when a prospective employer wants your social media passwords

by Alison Green on January 17, 2012

A reader writes:

I saw this article today and it made me wonder about hiring practices.

In a nutshell, it’s talking about that thorny situation of social media and its use in hiring decisions. A lot of the info there is very 2006-era “duh-tastic” but one thing caught my eye: Some companies are apparently requesting usernames and passwords to access applicants’ accounts on social media sites. This seems VERY sketchy to me, and even though my profile is pretty boring, my first reaction would be to say “No,” and remove myself from their consideration. 

What would be your advice to someone who finds themselves in this situation?

Yeah, it’s outrageous. This got some attention last year, when it came out that the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services was asking job applicants for their social media account usernames and passwords for use in background checks. I agree with the person quoted in the article you linked to that it’s like asking someone to hand over their diary.

Now, it should be noted that this practice is very limited. There have only been a handful of reports of it happening.  It’s still outrageous and unacceptable, but it’s also not widespread.

Part of me thinks that the employers who are doing this are just clueless about social media, heard that it’s good to check out people’s profiles, and don’t realize that you don’t ask for their passwords in order to see what they’ve posted about themselves. Another part of me thinks that they’re well aware of what they’re asking and this is a natural offshoot of increasingly invasive screening practices.

I’d strongly encourage anyone who finds themselves on the receiving end of this request to refuse it. Say, “I don’t give out passwords for security reasons, although I’d be happy to send you the link for viewing my profile.” And stick to it.

Just because they want to strip search you doesn’t mean you have to let them.

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{ 100 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian January 17, 2012 at 3:02 pm

See as how turning over your password to someone else violates the terms of service for all of the social media sites I know of, this is a non-starter. If the company is asking you to violate the terms of this agreement what makes you think they won’t ask you to violate some other agreement (or do it themselves)?

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Ask a Manager January 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm

This would be an excellent response.

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Brian January 17, 2012 at 3:35 pm

The other part of this is that not only are you giving them access to *read* your private profile, you are also giving them the ability to *publish* to your profile. The risks to my reputation of handing over my identity to a stranger are too great for me to even consider it.

I guess a slightly more difficult question would arise if they asked me to log in and let them look at my profile while I was in the room with them. I would still refuse, but that scenario would (mostly) get around the issues of violating terms of service and them being able to publish as me.

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KellyK January 19, 2012 at 10:11 am

Even with that scenario, the people who have shared things with you haven’t given your prospective employer permission to view it. If I were in that position, that would be my response…that my friends and family trust me with certain info that they might not want shared indiscriminantly, just as a company might trust its employees with sensitive information. So no, I’m not going to violate their privacy.

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Josh S January 17, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Most times, the Terms of Service (TOS) for a site prohibits you from sharing your password or login credentials with anyone else. If you give it to an employer (or potential employer), you’re violating the TOS.

At best, this can get you kicked out of whatever service you’re using if it’s discovered. At worst, it can be criminal under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Here’s a discussion surrounding that from a tech-oriented site.

So not only can you respond with, “I’m sorry, that would violate the Terms of Service for that website…,” you can also follow that up with, “…which may in fact be a criminal offense for me to do. No thanks!”

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Hell to the No January 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm

I really want to believe they’re clueless about social networking sites and don’t know what they’re asking by requesting someone’s passwords. I mean, come on!! Does anyone actually turn these over? It’s already irritating enough that potential employers come snooping around for dirt via Facebook and Twitter.

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Kristian January 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Yes, username: Kiss
Password: Myass

I’d never work for a company that’s that invasive during the hiring interview (not even offered a job yet) process. Things only get worse, not better. Remember this is the time when you’re supposed to be trying to impress each other.

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Joey January 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm

I’m a little surprised you would advise a flat out refusal instead of deciding if the invasion of privacy is worth a potential job. I mean its sort of like refusing a patdown at the airport. You can refuse but you’d better be okay with the alternative.

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Ask a Manager January 17, 2012 at 3:22 pm

People can decide that it’s worth it to them and ignore my advice … but I hope they won’t. People need to draw the line somewhere, and if they don’t, companies will keep getting more and more invasive because candidates aren’t pushing back.

