Posted by: chlost | March 20, 2012

What would you do?

Today my son sent all of the members of our family a link to an article that he had read. Go ahead and read the link. Take a few minutes. It will help make the rest of this much more interesting…..Okay. Now, our son’s message to all of us was simple: “Would you do it?”

Image via

So, let’s pretend you are a person who needs a job. You are also a person who has a facebook account. Let’s say that you are a person who is smart enough to maintain privacy controls on that account so that you control those who will have access your page.

Now let’s say that you get an interview for a wonderful job. Yay! It would be the perfect job. You prepare for the interview,  get there on time, dressed appropriately, and have all of the references and other information ready to provide to the interviewer. The interview is going well. The HR person seems to like you; you had the perfect answer when asked “What was your biggest mistake and how did you turn it into a positive life experience?” Then the HR person turns to you and says “Oh, and by the way, I will need your user name and password so that we can check your facebook page. We’ll be setting up second interviews in the next few days. If we decide to advance your application, we’ll give you a call.”

What would you do?

I have asked several colleagues for their reaction. They are young professionals and were uniformly outraged by the question. The answers I have received have ranged from “I’d set up a dummy page and give the password for that”, to “I wouldn’t want to work for a place that would ask that”, and “I don’t have a facebook page”.

Of course, you are being asked on the spot in the middle of the interview. You may not be able to set up a dummy page before they check it. And they may not be interested in hiring anyone so hopelessly out of touch that they would not have a facebook page.

My reaction is a bit different. I see the question as a test. In this day and age, a company’s secrets and protected information are vitally important. Security is a top priority. One of the most vulnerable points of entry for a competitor to access that type of information would be an employee. How would you know which employees would be most likely to hand over secret information if put in a difficult position? I know!  We could test potential employees to see  if they will reveal secret information when requested in order to move ahead in their career?

Thus this very offensive question is part of the interview.Okay, no, maybe not. It is probably just a very offensive question designed to obtain private information.

I question the legality of the question considering the ADA, and in light of age, gender, and race discrimination issues. It is one thing to troll a public facebook page, quite another to require access to private information irrelevant to the job as a condition of employment.

My facebook page contains absolutely nothing negative about me.  But I am very protective of my private information. Those pictures of my grandchildren are not relevant to any job. This is why this blog is not linked to my facebook page. This is why I limit the personal information shared on this blog. This is why I have maintained my facebook page as non-searchable, and available only to the friends I choose. I know the importance of  protecting private information.

Here’s my humble advice to any of the employers using this technique: If I don’t give my password to your HR person to allow you access to my private information, you should hire me immediately.



  1. Do they want a great employee or just someone to stalk? Maybe if the HR person wanted to reciprocate by sharing theirs. Actually, I’m with you on this.

    • I like the way you think! I want to stalk an HR person…..and ask them those stupid questions, too.

  2. I don’t have a Facebook account so that alone might disqualify me (and I’m sure if I told them why I don’t have/want one would prolly add to their decision).

    That said, I would never, ever give a prospective employer any password to ANY of my accounts. It’s a privacy violation in my totally unhumble opinion.

    • Yes, I think it is interesting that there is an assumption that all employees have FB accounts.

  3. I get why they may want to look at someone’s FB page but I too would NEVER give anyone any password to any of my accounts. Ever. I don’t have my page non-searchable, but I have set the privacy controls set as tightly as possible.

    Things are changing because of social media and companies are attempting to utilize that venue to their advantage ,,, I know if I were a hiring manager I sure wouldn’t want to hire someone who spends all their spare time in bars getting loaded and a peek at someone’s FB page gives a look into who they are as opposed to the face they show the business world.

    It will be interesting to see where all this goes, in a legal sense.

    • There has been an interesting shift in attitudes toward privacy. The younger “kids” are growing up sharing information with the world that my old fart generation would never have dreamed of sharing. Now it is shifting to an attitude that the world, including employers, are entitled to the private information. I am curious to see where this will go as well.

  4. Saw this article as well, I would not provide it information. As a matter of fact I would probably walk out of the interview right then and there (hopefully the job isn’t dependent on feeding my family) and tell them why. If you’re this interested in my private affairs I don’t want to work here.
    I’d proabably write about the experience on Facebook.

    • That is the biggest issue for me….what about the people who can’t afford to protect their privacy rights because they need to feed their family? Posting it on FB and blogging about it would be most sweet revenge. And exactly the reason you wouldn’t have been hired anyway!

  5. This is a tough one because in my heart, I say, “absolutely not.” I wouldn’t give them the password to my bank account, so why would I give them a password to my Facebook page? (In real life, I don’t have a page so game over anyway.) However, if I was on the verge of losing my house unless I had an income, I wonder if I would cave, in a desperate attempt to bring in an income.

    I have to agree with you, and your statement that they should hire the candidate who doesn’t pass on this info. It really is none of an employer’s business.

    • Yes, passwords to bank accounts is an interesting issue….if one, then why not another? I wonder where all of this is going to go.

  6. Guess I am out of step here. All most all employment applications ask for your social security number. With that, they check your credit information. How someone handles their obligations says a lot about character.
    I would easily give them my FB account if I had one, they could have my pee for drug testing and could check my background however they wish. I think somethings are not too much to ask by someone who would be paying my salery. FB is just a new screening tool the employers have these days.

    • There are many people who have no problem giving information to anyone, assuming that they have nothing to hide. The more interesting question to me is what happens with that information….do you have any control on what they do with it, or who else has access to it?

  7. I’m with Sank on this one. I would walk out. I would not want to work for any company that made that request of me, no matter how badly I needed the job.

    • There may be many, many companies and public employers who start to follow this trend. What will happen when it is the norm for employers to do this? It is quite interesting to me.

  8. If they need to check your Facebook account, then maybe they should check your my email account, your phone texts, and any letters you write. If they are especially paranoid, they could wire you and also hear all your private conversations. After all, secrets about their company could be leaking out of your mouth. That’s not to much to ask, is it?

    • Perhaps the next step will be to require every employee to be “wired” so that employers will be able to monitor all conversations. Does an employer “own” the employee and all of their time? The questions are endless.

  9. Are these hypothetical questions or are they really being asked in real world interviews?

    Yes, you would wonder if it is a test to measure your discretion or your willingness to do or say anything to land a job. I’ve never had to take a drug test when applying for a job. I have thought about it and I find the idea offensive… I don’t know what I would do.

    • This is happening in real life situations. The article sets out the employers who are doing this, and their reasons, and the reactions from folks who have been faced with the questions. It is not an easy situation.

  10. My response would be that I keep my page private. Others know that and post on the basis that it is private with limited access. I would not let them down in this way.

    • Thanks for commenting, Joy! I will check out your blog. You are right in that there are others’ privacy in our hands as well.

  11. I would decline and also explain my feelings about maintaining privacy. Your password gives people access not only to your page, but to your private messages. I, for instance, have exchanged some very personal messages with my boyfriend through FB’s email. It is no different than asking for the password to your email account. And if you keep your FB page set to private, than it is by definition not information you are making public. So no – never. I’d inactivate my account before I handed that over.

    • I agree with you. But I am not sure that those who have grown up with all of their lives laid bare on FB and other social media will see how important privacy is in their lives.

  12. I agree with you on the possible reason they asked. With that said, I’m always amazed what people will post on their Facebook page.

    • My biggest surprise is when clients (kids) have posted about illegal things that they have done. They don’t understand that public viewing includes the police. They are always surprised.

      • I laugh also when they get busted in a lie. I’m like next time you lie, might be good not to post it on facebook when people know you know others. LOL

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