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Should employees give their passwords to prospective employers?

There's been a startling new trend emerging from the front lines of unemployed job seekers. Many employers - as part of the interview process - have been asking unsuspecting applicants to provide their Facebook username and password so the human resources department can access the applicant's account.

Facebook recently registered its objections to the practice, and warned employers not to ask prospective employees to share their password, noting that employers who did this are opening themselves up to invasion of privacy lawsuits.

This seems to be a violation of many laws and rules governing human resources best practices in interviewing. For example, if an HR professional cannot legally ask you about how many children you have, or your marital status, or any diseases or disabilities you have, how can they force you to log on to your account to find these answers?

Employers have been stymied in their efforts to get information about applicants due to recent improvements in Facebook privacy settings. Most of us have figured out how to clamp down our settings to avoid the general public from being able to view our profiles, comments and photos. HR professionals have to be very crafty to be able to see the content now, or very bold and request to be "friends" with those applicants.

So, what would you do if asked to provide your Facebook password? Or email passwords? I can tell you I would say no. Playing on the desperation of the unemployed is an ugly tactic, and asking an employee to "volunteer" the information when they are seeking employment is akin to coersion. Employers must know that people are desperate to compete in any way they can in this economy, and to me using this tactic to gain information from applicants is simply lazy.

The question applicants should be asking is: "What should my Facebook page look like? What information am I putting out there to the world?" Let's review.

  1.  It's ok to share personal information. Just make sure it is clean and doesn't portray you in a compromising or illegal situation.
  2. Take control of the way you are portrayed online. Clean up your Facebook page and other sites, delete questionable photos or posts that could be misconstrued by people who don't know you.
  3. Show an interest in the companies you're applying with. "Like" their pages on Facebook, seek out their company page on LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest.
  4. ALWAYS refrain from saying anything negative about a current or former employer on social nets. It just makes you look like a whiner.
  5. Posting nude pictures or slandering another person is not just dumb, it could get you in legal trouble.
  6. Use your social presence to demonstrate your expertise, confidence, balanced life and stability. If they're looking for red flags, show them only green ones!

Don't give away your passwords, but don't give companies the evidence they need to conclude that you are not the right person to hire.

- Claire Celsi

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