Facebook Passwords & Future Employers

Facebook and work just don’t go together. Yet it’s so tempting to mix the two – so what to do?

Employers claim they want your social media passwords so they can see the “real you.” Potential employees claim it’s a violation of their personal privacy. Who’s right?

While I can’t say I favor one argument over the other, I do have a response for both. Employers: if you want to know the “real me” hang out with me for an hour or two and you’ll get to know me pretty quick. It’s much more efficient, less creepy and realistic. Potential employees: use the grandma rule (she’s a little more respectful than your mom who you’ve disobeyed more often than not). If you have anything on your profile that you wouldn’t want grandma, let along your future employer, to see GET RID OF IT. It’s really that simple. Too bad other people don’t see it that way…

According to Mashable, employers in Maryland can’t demand access to private materials (like FB and Twitter passwords) as a condition of employment. Well, that’s a step in the right direction. Instead of the invasion of privacy being frowned upon, it’s now illegal in the state of Maryland. As for the rest of us? Don’t give up hope.

Here are some things you can do if a company asks for your Facebook password:

  1. Put it eloquently. You can deny the employer access to your accounts but do so respectfully. Try one of these: Stand your ground but offer a loophole: “I am very careful with my personal, private online personal and do not feel comfortable giving out any passwords. But feel free to look at my profile as it appears to you as a company right now, if you would like.” Or, ask for some respect: “I would never participate in social media on the organization’s time and ask that the organization will respect my personal social media rights outside of work.”
  2. Evaluate the situation. Is it really worth it to work for a company that wants to monitor your personal life and discover who you are based on your Facebook page? Maybe not. If that’s the case, there are always other job opportunities.
  3.  Take steps to protect your personal life. If you plan ahead and update your settings, you can easily separate your personal and professional life. For instance:

* Authors note: I’m not a huge fan of this one. Especially people who change their name to first name + middle name. Unless you have a pretty unique first name, I’m probably not going to wish “Jane Marie” a happy birthday because I no longer recognize you by name. If you absolutely must change your name, at least try spelling your name phonetically. That way, people will still know who you are.

What it comes down to is subjective comfort. Personally, I would have no problem allowing a future employer to take a look at my Facebook page; I don’t have much to hide. Although, I will admit, I’d find the request a little strange and probably wouldn’t disclose my password just to avoid the hassle of resetting and memorizing it – but that’s just me.

If you come across this dilemma of intermingling Facebook and work, think before you respond and know that you have personal privacy rights and an opinion you’re entitled to. For more tips try reading this article.

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6 thoughts on “Facebook Passwords & Future Employers

  1. kmadeleine02 says:

    If a future employer were to ask what my facebook password was, I have no idea what I would say. I didn’t even know that people did this. It seems so wrong. It was extremely informative reading possible responses if you should be asked this question at an interview. Before reading this, my jaw would drop at this question (which I hope I never have to answer).

  2. lizsieps says:

    Interesting post- it’s funny to me because my family literally just had a discussion about this over the weekend. Personally, I don’t believe employers should be able to ask you for your Facebook password. I mean- what’s next? Does the employer need to shadow you for a day or a week to make sure you’re not crazy? Bottom line- employers shouldn’t (and don’t) need to see your Facebook profile.

    As a side note- I would say that the best practice for any future job seeker…would be to simply keep it clean. My method is simply looking at what my mom or dad would not want to see on Facebook. If they wouldn’t want to see it, then I shouldn’t post it. (It’s an easy one to follow because I actually am “friends” with my parents online).

    Just be smart about it and let the employer find whatever he or she can find out through a simple search. Control your privacy settings and manage what you post- keep the control in your hands!

  3. Aria, I really enjoyed this post. This is a topic that I have been worried about throughout my job application process. Personally, I do not believe that employers should have access to your Facebook account. They don’t ask to hangout with me on a Friday night and they should trust future job seekers to know better than to put “questionable” information on his/her site. I mean, how many times have we been told to keep our Facebook clean? It seems every class speaker has mentioned this! If we don’t get it by now then we simply don’t deserve the job! Bottom line, people need to be smart about what they post and employers should trust the people that they hire.

  4. k8tkemp says:

    I just wrote a very similar post to this! I too, read the Mashable article on how to protect yourself against potential employers asking for your Facebook username and password. I agree with your comment that employers should get to know you face to face, rather than creep on your profile. Not that I have anything to hide, but why can’t you trust that I am who I say I am? Working for a company that doesn’t trust their people makes me uncomfortable. Great post, Aria!

  5. emcgarry says:

    Great post. Like others have said, every speaker that we’ve had this semester has told us to keep our profiles clean just in case an employer checks it out. Personally, I have no problem with this because my profiles are clean. I was surprised when I read that it has become a trend to ask potential employees for their username and password. This seems completely unnecessary. What additional information is an employer going to get from logging into my Facebook account? Are they going to read my messages? Any company that wants to invade my privacy like that is one that I do not want to work for.

    Additionally, I thought that the advice you gave about how to respond when asked for account information was very helpful. I’ll be sure to keep that in mind if I am ever asked instead of immediately becoming defensive.

  6. marydelaat says:

    This idea has always creeped me out especially since there are ways to even get around having to ask for the password in order to see your account. On one hand, I completely understand wanting to make sure the person you are about to hire knows how to present him or herself in an appropriate manner. We PR/Comm kids know that this is important, but it’s amazing to see that a lot of other people don’t think this way. I’m completely with you in the fact that I don’t have anything to hide, as I am a firm believer in the “grandma” rule that you mentioned. I mean, I am friends with both of my parents, aunts, uncles, and even a few of my work superiors on Facebook, so I don’t post anything that I wouldn’t want them to see. But on the other hand, I still don’t know if I would provide my password if I was asked to give it to a potential employer, due to the principal of it. I feel like it is a complete invasion of privacy, and is essentially overstepping into a territory of being slightly unethical. I have my privacy settings the way they are for a reason. If I wanted things I post to be available for all eyes to see, I would have my settings set that way. Of all my social media channels, Facebook and Foursquare are the two that I keep completely private. Only my friends on those channels can see what I do/post. Twitter and LinkedIn on the other hand, are open. I’m a firm believer in thinking before I tweet, so if I was in this situation, I would probably do what you first recommend by asking them to respect my privacy and not log-in to my account on Facebook, but invite them to view it as it is viewed by the general public, but then tell them to check out what I post on Twitter and LInkedIn. I definitely think you have the right idea on this!

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