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Jen January 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm

The other thing is – handing over your password doesn’t just affect the person who does it; it quite likely provides access to information about other people you know (private Twitter feeds, non-public Facebook info, all sorts of stuff.)

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KellyK January 18, 2012 at 9:05 am

Absolutely.

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Mike C. January 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm

An employee shouldn’t have to chose between feeding themselves and exposing all of their secrets and the secrets of their friends and family. The fact that you feel someone should have to make this choice says a great deal about you.

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Joey January 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Does it suck? Sure. But the reality is if I had to choose between food on the table/ roof over my family’s head and forking over my social media passwords that would be an easy decision. Refusing a job on principle is not as easy as it sounds.

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Laura January 17, 2012 at 5:02 pm

I think Mike C’s point is that this should never be the case. Certainly, someone will have to make that decision and will chose paying rent over keeping their Facebook private. However, this shouldn’t even be a decision someone has to make.

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Esra January 18, 2012 at 8:58 am

How far exactly would you go then for employment? At some point, principle does have to come into play.

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jrw January 18, 2012 at 10:12 am

Well, the other part of this issue is that it’s not just a principle. Any company that asks for this information is clueless about identity theft. If they’re clueless about this, what else are they clueless about, that might bring them down in potentially ugly ways?
(the alternative is deliberate malevolent control and…I’d rather be dealing with scrambling to make payments than work for someone like that.)

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Chris Walker January 19, 2012 at 10:23 am

Also, any company that asks for this is stupid. There is a great likelihood they will discover information they are not allowed to consider in employment decisions (race, religion, gender, age etc.). But once they have it, they will have a difficult time proving that they did not, in fact, use that information. Employers risk the same thing even when they google candidates. Many are now using third parties to do screening for just this reason.

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Ask a Manager January 19, 2012 at 10:52 am

For what it’s worth, they find out a lot of that info when they interview you in person anyway.

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Ellen M. January 18, 2012 at 6:38 pm

I cannot imagine why anyone would consider doing this for an instant. This raises the biggest hugest red flag, and they haven’t even hired you yet (or offered you anything!) I would say “NO!” firmly and clearly, walk out the door and breathe a sigh of relief that I found out early how crazy those folks were. That is just unacceptable.

There are some situations worse than unemployment.

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Karen January 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm

I know companies tend to look for social media profiles…so I always kept mine private, before deleting them altogether (It was all starting to look like MySpace to me anyway). Looking for juicy details on my life is like looking for dirt in a snowstorm.

I don’t want to let people off the hook for posting stupid stuff on facebook, but really…why do companies insist on knowing about your personal life before hiring you? This is basically the same as asking for children, marital status, and sexual orientation. They’re just doing it online.

I am actually inclined to think that this is something more sinister…like a way for the company to bypass profiles with strict privacy settings.

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Ask a Manager January 17, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I look at social media profiles when I’m hiring (which is totally different from asking for someone’s passwords). I look because if I find racist rantings, references to being drunk at work, or constant complaints about your boss (all things I’ve found), I’m not going to hire you.

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Karen January 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Now that I understand – in a sense, it’s a way to screen out people bold enough to not even hide their racism/drunkenness/complaining/etc. But, I do think that it opens up a big can of worms in terms of companies screening someone out because of their religion/race/sexual orientation/physical appearance/age etc. Most of these things can be hidden with profile settings, but there are always ways around that. That’s where I get a little uncomfortable.

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Ellen January 17, 2012 at 9:13 pm

I agree. I do alumni interviews for my school and I accidentally found and viewed one girl’s Facebook profile once. (Well, it wasn’t really an accident, but I wasn’t intending to search for it – I was trying to figure out which of two names I’d been given she went by ) I didn’t see any information other than her name and profile picture but I really wish I hadn’t clicked on it because of the worry that the profile picture, posts, music she liked, books she liked, facebook groups belonged to, etc. would predispose me one way or the other. Obviously others may feel differently, and the actual admissions officers probably Google the students, but I feel like it’s quite wrong to do so because my role is *just* to evaluate them on the basis of the interview.

