Employers’ Facebook “Requests” and Your Job Search

By now, you’ve probably seen one or more articles about job candidates being asked by prospective employers to provide their Facebook passwords and/or to “friend” the interviewer. As with my previous post about automated reference checking systems, this is an example of the increasing encroachment by employers into areas we once thought were protected. In the case of Facebook, though, it seems not only questionable but potentially illegal behavior on the part of employers. Regardless, it’s definitely something to stay aware of and informed about…before you actually have to deal with it.

Employer Facebook Requests that aren’t Really Requests

As several recent articles have noted, some employers are basically demanding that job seekers provide their Facebook password so the company can check out the individual’s activity in that online space. An alternative request is that the candidate “friend” the interviewer, with the same end result in mind. Facebook has a policy against providing your password to others, for one thing, but that doesn’t seem to have deterred the companies so far or made them think twice about the legitimacy of what they’re doing. It should. The kind of behavior they’re indulging in represents a big step over the line into actions that are highly intrusive, if not actually illegal.

One article writer puts it this way when condemning employer Facebook requests: “I am not opposed to looking into a candidate’s background….It is all in how you approach the problem. If you are going to demand access to a candidate’s personal and private Facebook profile (or any other private information…), you had better make that clear in your job ad or prior to setting up an interview….You have no right to throw that curve ball after the fact….” As a job seeker, if you know ahead of time that a company takes that approach, you can decide whether you really want to bother interviewing for a position there. Maybe your time and energy will be better invested elsewhere.

Possible Boomerang Effect of Employer Facebook Requests

In situations where the job market has improved and/or will be improving going forward, employers might just discover that their sledgehammer approach to candidate evaluation boomerangs on them. Breaks my heart to consider that possibility…not! In a better job market, where many job seekers will encounter more opportunities than in the past, they should experience correspondingly greater latitude in deciding whether or not to pursue specific job opportunities. If you’re in that situation, you will have the option of doing what one individual did and declining to continue the interview once the request (demand) is stated. Even if you don’t have numerous job choices, you might still opt for the same response rather than seriously consider working for such an organization.

Companies who maintain that they’re asking for such information on altruistic grounds aren’t really fooling smart job seekers…or anyone else, for that matter. Supposedly, it enables them to connect with people regarding other jobs they might be interested in but aren’t aware of. Sears Holding, Inc. was the company mentioned in the latest article I read, offering this lame excuse. According to the writer, “That’s their line to warrant this invasion of privacy….If they wanted to see my background to consider me for a future job, they can peruse my LinkedIn profile, which is always public.”

What it boils down to is that you need to be vigilant and also prepared to handle such unreasonable requests if or when you encounter them. Don’t let them catch you napping!

2 Comments on “Employers’ Facebook “Requests” and Your Job Search

  1. Any employer who thinks that this is a good idea clearly hasn’t thought through the potential legal repercussions, and is therefore probably clueless about these things. Probably not somebody you want to work for.