Please Provide Your Resume, Cover Letter, Transcript… and Facebook Password

9 Apr

When sitting for an interview with a major company, students can be absolutely positive that certain questions will be asked:  “What are your biggest strengths? Why do you want to work here? What are your career goals?”  None of these questions should surprise any well-rehearsed B-Schooler.  But recently, multiple companies have begun to ask interviewees for something that provides much more intimate details: access to their Facebook.  Yes, sadly it is true; multiple cases are springing up in the US of firms requesting not only interviewees’ passwords, but also those of current employees.  Your first instinct may be that these firms are being incredibly irrational, and if so, you are correct.  This practice is ultimately a poor decision by many of these companies.

Why This Practice is Bad for Firms

If an interviewer asked you for your Facebook password, what would you do?  Think about it.  I know exactly what I would do: refuse and withdraw.  This refusal is exactly what has been happening to a multitude of firms who ask this question; potential employees often feel so strongly that this is a violation of privacy that regardless of whether they have anything to hide, they withdraw their application.  This question is most certainly a privacy rights issue, and many people feel strongly about it.  While legislation does not exist to prohibit firms from asking for Facebook passwords, both the state and federal governments are currently working on that very issue.  So companies beware–asking for applicants’ Facebook passwords may soon be illegal.  But for the time being, this practice simply limits the pool of qualified employees the company has to draw from.  Applicants withdrawing from the process because of this issue does not mean that they have something on their Facebook they don’t want employers to see; they probably, like me, just feel very strongly about their right to privacy.  Who knows—maybe that applicant was going to be one of the firms top performers.  They’ll never know now.  Finally, accessing someone’s Facebook during an interview allows access to information one wouldn’t normally be allowed to ask about, such as whether the applicant is married or pregnant.  If a firm does not offer a job to that applicant after glancing at his or her Facebook page, the applicant may have legitimate grounds to sue depending on the situation.  While legislation is not in place yet for asking this question, legal liability may still exist when an interviewer asks someone for his or her Facebook password.

What You Can Do

While this practice ultimately is irrational for firms, multiple companies still want to take a peek at your social network.  You may be asked to provide your password in your next interview, and you have a number of options when this question is asked:

  • Refuse and Withdraw: If a company is this upfront about entering into your personal life, ask yourself: Is this the kind of place I want to work? What does this say about this companies culture?  Will my Facebook be consistently checked in the future?  Withdrawing your application shows firms that they are losing valuable hiring options when they do ask for this information. 
  • Clean Up Your Facebook:  The fact that applicants should keep their Facebooks “clean” when searching for jobs is common knowledge.  But this question takes keeping your profile clean to a new level.  Before, you simply had to control what others could see and make sure you had no inappropriate pictures or posts.  But now, companies would be able to see your private chats and messages with other users; something other users would never be able to see even if you made your page completely public.  Sure, keep your Facebook clean; but you shouldn’t have to worry about it being that clean.
  • Create A Second Facebook: This option is a little more sly than the others.  Simply make a second Facebook.  Keep it completely clean and have it look the way you expect your potential employers would want to see it.  Then when they ask for your password, give it to them! Watch as they are immensely impressed with your perfectly appropriate social network.
  • Make Your Facebook Completely Private

While people often expect everyone to have a Facebook account, many people actually don’t.  If an employer asks to see yours, you could always just tell them you don’t actually have one.  Simply set your privacy setting to completely private; that way, no one who isn’t already your Facebook friend can find your account when they search for your name.  This solution may eventually cause some problems when you want to be Facebook friends with your fellow employees… but you can always deal with that later.

Personally, I would choose to withdraw my application if a company asked for my Facebook password.  But if you really want the job no matter what, these options might just work.

by Jordan Flink



3 Responses to “Please Provide Your Resume, Cover Letter, Transcript… and Facebook Password”

  1. Jacob Trunsky April 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    Jordan – Great blog post! You really analyze all sides of the argument and give a several good ways to handle the situation. Everyone should be prepared to respond to this question in an interview and know exactly what he/she is going to say.

  2. Jacqueline Chen April 13, 2012 at 5:48 am #

    Interesting post! I actually deleted my Facebook account the beginning of January due to other reasons concerning privacy, so I’m both glad and a little bit apprehensive about this new practice — glad in the sense that I’m not actually lying when I say I don’t have a Facebook, but apprehensive in the sense that employers may feel that I don’t recognize the significance of social networking. I have other accounts, but they’re not so company-friendly either. What do you think are possible ways of addressing the issue if it comes up?

  3. Michelle Chen April 16, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    I think recruiters will eventually look you up on Facebook but asking for your password is crossing the line. Though I keep my Facebook profile clean, I would still reject their request to look in my account just because their actions depict something greater about their company.

    Jacqueline – I have several friends who are not on Facebook anymore because they feel that spending so much time on the site is just not worth their time. Also, they feel that Facebook is just a way to flaunt your activities. While I may disagree, I can understand where they are coming from. I think if you are worried about recruiters questioning you about your lack of social media presence, you could potential create a profile that you use only for recruiting. Another way is to branch out to other social networking platforms like Pinterest or Twitter. That way you can still say you’re active but just not on Facebook!

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