Why Would You Want An Applicant’s Facebook Password?

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There is a new trend in recruiting.

Find out everything we can, and weed people out for jobs from there.

Wait.

That’s nothing new.

That’s what we do.

  • I’ve been known to Google someone everyone before I make a job offer.
  • I recruit on Facebook and Twitter.
  • I make assumptions about people based on what I see.
  • I’ve tossed applicants in the “no” pile for listing “smokesweed420@gmail.com” as an email address.

It’s human nature to be judgy.  I get it.  I do it, too.

But I think we’re starting to go too far in our quest to know everything we can about an applicant.

A former co-worker of mine told me she was asked for her Facebook password, and she asked me what I thought about it. I was concerned. I asked her how badly she wanted to work for a company that allows her no privacy whatsoever.

Ask yourself this, Recruiters & HR Pros, would YOU share your log in information?

I wouldn’t share mine with you. You don’t NEED to read my private messages.

But if you did, here is what you would find with just my last 10 messages:

  • My mother is recovering from knee surgery.  She has arthritis, and they had to scrape it out. It’s very graphic.
  • My HR friend does not like her company.
  • We’re planning a family vacation.
  • I have a homosexual friend who has found his true love, and he is getting ready to propose.  I am helping decide on the most awesome proposal.
  • My husband and I were invited to go out for drinks with another couple.
  • I’m having a hilarious political debate.
  • I’m courting an applicant and scheduling an interview.
  • My friend has cancer.
  • I’m giving lots of HR advice to a reader.
  • My cousin wants me to know she is cool with my decision to leave the church and find a new one.

These are the big no-no’s you found out about me:

  • My family medical history is all over the place.
  • I support gay marriage.
  • I support my HR friends when they hate their jobs, and I help them find new jobs.
  • I think Ron Paul is sexy in a smart way, and I loathe the thought of Nationalized Healthcare.
  • I’m a Christian who is church shopping.
  • I have a million children (okay, three, but it feels like a million when I think about them on an airplane).
  • I like alcohol.  In particular, I like a new shot that we all tried a few weeks ago (Chocolate Covered Pretzel).

If I had a private profile (which I do), and if I didn’t want you to know these things about me (I couldn’t really care less, but that’s just me, I tend to overshare), YOU WOULD TOTALLY KNOW THEM!

I wondered if a lot of employers are doing this, or if she applied at some rare unicorn magic manifestation factory that doesn’t understand the legal implications that could result from knowing so much.  After all, when you work somewhere that makes unicorn magic, employment law isn’t really that big of a deal.

I turned to Google.

employers asking for facebook password - Google Search

employers asking for facebook password - Google Search-1

Wow! A lot of places are doing this, and they don’t even have unicorn magic at their disposal to keep applicants from suing them!

I know what you’re going to say, “They put it all out there on Facebook anyway.” Yes, some people do.  But some people don’t.  And really, should we even connect with people who don’t desire to make our friendship Facebook official?

I don’t Friend Request an employee or applicant.  If they ask me, I happily accept.  But if they don’t want to share, fine by me.  I’m certainly not taking my ball and going home over it.

I would say I know more HR Pros who refuse to even accept a Friend Request from an applicant or employee because they a) don’t want to know too much about the employees’ personal lives and b) they don’t want the applicant/employee to know too much about their personal lives.

Asking for Facebook passwords is a serious invasion of privacy.

What’s next?  Visiting their homes and opening their kitchen cupboards?

photo (1)

That door stays closed for a reason.  It’s messy in there!

Are you with me or against me on this?  If you’re against me, prove me wrong in the comments.  I’m seriously interested in why this is happening, and I am begging you to explain it to me.

*If you’re with me, I like your shoes and your hair looks pretty today.*

What do you think?  Where is the unicorn-magic-privacy line drawn?

FOT Background Check

Meredith Soleau
Meredith Soleau was supposed to be a famous country singer, but her parents made her go to college and major in something “real.” She graduated with a B.S. in Business from the University of Toledo, and landed a gig as a Human Resources Director at a large car dealership in Ohio. After eight years of HR at a car dealership, she burned out, decided to sell cars herself, and has since launched her agency, where she specializes in finding blue-collar workers. Clearly she has plenty of stories. But the best stories are probably about Meredith, herself. Read them on her personal blog, meredithsoleau.com, where she holds nothing back. Follow Meredith on Twitter. Become her friend on Facebook. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

28 Comments

  1. CNCJobs says:

    I’m with you on this one.

    I think that when a company hires a person they are also hiring the personality and personalities have an impact if there isn’t a fit with the rest of the team

    But there does come a point where the persons social life, beliefs and weekend experiences aren’t relevant to the work place.

