Before you get hired for a job, you should expect to be Googled. HR coordinators and interviewers are not only looking for mentions of your name on the web in general, but they are also specifically seeking you out on social media sites. It is not uncommon for a potential employer to scroll through your Facebook photos and wall, Twitter timeline, and of course, LinkedIn profile. The company is looking to learn more about you and see what kind of character you exhibit. It is also looking for anything inappropriate or something that would reflect negatively on the company if it did decide to hire you.
With the various privacy settings available, it is easy to make profiles private or at least only certain aspects visible to the public eye. Facebook profiles can even be removed from Public Search, which means your profile is unsearchable by anyone except your friends. Unfortunately, this has made the job application process a bit difficult for some, as a company may not be as willing to interview you if you aren’t transparent when it comes to social media.
This has also led to an awkward situation in some cases. Some interviewers have begun asking applicants to provide their Facebook logins and passwords. This appears to be more prevalent when the profile is unsearchable, but as most employers are aware of the many privacy settings available, they want to see what job seekers are really posting to their walls and saying to their friends.
This sounds like a giant invasion of privacy to me. The whole point of privacy settings on social networks is so you can be as public or private about your life on the web as you want. This is especially true in the case of job seekers, who are carefully selecting their privacy settings. And what about people who don’t have Facebook, or who have it deactivated? Would a company trust that the person is telling the truth or think that he/she simply won’t want to divulge his/her password? Not to mention, this goes against Facebook’s Legal Terms which directly state: “You will not share your password…, let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.”
I personally feel like I would not want to work for a company that has to check up on me in this way, invade my privacy, and start off our relationship by showing me this obvious sign of mistrust. I understand the job market can be tough and some people can’t be selective, but if applicants stick together and turn these interviewers down then maybe they would stop. If a company does want to get to know an applicant better, why not ask some fun personality-related questions during the interview?
There are currently proposed legislations in both Illinois and Maryland regarding this issue that would forbid public agencies from requesting access to their employees’ social networks. While there may not be a lot that any one person can do, if enough people take a stand against this massive invasion of privacy then interviewers may get the hint that this process is incredibly frowned upon and reflects poorly on the company. In the meantime, be careful what you say or put up on any social network, because you never know who may be watching!