Jason Yormark

Asked For Your Social Profile Passwords In An Interview? Look The Other Way.

There’s been quite a bit of hoopla this week on the story of interviewees being asked for their Facebook login credentials as part of the interview process.  I’m sure it’s not a practice that has just taken shape of late, but for whatever reason, this week it surfaced and has caused all kinds of discussion on the matter.  Their are interesting opinions on both sides of the issue, but my take is quite simply, look the other way.

Certainly it can be easy for me to say that seeing as I have a job, and many folks that don’t, do not have the luxury of picking and choosing necessarily, but over the long term, you do not want to work for a company that demands access to your personal information.  I could feasibly understand for positions that involve law enforcement, or working with children, but even in those cases, I feel it falls on the companies and organizations to do their due diligence without invading personal privacy.

And let’s be honest; do you really WANT to work for a company that would ask this?  Asking for your Facebook login is probably a pretty clear sign of a company that is not going to be pleasant to work for anyway.  I’ve interviewed hundreds of folks over my career all the way from tiny start-ups to Microsoft, and never once considered asking for that sort of thing.  In my opinion, it’s a cop out for having to do real work to determine if a candidate is a good fit.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Seems like the word spread quickly and action is already being planned to stop these sorts of tactics.

Jason Yormark
I'm a 20 year veteran of digital marketing & the owner and founder of Socialistics, a social media agency based in Seattle. My spare time is filled with writing, baseball, my boys and everything Seattle has to offer.

15 comments

  1. I agree completely. While I understand a company wanting to make the right choice, an employee also needs to make sure they are making the right choice too. If a corporate culture is THAT paranoid, than it just might not be a good fit.

    A company should have a competent person performing the interviews, looking over resumes, and researching prospective employees via simple Google searches. There are also companies for hire that will perform legal research into a prospect’s digital actives too.

    Privacy issues aside, this is just plain laziness by the companies involved in this type of hiring practice.

    1. Absolutely it’s laziness! I just can’t imagine the reaction I would expect if I were interviewing someone and asked for this. Who wouldn’t be offended? Crazy.

  2. I actually didn’t think it mattered Anytime you like or plus something on the internet, I thought they get your information anyway. When you allow a third party applications on any of your accounts, your information leaks anyway. I read them, some say private messages, and some say we can access while you are offline too. No I do not think think this is ideal but I’m pretty sure that anyone that would be willing to hire me knows everything they wanted to know anyway.
    I only have one page that I protect, the one that includes my family. Not from employers, but from danger that locates me. I act with my family probably in the same way everyone else does with love and games. For me, if one password was between me and a job I would be happy with, I would do it.
    I do not believe I have any privacy to begin with.

    1. I don’t have a problem with companies doing research on me. If my stuff is out there, it’s out there. Where I would draw the line is when a company asks for your personal logins to access things.

  3. Agree absolutely that it is out of order for businesses to ask prospective (or existing) employees for passwords and login details to any private accounts. There are any number of firlds where a candidates financial position or health history is relevant, but nobody would consider giving carte blanche access and control of those records to another person just because they happen to be the person with a business card interviewing you on behalf of some organisation.

    That would be the time for a “get up & walk out” response.

    You would not want to work for or with an organisation that felt this level of intrusion was appropriate.

  4. Great post. In challenging economic times, many job seekers aren’t thinking of the long term (because they need a job RIGHT NOW…understandable) and the fact that any employer who shows so little regard for personal privacy and respect is NOT someone you can build a career with. Employers are riddled with one-sided loyalty and are quick to dump employees when the bottom line is in trouble…yet expect 100% devotion from employees and now want to severely cross the line. This is disgusting and I am glad that Facebook is letting employers know that this is unacceptable.

    Also…do you ever check out the people who are doing the checking out? I have done online searches of people who are in HR positions, sitting high and mighty yet their Facebook profiles are not perfect either. Many of them LIVE the exact same stereotypes that they claim they do not want in their candidates (drinking alcohol in photos, showing skin in photos etc). The hypocrisy that they can prance around with comes from the unemployment numbers being in their favor. Unemployment gave them an inch. Arrogance made them take a mile.

  5. Wow, that’s all I can say. Having been in charge of hiring for multiple departments for over 8 years at my primary employment, I have looked up profiles on linkedin, but I have never ever entertained the idea of asking applicants or employees for passwords. That’s just wrong and unethical.

  6. Jason, This one just caught my attention too, though as you say, I’m sure it’s been going on for a while now. I have a couple of thoughts on this.

    * Personally, if asked for my log in credentials, I’d feel very comfortable just laughing and replying, “You got it. But first, I’m going to need your personal banking log in info, Mr. or Ms interviewer.” It’s about that simple for me. In other words, “Go screw.”

    Having said that…

    * I’m a bad example, because I’m not desperate for work. Sadly, in 2012 there are still millions of Americans, and millions more folks overseas, who are indeed desperate for employment. That means they are under duress in an interview. When an employer asks a question such as this, the subtext is clear: if you want the job, you’ll comply. Long-term, is this a worst practice that is going to bite said employer in the butt when the economy warms up further and it is again a job candidate’s market? Oh, you’d better believe it! But depending on the person, the field, and the geography, it could be a year or three before today’s interviewee lets the employer know what she really thinks about such bad karma – as she hands in her letter of resignation and gives the employer the finger on the way out the door.

    * Your readers have already mentioned this, but it bears repeating: if you don’t want information to go public, even viral, don’t post it online in the first place. While I’m a huge – even rabid – proponent of personal liberty, and the right to privacy is central to that, I am also occasionally practical. If you write it down, it is no longer under your control. The only guarantee of privacy as we ease into the 20-teens is to keep it in your head. A secret shared is no longer a secret.

    * Finally, an observation: when I was starting out, I had a lot of false starts with employers – mostly service industry jobs in my early twenties, in college and just after. In three such cases, I was drug tested – no to be a pilot or DEA agent, mind you, just to bring people food on a tray, which I know from friends’ experience you can do very competently while stoned to the bejesus. In each case I passed the test, took the job, and quit not long after because the company was a bad fit for me. Intrusive management at hiring time is a sign of bad-karma management overall. As with superfluous drug testing, so too with inappropriate password-seeking.

    1. Fantastic insights Ted. Thanks for taking the time for the thoughtful response. Agree with all of it. Even though it’s ridiculous for companies to even ask, it does fall on us to realize that what we put out there is “out there” and available. Privacy is a luxury that has certainly changed with the rise of the internet and social. Personally, I make sure anything I create or publish is something I’d have no issue with, nor should an employer. A good practice for anyone who’s serious about their career.

  7. Do you know why bosses want your FaceBook password? Because! Because they can. To remind you that you are a piece of [email protected]@@ that they can fire at will and you’re too scared and beaten down to object. See how capitalism works in the WalMarting of America… Good thing you don’t have a union

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