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Erica B January 17, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Which is why I never post anything bad about my work on any of my social networking sites!

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Jaime January 17, 2012 at 4:04 pm

If I were hiring, I would do the same thing. However, I know that personal me and professional me can be wildly different. Fundamentals are the same, like honesty, plain speaking, a love of puppies but other things are not. For instance, I am a messy, messy person at home but almost a neatfreak at work. I do not like a cluttered work desk or mess, at all. At home, I have semi-organized chaos. If I thought it was funny to post a picture of my cluttered spare room, an employer would get a totally skewed sense of how I like to work. I’m also chronically late in my personal life (and so are my friends, we fit! lol), but on time at work. If someone saw jokes about my lateness on my FB from friends and family, then they’d also get the wrong idea about my time management at work. (ps, I’m working on the lateness. I’ve read articles that do not paint flattering pictures on the why behind chronic lateness, that also do not fit my situation, but I’d hate for my friends/family to think I don’t value their time either.)

I don’t, quite, compartmentalize between home and work, but there are definite differences. So I’m not saying it’s bad to use it as a filter, but surely I’m not the only person out there for whom it would be almost anti-predictive (lol, is that a word?).

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Ask an Advisor January 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm

I absolutely look at social media when hiring, too. Once I was hiring for a summer position that required getting to work at 7am on the weekend and one student’s profile was nothing but references to being drunk and hungover all the time and his profile pic was of him doing a keg stand. No thank you.

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Anonymous January 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm

On a somewhat related note, I actually recommend doing this as a job seeker. After checking out the facebook of the person I would report to while I was going through the interview process at a company I found multiple posts from my would-be boss regarding his current employees. He didn’t use names, but described issues in detail (enough that I”m sure anyone familiar with his workplace could identify the people he was talking about). I found it extremely unprofessional and chose to withdraw from the hiring process. I was open about my reason for not wanting to be considered anymore to which the HR person exclaimed “I knew I should have checked if he changed his privacy settings!”. I’m glad I was able to avoid that mess.

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Jaime January 17, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Good point, something I hadn’t thought of. :)

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Piper January 17, 2012 at 4:28 pm

My question is, are there really that many people out there who still don’t have their profiles locked down and set to private? I realize there are hacker ways around this, but for the average job seeker and hiring manager, you’re going to see whatever the person has set for you to see and it seems strange to me with all the brouhaha around Facebook privacy that anyone would still be letting it all hang out.

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Ask a Manager January 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Oh yes. It’s odd.

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JT January 17, 2012 at 4:52 pm

That article and this thread are mainly discussing Facebook, but some of us participate in certain forms of social media in an explicitly public way – my Twitter account is an example of that.

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Mike C. January 17, 2012 at 5:28 pm

The issue is that Facebook keeps changing their privacy settings, often without notice.

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Ask a Manager January 17, 2012 at 5:30 pm

That’s a good point.

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Anonymous January 17, 2012 at 5:56 pm

The issue is that Facebook keeps changing their privacy settings, often without notice.

Well, of course they do. None of Facebook’s customers want there to be any privacy settings at all.

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Dawn January 18, 2012 at 9:21 am

“My question is, are there really that many people out there who still don’t have their profiles locked down and set to private?”

From what I’ve seen, yes. Although it’s not quite as bad as it used to be. Facebook makes it tough, though, because they keep making confusing changes to their privacy settings.

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Josh S January 18, 2012 at 2:59 pm

@Alison/ Ask a Manager:

When you look at social media profiles, how do you ensure you’re looking at the right person’s information?

As I noted below, I’m careful to curate my online presence and keep most of it private. The stuff that *is* public I generally hide from Google’s search results, and allow people to access only with a direct link. The result is that the first 2 pages of results when you search my name points to people who are not me.

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Ask a Manager January 18, 2012 at 3:01 pm

I match up school and work info, since otherwise I could be looking at anyone! There’s an Alison Green in Australia who sells t-shirts, after all.

