In fact, a majority of employers say they look online for information about candidates in the interviewing process. According to a report from CNET News, 66% of recruiters are checking you out on Facebook, and according to BenefitsPro, a full 90% of recruiters say they conduct a Google search on every candidate they meet.
All of this said, you should still be extremely wary of any employer who is requesting any password information from you at all, let alone those passwords that access your social media sites, and here is why.
The main reason a recruiter should never ask you for your social media passwords is that this constitutes a huge invasion of privacy and is actually now illegal in 14 states (check the facts here).
We live in a time when Facebook and other social media sites have a relatively decent array of privacy settings to avoid exactly such a thing as a future employer looking at our private information. The point of searching for information online about a candidate should be to get the bigger picture on the candidate, supplementing whatever information has been provided in a resume or an interview. Employers want to ensure that the candidate will represent their business properly if hired. Many want to know that if a potential customer conducts the same online search on the employee, they won’t find incriminating or embarrassing information that could reflect poorly on the employer. This makes complete sense. If a recruiter can’t find anything negative in an online search, clearly the applicant is doing something right by at a minimum keeping what might be perceived as negative behind closed doors—whether those doors include the doors of social media is not for an employer to worry about.
An employer asking for any password you have created is also a potential security issue, and could be equated to providing your social security number to someone (though admittedly not quite as extreme). Many people, whether it’s a good idea or not, use the same password on multiple websites—this can include not just social media sites, but in the cases of online banking and credit card sites, as well. One could theoretically manage the entirety of his or her financial life online.
We also have other aspects of our life in which we are potentially using the same password—home and garage codes are just a couple of examples, and we would never consider giving this type of information even to some of our friends, let alone a potential employer.
You should know your rights if you encounter a scenario in which you are asked for social media passwords in the interview process. In 2012, according to the NCSL (National Conference of State Legislature), “fourteen states introduced legislation in 2012 that would restrict employers from requesting access to social networking usernames and passwords of applicants, students or employees.” These states included California, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Maryland and Illinois.
And as of February 1, 2013, reports that another 11 states have legislation that “has been introduced or is pending” that pertains to restricting employers from such access. It can’t be long before all 50 states have some semblance of legislation to protect job applicants from information-hungry recruiters.
According to the NCSL, some employers have made the argument that “access to personal accounts is needed to protect proprietary information or trade secrets, to comply with federal financial regulations, or to prevent the employer from being exposed to legal liabilities,” but state legislature is simply not buying these arguments.
The bottom line is this—no employer should ever request such private information from a candidate as a Facebook password or for any other social media site. This could result in a massive security breach, and is considered by many to be highly unethical. Do we invite recruiters into our homes? Generally not.
Though we all know we need to guard our online reputations carefully, everyone deserves some level of privacy online, and one should be able to determine what is available for others to see and what is not, just as we keep some activities in the home, and others not. Again, know your rights in an interview setting, and don’t be afraid to exercise them.
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Category: Personal Branding