Interviewer Asking for Your Facebook Password? Be Wary

If a potential employer requests that you hand over your log-in information to social media sites during an interview, expect worse if you're hired.

I was shocked to hear the recent news that several employers were requiring Facebook log-in information from job applicants. Unfortunately, privacy issues in the workplace are nothing new. I spent 20 years leading human resources teams in corporate America, navigating at least one privacy-related employee-relations issue per week. During that time, social media was nonexistent, yet the underlying question of "How much about your personal life does an employer or potential employer need to know?" was just as relevant then as it is in today's job market.

Practices such as asking for Facebook passwords serve as a litmus test of sorts for organizations and the people who are interested in working for them. Potential employees will likely question what it's like to work for a company that makes what many consider an outrageous request. Jeff Nowak, a partner with the Chicago-based law firm Franczek Radelet Attorneys and Counselors, who specializes in labor and employment practice, wrote this in a recent article for the Chicago Tribune:

". . . When you ask for a prospective employee's password, it sends several messages that may seriously undermine your business goals. For one, it suggests that you lag in your knowledge and acceptance of social media. More important, it provides a glimpse of the Big Brother to come. It's as if you're telling a prospective employee: If I am asking for your passwords now, just wait until you start working for me. Also, applicants who readily submit their passwords will assume that spying on fellow employees will be rewarded."

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Setting this type of standard only exemplifies the idea that some employers may have that you should feel lucky to get an interview with and possibly work for them. As a job applicant, you can expect to have your professional goals (and in some cases personal life) squashed under the corporate heel of such an organization. While the debate -- to give up your log-in information or not -- is still in the early stages, opponents question its legality, because of the notion that it could potentially influence an employer as to whether they'll hire someone or not based on personal information. In fact, Maryland is set to become the first state to ban employers from demanding that applicants or current employees share their log-in information to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, according to the Associated Press.

It’s not clear yet whether this practice will spread any further, but at this juncture if companies are going to insist on doing it, then perhaps it would only be fair to require that they disclose the policy in their job ads. That way, job-seekers know up front what they're getting into should they decide to apply. Issues like this early in the interview process are almost always a sign of more to come -- from demanding proof of your past salary to refusing to show you the employee handbook until an offer letter is signed.

Remember, there are plenty of great employers who are fully aware that anyone they're seriously considering hiring is a capable person with a normal adult need to separate their private and work lives -- even during an interview.

Liz Ryan
Contributing Columnist,