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Anonymous January 18, 2012 at 7:04 pm

I had a HUGELY awkward moment when I presented to a group and the guy who introduced me used information off of a FB profile–from a different person with the same name! I had sent (at his request) a professional bio so I have no idea why he tried to get more info that way. When he first started announcing my supposed “likes” I didn’t say anything, but when he asked me a specific question about one of them (a particularly weird habit this person had listed) I had to say he had the wrong person. Mind you, the other person is a 20 year-old (I’m mid-40s) from the opposite coast . . . with a picture. There’s just no way to confuse us. It was just so embarrassing for me.

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Jennifer January 19, 2012 at 11:05 am

You mean you don’t sell t-shirts in Australia? I just that was extension of your multi-talented life. :D

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Josh S January 19, 2012 at 1:36 pm

And if someone religiously scrubs their online profile of any real-life details? How much time do you spend searching for such stuff? If there’s nothing that matches on the first page of Google results and nothing in Facebook, do you give up?

I never put my school, my job, or my address (closest thing to a location is my major metro area) online with any of my publicly-viewable or searchable profiles.

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Ask a Manager January 19, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Well, it’s not a military operation or anything — I look what feels like a reasonable amount of time to me, and if I don’t find anything, I give up :)

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Mike C. January 17, 2012 at 3:32 pm

What bothers me is that when they start asking for social media, they are asking for access to all the things your friends and family have trusted you to see. How in the hell can an employer justify that sort of access to all these people that aren’t even part of the hiring process?

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Ask a Manager January 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Very good point.

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Laura January 17, 2012 at 5:00 pm

This is a huge part of it for me. It’s one thing to try to find someone’s public Facebook profile to see if they are not self-aware enough to hide their racist rantings or whatever, but requiring you hand over access to a website used to facilitate personal communications? That’s like giving them access to your personal email, which has NO place in the hiring process in my opinion. The amount of invasive searching some employers seem to do in the United States is really disturbing to me.

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Laurie January 17, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Yes, exactly! If the company is so comfortable asking me to reveal information revealed in confidence to me for the sake of money (= job), why do they expect me to prove to them that I can be discreet and “keep strictest levels of confidentiality” regarding their information? This is insane.

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Jamie January 18, 2012 at 5:45 pm

I agree with Mike C. – asking to see ‘private’ areas of social networking is invasive not only to the candidate, but to their connections.

Now, I don’t believe anything is truly private on the net – people need to get past the false security of Facebook privacy (i.e.) because you never know who is a friend of a friend who can see and show your stuff.

That said – employer’s asking for access to this is, to me, akin to asking to go through my purse in an interview to get to know me better via my wallet pictures and choice of mascara.

There may be positions in which this would make sense, but it’s alluding me now.

Anyway – I really think when asked for “usernames and passwords” it was most likely clumsy phrasing and what was really being requested was access to view.

Still rude, and I’d still say no, but not as insidious as asking for the keys to the castle.

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Jaime January 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm

This reminds me of apartment rental applications. They always ask for your bank account numbers and credit card numbers, but who actually provides that? They don’t need more than names and addresses.

I feel like this is the same thing – asking for more than they need. Sometimes they’ll get it and mostly they won’t. If a company pushed for it, then I’d have to push back. If they insisted, then unless I’m literally desperate then I’d have to move on. It clearly wouldn’t be a good fit. Regardless of what I do or do not post on my facebook, they have no right to my username or password.

I keep my FB settings private for a reason and one of them is this – smart, stupid, or offensive prospective employers should not be able to see my posts. I have a lot of coworkers as FB friends, but no managers. I’m friends with managers, but that would put both of us in a potentially awkward position. (when I move on someday, then I’ll send out a bunch of friend requests to managers) My company often sends out appeals for us to push some product via social media and I never do it. My FB is for personal use, not professional. If I wanted to do that, then I’d set up a separate account. I don’t even have my company info filled out, it is irrelevant. If someone didn’t know, I’d happily tell them where I worked but I don’t need it in the info stuff. You can, however, see a lot of the authors I like. ;) Even if I was someone who didn’t mind the world seeing my stuff, I would still make my profile private during a job search time period. It’s only smart to not risk offending, since you won’t know all of the people looking at your posts and what offends them.