    Sean
    CNCRecruitment.Co.UK

    Reply
  2. b303tilly says:

    I’m totally with you on this one, and not only because I can’t remember my facebook password. I keep it private for a reason, the main two being pictures of my children and my political views. Those are for me to share with whom I choose.
    On top of all of that, a facebook password is a PASSWORD, people. With that information, your potential employer has the ability to change your settings, post for you, friend/defriend…and that is not alright. I would not work for a company that requested this, which is saying a lot, because I am currently searching for work.

    Reply
  3. Erin D. says:

    First, let me say that I’m so happy that I’m not the only person with a terribly unorganized cabinet under the kitchen sink.

    Second, I would never work for an employer who asked for my FB password, and I’d never ask an applicant for their password. I am not above googling candidates, but I figure, if they go through the trouble of making their FB profile private, then they deserve to keep it private. Privacy issues aside, it’s a violation of FB terms of service to give out your password.

    Reply
  4. Sarah C. says:

    It’s unbelievable companies are asking for FB passwords! I understand wanting to hiring quality people, concern about culture fit, etc…but I think this is a clear invasion of privacy.
    There are other ways (screening, in-depth questioning, behavioral based interviewing, situational interviewing, etc) that will get to what you need to know without looking at what a candidate did last Friday night. It’s NOT JOB RELATED and in my opinion, terribly unprofessional.

    Reply
  5. DLG says:

    Some employers likely rely on this approach because they are frankly LAZY! They use this as a way to screen out applicants rather than actually having to evaluate and rely on business and position related criteria. The problem with their approach is that they think they are being smart but in reality they are being really careless. As noted, this carelessness is bound to cost them eventually – fines, settlements…watch out – when you play with fire, you may just get burned!

    Reply
  6. Steve Guine says:

    I have a huge problem with this. HUGE! It is one thing to look for publicly available information, but to ask for a candidate’s facebook password is beyond the pale. That IS an invasion of privacy and should be treated as such.

    Reply
  7. Ben Martinez says:

    If an employer feels like they have to look at someone’s private Facebook account before they hire them, then I suspect they are insecure about their ability to select/assess people. Private email messages on Facebook are no different than somone’s personal email account. To my knowledge employers have never asked to see this information. In short, I am w/ you on this one Merideth. Further, if I was doubting someone as a candidate and felt like they were up to no good and I thought I needed to check their Facebook to confirm my suspensions, then I should stop right there and listen to my gut/intuition and just not hire them.

    Reply
  8. sonya says:

    Meredith, did you check all those articles from the Google search to ensure that they are not all writing about the same isolated incidents?

    Reply
  9. Tracy Whitmore says:

    Thanks, I love my shoes too!

    Reply
  10. @pplestrategist says:

    Just because we have modern technology, doesn’t mean HR and Recruiters should become the thought police. I disagree with any use of social information for eliminating employment candidates — results are what matters. Two words for you: Jacki Robinson.

    There are no acceptable violations of personal liberty. Any adventure into it opens a Pandora’s box with no point of return: ie) at what point do you stop discriminating once you have a boatload of personal information on someone?

    My person opinion is that employers will continue to liberalize in our hyperlinked world, but never soon enough. And the costs of hiring good recruits should never infringe on personal liberty lest HR transforms itself into the East German Stasi.

    Reply
  11. I recently wrote about this issue in a post entitled: Demanding Access to Individuals’ Social Networking Accounts: A Digital Era Worst Practice. Here’s a link to it:

    http://www.sminorgs.net/2012/03/demanding-access-to-individuals-social-networking-accounts-a-digital-era-worst-practice.html

    In addition to the reasons you and others gave for why this is a bad practice, we must also remember that giving up passwords not only allows a potential employer to view *our* private information, they can also access the private information and activity of all our friends and family, none of whom have given their permission.

    At least two states, Maryland and Illinois, have legislation pending to make this practice illegal. As a civilized society, I hope we can bring about an end to it before more states and the federal government invest resources that would be better spent elsewhere on passing comparable legislation.

    I have written a number of pieces about the practice of social screening over the past 18 months, beginning with a white paper entitled “Social Screening: Candidates – and Employers – Beware” (http://tiny.cc/SocialScreeningPaper).

    Courtney Shelton Hunt
    Founder and Community Manager, Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community

    Reply
  12. April Gutknecht says:

    You’ve just made an excellent point for deleting facebook pages permanently. I’ve been facebook clean for 6 weeks and will never go back because I don’t like being spied upon any more than absolutely necessary. You’re an HR professional … What do you suppose that interviewer would say when instead of informing her that my password is absolutely off limits, I tell her I’m not on FB?

