A recent article posted on the Minneapolis Star Tribune website (http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/143455776.html), reported that employers are now asking job applicants to share their Facebook password. Legislators and legal professionals are collectively opposed to this practice and are discouraging employers from asking job applicants for their Facebook or other social media passwords. Not only do they argue it should be illegal, but they remain adamant that it an invasion of privacy.
The question is, what would you do in an interview or job application process if you were asked for your Facebook or social media passwords? Here are a few tips we would suggest using if ever you find yourself in this situation.
1. Approach this request similarly to the way you would respond to an illegal interview question (i.e. nationality, sexual orientation, marital status, race, religion, physical or mental disabilities, health history, etc.). Here are a few options:
- Provide the answer and move on (note: anything you disclose in an interview can be considered by the employer when assessing your candidacy/fit for the position).
- Ignore the question and re-direct the conversation. (note: this might be a good opportunity to refer them to your LinkedIn profile site instead…if you are comfortable sharing it of course).
- Ask about the relevance of the question as it pertains to the position for which you are interviewing. Inform them you are not comfortable answering the question if not relevant.
- You can simply reply that you prefer not to answer the question.
- If you feel the interviewer(s) are being blatantly discriminatory against you, you have the right to walk away.
2. One of the common misconceptions about interviewing is that the interviewee (the applicant) does not always realize that the interview process is a two-way street. Remember, you are interviewing the employer as well. When interviewing the employer, your goal is to determine whether or not you see yourself fitting into their organizational culture and the potential for your future success. Thus, if an employer asks you for your password to any social media site, including Facebook, you have to ask yourself one question – am I comfortable working for an organization that asks for such information?
3. However, in some cases it may be necessary or common for an employer to ask for password information. For instance, when federal government agencies such as the CIA, FBI, or Department of Homeland Security conduct background checks on applicants, these investigations are extensive and result in them researching everything they can about who you were and who you are now. Believe it or not, they will even investigate as far back as when you were a child; thus, you can bet they will also seek access to your online communications (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, etc.). There still exists a debate whether or not this is appropriate or not. As depicted in the aforementioned article, several state agencies (mainly public service agencies such as police departments) are implementing the same type of background check and asking applicants for their passwords.
4. Finally, it is important to not do anything that you feel violates your own ethics or value system, even in a job interview. While we certainly understand the importance of finding employment, we do not encourage sacrificing your image, reputation, and/or private information just to land a paycheck. Strong self-awareness, confidence and willingness to stand up for your own values are the foundation for successful career development.