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Erica B January 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm

I think it’s completely inappropriate to ask to passwords to the sites you visit. If they’d like my username so they can look at what’s available to the public, they can.. It’s expected that companies looka t this stuff nowadays. Giving out passwords is just a BAD idea in general

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Josh S January 17, 2012 at 4:23 pm

My full name is not too common. And yet, whenever I search for my name on Google or Facebook or wherever, I come across the following looong before any results that are actually me:
A) A snowboarding youth pastor, roughly my age
B) A 2-episode TV character from a British teen sitcom
C) A US Senator who gets assassinated in a little-read fiction novel
D) A graphic designer, roughly my age
E) A business owner in Southern California in an industry completely different than the one I work in.
F) Me. (Actually, my LinkedIn profile has started climbing the ranks lately. Not sure why. I’ll have to address that.)

I like being hidden among various other professionals. But I kind of feel sorry for any manager trying to figure out which one of those people is me.

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Anonymous January 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm

My husband has the same name as a porn star! He thinks this is pretty hilarious and I have to admit that I chuckle over the unintended eyefulls some people must be getting when they Google his name.

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Jaime January 17, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Awesome!

My brother’s name is pretty unique, but it turns out a famous pop singer from the ’80s/’90s has a lesser-known brother with the same name. This guy always comes up first, and since people are always going “b____, are you related to ___ ____?” I bet people wonder.

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The gold digger January 17, 2012 at 8:06 pm

I am a German wildlife biologist who specializes in Carpathian wolves.

My mom is a pole dancer and a stripper.

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Long Time Admin January 18, 2012 at 9:36 am

Good one, That Woman. It might be fun to make up a persona and give that information to an interviewer. Hmmmm.

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Chris January 18, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Oy. When I googled my name, I found out some Valley girl a couple years younger than me has basically cornered the first 3 pages of Google results. I haven’t figured out what to do about it yet, but I’m worried a potential employer is going to think I write in “text” (BRB, BFF, GTG, LOL, u, 2, etc.) Of course our resumes don’t match, but it would be hard to tell that unless you got through the first three pages of fan mail to pop stars signed in *MY* name.

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KayDay January 18, 2012 at 7:56 am

It’s good your linked in profile comes up! Be very careful about being too hidden, many employers expect to find good stuff about you on-line. I am guessing that this is more true at the higher up levels, however.

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Josh S January 18, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Rather than relying on Google to put my best foot forward, I would prefer to rely on myself. Instead of simply letting an employer Google for “Josh S” and trying to figure out which of the many real and fictional characters matches with the resume in front of her, I’d prefer to direct them to the parts of my online life that are A) relevant, and B) curated for professional viewing.

This can mean a list of the work I’ve published in trade press (on my resume), a link to my LinkedIn (my email signature…though that’s more of a networking tool than any real insight into my work life), or even my personal/professional websites/blogs or Facebook (unlikely that I’d share those, but if so, it might be in my coverletter or my email sig). There are ways to seed the employer’s desire to find an “online reference” that doesn’t rely on the arbitrary or haphazard nature of a 3rd party search.

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Esra January 18, 2012 at 9:04 am

You are lucky. I have the same name as an author of awful mysteries, another graphic designer (I really need to work on seo), and a very angsty goth who writes very bad poetry.

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Anonymous January 18, 2012 at 10:52 am

Last I checked, I am the only one in the USA with my name. There’s someone in Norway with a similar name but it’s not exact. My name’s pretty ethnic. I am one in 5 billion!

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Suz January 18, 2012 at 5:00 pm

I run into the same thing. The 1st several on the list are always links to articles about a woman with my name who sued an abortion clinic for malpractice. I’m always afraid a potential employer will think it’s me. Especially because they never mention that she died until the end of the story you’d miss that unless you read the entire article. She died in 1989 and it still is always at the top of a google search.

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fposte January 17, 2012 at 4:41 pm

I see an excellent new business opportunity: Facebook and Twitter accounts preloaded with benign information, tweaked according to buyer for a small fee.

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Karyn January 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm

My boss specifically said he does NOT look at any of his employees’ Facebook pages, because frankly, he doesn’t want to know. He’s well aware that I don’t like him all the time, but he’s also aware that it’s like when a parent goes snooping through their child’s dresser and finds porn/condoms/etc. – you went looking for it, so you clearly suspected it anyway.

