee or applicants’ personal social media accounts. In fact  ACLU-backed legislation is in the works in several states.

Jennifer Corso, who is an employment law attorney that represents businesses, advises against the practice.

In my opinion, while these practices may be legal, it opens the employer up to several types of employment discrimination claims and should not be practiced. It is very possible that the Facebook page would reveal information about the applicant that would otherwise be the subject of illegal interview questions.” She cites the revealing of age and race, a medical condition, religious affiliation, even comments about planning to start a family are often evident on private posts; “if that applicant isn’t selected, the employer may be put in a position to show that it didn’t rely on that private information in making their decision.

Facebook itself has warned in the past that the practice “undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends” and “potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability.”

So, what do you do if the Interviewer puts on the spot and asks you for your Facebook Password? After all, you want the job, but, you do not want the prospective employer dissecting your personal life, like an Eighth Grade Biology Student dissecting a frog.

From theladders.com, here are some responses to give politely give to the Interviewer, which, hopefully, will allow you to protect your privacy on Facebook. (As usual, the questions are the authors. The analysis, including any smart alack remarks that may pop up, are mine.)

1. I take my agreements very seriously. And it is against Facebook’s user policy to share my password with anyone else. I’m going to have to respectfully decline your request.

Because if you tell the Interviewer, “it’s none of your business”, you will be shown the door…post haste.

2. I’m sure your firm has a social media policy. Well, it is my own social media policy to use Facebook for personal reasons. I mean no offense, but I’m going to have to decline.

Or, perhaps you could ask the Interviewer for their Facebook password…and, watch them respond with the “deer in the headlights” “eyes glazed over” look.

3. Privacy is a very serious matter for me. Should I be employed with your organization, I would honor private company information just as seriously as I honor my own. Even if this means losing a great opportunity for me, I must refuse your request. And know that if I were presented with a similar situation with your private information, I would respond in the same way.

This response shows the potential Employer that you possess strength of character…a rare trait nowadays….a trait that any employer worth their salt should be looking for in a job candidate.

4. I wouldn’t want to jeopardize your organization’s standing with OFCCP’s (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs) regulations about asking about kids or other protected private matters in the course of an employment decision. Therefore, if you don’t mind, I’d prefer to keep my Facebook profile private. However, should you and I become friendly after my employment, I would have no problem having you in my network.

Interviewers should be, and probably are, familiar with the OFCCP. This response s a polite inference that you know the legalities of Job Interviewing, as well as they do.

In conclusion, most of us who are Facebook aficionados are just regular folks, whose account consists of pictures of family, friends, pets, and silly pictures with funny quips on them. However, if you are passionate about your faith, or are outspoken about your political leanings, that is your business, and should not affect whether you are hired for a job, if you are qualified for it.

In my opinion (and, you can take it for what it is worth), that is why having a LinkedIn.com account is so important.

LinkedIn.com presents a great overall view of your professional qualifications to a potential employer, in a clear and concise manner.

Leave Facebook for Personal Interests.

Hey. Who came up with “Caturday”, anyway?

Never give up. Never Surrender.

-Allen

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