    Reply
  13. Megan says:

    I’m with you on this one. Except about national healthcare. As far as FB goes I don’t even friend or accept friend requests from anyone I work with. They can be my FB friend when we don’t work together anymore but they can be a linkedin connection now if they really must connect with me. If a company asks for a password that is a huge redflag to not go work there in my opinion. What HR people have time for this? No one on my team – we are too busy making great things happen for our employees – no spying necessary!

    Reply
  14. Casey says:

    holy cow…I had never heard of this happening before! It just plain doesn’t make sense. I wouldn’t give my own mother my password, let alone my employer. This is not to say that I’m a crazy and irresponsible person, but I (as most other likely do too) behave and speak in completely different ways to my friends than I would to an employer or elder. I would however, consider providing my Linked In password as it is geared toward developing one’s professionalism. But I would still question the company that asked this of me. Excellent article!!

    Reply
  15. Tom says:

    If you are expecting me to share my FB password with you,… what should I tell me friends when they ask me to share my company password with them??

    Reply
  16. Christine says:

    I am so with you on this! When I heard about this last week I went into a tizzy! I have a long standing line I’ve maintained between my professional and personal life. I, like many others do not accept or friend a current employee (or manager) while we are employed at the same Company. However I have accepted a few friend requests from a couple of well respected past employees but only after we were not working at the same Company for over 1 year. I have an issue with privacy and it might be because I spent some time in Law Enforcement before my career in HR, with that said I don’t even give my employer my home address just my PO Box and contact info. I also have wondered if the request to supply your password would fall into a violation of terms under FB’s policies and if this is the case how that would or might come into play?!

    Reply
  17. Sam says:

    I like Tom’s response. Should I give my wife my company password when she asks? One’s spouse is certainly a more important life relationship than with one’s employer. I read this morning that some employers are also asking for email account passwords as well. This has to be stopped.

    Courtney Hunt above expressed the sentiment that she hoped that “we” can stop this before other states and the federal government waste resources fighting the practice. I would ask how else can “we” stop this? Fighting this at the state and hopefully the federal level is our only hope. There is no justification for this practice.

    Another reason for never joining Facebook.

    Reply
    • @Sam – the movement for “us” to stop this is already afoot. Without even trying to track this issue, it’s come to my attention at least a dozen times over the past week or so, through a variety of sources (like this blog post). The news is spreading and the response to it is uniformly negative. The more people spread the word and reveal how illogical (at best) this practice is, the more employers will realize that it is neither defensible nor sustainable.

      I generally don’t like to fan the flames of conflict, but in this case I think it’s warranted. I have another post brewing about it that highlights the “physical world” equivalents of cyber snooping. I encourage people to keep this story alive. If the slumbering citizens of cyberspace could wake up and help drive the final nail in the SOPA coffin a few months ago, I’m confident they could do the same for this. We really don’t want to wait for legislation, do we?

      Reply
  18. Victoria says:

    “(…) or if she applied at some rare unicorn magic manifestation factory that doesn’t understand the legal implications that could result from knowing so much. (…) Simply hilarious

    Hi! I´m an HR Recruiter form Argentina, in my country we wouldn´t even dare to ask for such personal information. It is in deed outrageous and ilegal, but is up to the individual to join a company that considers to evaluate skills through personal life. In my opinion, if people hand over the passwords info and so, they are also part of the problem, and both HR communities and candidates/employees need to have an insight about this.

    Victoria

    Reply
  19. Chris says:

    Facebook has a feature (which I recently activated for my job hunt) that refuses to log you on to facebook if you are using an unregcognized/unapproved MAC address. It sends a text message to your cell asking you to input a code instead of the password to be able to log on.
    I’ll let you know when any ahole recruiter/HR screener/hiring manager asks for my cellphone and text messages.

    Reply
  20. Thanks for the post. It does seem concerning that employers may want to dig so deep into the personal lives of candidates. Unfortunately, many candidates also don’t employ a “filter” when using social media, and could potentially hurt the image of the company. It will be a very fine line to walk going forward for many companies.

    Reply
  21. Lindsey says:

    I total agree! I would not work for a company that asked me for my Facebook password!

    Reply
  22. Me gusta la respuesta de Tom. ¿Debo darle a mi esposa mi contraseña compañía cuando ella le pregunta? Un cónyuge es sin duda una relación de vida más importante que con el propio empleador. Leí esta mañana que algunos empleadores también están pidiendo contraseñas de cuentas de correo electrónico también. Esto tiene que ser parado.

    Reply
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