Would you give a potential employer your Facebook password?

I’ve been browsing the job market for more than a year now. I keep tabs on my favorite companies, and I have ongoing subscriptions to multiple job sites for updates when certain positions become available. I’m not really pounding the pavement right now, because graduate school is demanding enough without the added time constraints of a full-time job, but I am staying open to opportunities, in part because I would be willing to work full-time for the right position at the right company, and in part because I want to have something lined up when I graduate.

One of my great recurring nightmares these days is that I’ll land a job interview for a company I’m really passionate about, for a position I really want, and the interview goes really well up until the moment the interviewer asks me for my Facebook password.

Now, my Facebook is pretty tame. There are a couple of pictures of me with an adult beverage in hand, all of them quite legal and none of them public. I get a little bit political from time to time, but those posts aren’t public, either. In general, I like to think I’m pretty cautious about the things I post to my social media profiles.

Still, I am just not comfortable with the idea of giving out the passwords to these profiles, not to potential employers, not to current employers, not to anyone. For one, simply allowing someone else to access your account, whether you give them your password or not, is against Facebook’s terms of service. For another, when you give out that login information, you’re putting other accounts at risk, as well, especially if you use the same password for other sites. The potential exists for someone to impersonate you and even steal your identity. This is an extreme example, but the potential is there, and the consequences could be enormous.

There’s also a very real possibility that potential employers would use the information gathered from an applicant’s Facebook profile to discriminate against them. Employers are not allowed to ask applicants questions about religion and political leanings, for example, but, in many cases, it would be easy to get that information about a person just by looking at his or her Facebook profile.

I can understand why employers would want access to applicants’ Facebook profiles. I get it. They want to get to know applicants better, and they want to ensure that applicants are not posting content that could potentially harm the company. I just think there are better ways to go about addressing these concerns.

If employers want to get to know applicants better, they can build on the interviewing process. Instead of relying solely on a sit-down conversation between an HR representative and an applicant, they could add a lunch meeting, for example, to get a better feel for the applicant’s personality in a different setting. Or applicants could meet, interview or lunch with a member or two of the team they’d be working with, or the person who would be their immediate supervisor.

In terms of companies protecting themselves from the things their employees might post… Legally, companies can take action against their employees for posting trade secrets, for example, or even for criticizing working conditions. I can certainly understand employers wanting to keep tabs on their employees’ public posts. But protected content, posts published with the expectation that they will will remain visible only to a person’s friends (or an even more select group)… I don’t think employers should have access to that content. Employees have a right to a personal life. They have a right to a degree of privacy. I just don’t think employers should be able to intrude upon those things.

There isn’t a perfect solution for both employers and employees, and I’m not sure there ever will be. People have their own comfort levels when it comes to the price they’re willing to pay for a job. Some people don’t mind sacrificing a little privacy, or signing a social media agreement, or friending their boss, if it means they get to keep their job.

For me, personally… I don’t want to work for an employer who doesn’t trust me to be responsible with my social media profiles. I don’t want to work for someone who demands that much access to my personal information. If I’m working for a company that deals with sensitive information, like a financial institution or a health care organization, I could be convinced to allow my employer to monitor my posts, but I just cannot bring myself to give up my passwords. It’s not a compromise I’m willing to make.

What about you? Would you give a potential employer access to your social media profiles? Where do you draw your line?

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