Spy GirlLast week the blogosphere exploded with indignation that some companies were requesting Facebook passwords and social logins from jobseekers. Somehow, a relatively isolated maneuver by Maryland Department of Corrections turned into a firestorm of frustration over the seeming overreach of many employers. While the original story was blown out of serious proportion, employers DO sometimes ask for social logins, particularly from Facebook. While it doesn’t happen as much as last week’s media blizzard would have us believe, it is seeping into the candidate experience. Here are some points we can glean from the latest uproar:

1) It’s not okay. While there may be positions wherein your password and social logins are required, they are few and far between and usually there are other, even more invasive hoops to jump through for security clearances. Lois M. Collins of Deseret News makes the case that Facebook is a pretty sore indicator of professional competence:

Years ago, a relative of mine went through several rounds of pretty in-depth scrutiny for a government job that required a security clearance. That long-established practice makes some sense. The background check, I promise you, said more about her as she really is than a glance at her Facebook page would.

2) Giving out your Facebook password doesn’t affect just you. If you are asked and you do comply, you are not only handing over your details, but those of your friends.

Employers who ask job applicants for the passwords they use to log in to Facebook are going overboard. Such a practice is being condemned, and rightfully so. It is especially egregious because the applicant’s friends and acquaintances on Facebook, who are not a party to the job search, would have their privacy compromised as well.

3) You don’t have to say yes. Employers shouldn’t ask. But jobseekers shouldn’t give up their personal responsibility either. Buried under the headline are countless stories of candidates and applicants simply refusing to either give over their logins or allow a recruiter or hiring manager to “peek over their shoulder when they login” with their Facebook password.

Bassett, a New York City statistician, had just finished answering a few character questions when the interviewer turned to her computer to search for his Facebook page. But she couldn’t see his private profile. She turned back and asked him to hand over his login information. Bassett refused and withdrew his application, saying he didn’t want to work for a company that would seek such personal information.

4) It should make you uneasy. Smart jobseekers understand that any interaction that starts out with that level of invasion and mistrust will not end well. It’s technically against Facebook’s terms of service to GIVE your password to anyone else. Now, Senator Richard Blumenthal has announced that he’s working on a new bill that would prohibit the requests, pointing to the ban on workplace polygraphs as justification for outlawing the practice.

And while the job market continues to be tight, it is within every candidate’s rights to say no to social invasions like this. While a few cases were highlighted and rightfully so, employers asking for passwords is the exception (and possibly an illegal one), NOT the rule.

Fortunately, employers, HR professionals, hiring managers and recruiters now have access to tools that will help them use pertinent and publicly available information to make a decision about an applicant – without knowing a candidate’s Facebook password or any other private information for that matter.



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