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Facebook Password Requests: Hype More Than Reality

The talk about employers asking for Facebook passwords is probably more prevalent than the number of employers actually asking candidates this question. While candidates have asked us for our advice in handling this request, no one has said that they personally had been asked this question.

In case you missed the other articles and news coverage about this topic, the situation under discussion is an employer asking a candidate for their Facebook password as part of the screening process for a job.

None of the articles that I have read are advocating this to recruiters as a practice. Most are either warning that it is possible or providing updates on the stances of legislators (against) and Facebook (not supportive).

Studies were recently conducted by Northern Illinois University and other institutions that indicated that profiles from social media sites including Facebook could demonstrate different personality traits including intellectual curiosity, agreeability and conscientiousness. "Not surprisingly, pictures and references to traveling signaled openness to new experiences and adventurousness, while the number of friends you have indicates extroversion." These are all factors, however, that an employer could observe from a public profile even one with high privacy settings.

If an employer asks for a password to any of your online profiles, you have several options:

  1. The first and biggest option is to say no. You run the risk of being screened out, but if you decline respectfully you have a chance to remain in the running.
    1. "Out of respect for the privacy of the friends and family members that I am connected to, I respectfully decline."
    2. "While I am not comfortable sharing my personal password with you, I invite you to view my public profile."
    3. "I know some employers review online public profiles to get a sense of what would appear if a client searched for a person online. What else are you looking for in my personal profile?"
  2. If you are truly worried about being screened out of the screen and an employer said the having the password was required as part of the search, you may decide to say yea.
    1. Offer to review the profile in person with them.
    2. Change the password before you give it to them and let them know that you plan to change it again within 2-3 days.
  3. Close all social networking profiles for the duration. This is drastic, but allows you to honestly say that you don't have a Facebook profile.

Because most employers won't ask for your password, but may review your public profiles, review your public profiles and any related privacy settings to make sure people unconnected to you see what you want them to see.

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