In other words: no way in hell are they getting my passwords, to ANYTHING.

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Anonymous January 17, 2012 at 5:32 pm

My friends make fun of me for it, but this sort of thing makes me very happy about my decision not to have a Facebook page.

And before anyone accuses me of being a luddite, I’m posting this from my android.

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Andrea January 18, 2012 at 9:38 am

Ha, me too! My friends do make fun of me, and I may well be the only one of my generation without a FB page, but that’s how it is. I don’t want everyone knowing my business. And I don’t care about my former classmates. And if I wanted to keep in touch with my 20+ first cousins or countless second cousins, well, I would. And every time FB proves to be just a little more evil, I feel good about my decision.

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Long Time Admin January 18, 2012 at 9:40 am

I have a Facebook page that I’ve never updated and never check, I never “friend” anyone any more, I don’t twit, and I’m posting this from a pc.

Call me a luddite, old fashioned, or just plain old – I like my privacy.

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Anonamoose January 18, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Please allow me to join your Luddite picnic.

I consider myself to be comfortably tech-savvy; however, I see no need for me to partake of social networking, at this time. As a tool, it really has yet to prove its worth to me, especially while operating as a prospective/current employee. That is not to say that I think others do not find worth in this milieu; but, I would wager that it is less people than what is alleged in the media.

Furthermore, I say it is no one’s business what I do on my time. If I am providing good output while I am at work, then that should be all that matters. I am not a politician and I am not a celebrity with an endorsement contract that specifies a code of conduct that governs both my activities on the job and elsewhere.

Honestly, this voracious desire to climb under everyone’s bedsheets to have a look (so to speak) is something that truly needs to be brought under control.

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Master Anonymous January 18, 2012 at 10:43 pm

I have a FB page, and now I have it set to timeline. One of my friends wrote first, “Now you’re one of the cool people.” I thought it was weird then, and I still do.

But I’m the opposite of the Anonymous we’re answering. S/he has an Android but no FB. I have a FB but not a single smart phone. My phone is a dinosaur, at the tender age of 3 (I think), compared to many other people.

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khilde January 20, 2012 at 11:51 am

Ditto on the no smart phone. I just barely have the standard-issue Verizon texting phone. I would really like to have a smart phone, but I’m not willing to pay the extra for the data package each month. I guess it’s where I take my social media/technology stand in my own life. I’m a real bad ass.

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Ask a Manager January 20, 2012 at 11:56 am

I was a total luddite about my phone until a few months ago, when I finally gave in and got a smart phone and I am now totally in love with it. I think there’s no way not to be once you finally give in.

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ChristineH January 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm

I agree that asking for usernames and passwords is completely inappropriate, no question. I think that employers perhaps think (erroneously) that it’s the only way to view your social media profiles for screening without actually being a “friend” or “connection”.

I’m mixed about employers using social media to screen candidates. On the one hand, it can offer a glimpse into a candidate’s judgment, such as Ask An Advisor’s example of potential candidates partying all the time as well as AAM’s excellent examples of inappropriate rants or a clear pattern of inappropriate behavior (which I think could extend to non-work hours in some cases).

OTOH, I can see how this can be abused too. My FB profile is pretty boring too, but how do I know that a prospective employer isn’t going to misinterpret something I post or gets posted about me (if I get tagged in a photo or video)? I don’t really foresee that happening to me, but you never know!

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ChristineH January 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Sorry, I know I went off on a tangent there.

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KellyK January 18, 2012 at 9:11 am

It’s a worthwhile tangent. Especially since people sometimes use tagging to *show* people pictures, not to label the people who are in them.

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ChristineH January 18, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Yes!! I hate when people do that!

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Anonymous January 18, 2012 at 10:56 am

I have a “friend” who tags me with the most odd photos. Cannot figure out how to get her to stop. I’d delete my account, but actually I manage several FB “presences” for some local charities. Need that account. Maybe I should ask politely. Nah.

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Anonymous January 18, 2012 at 11:49 am

You can remove tags, and I can’t remember, but there may be a way to block someone from tagging you.

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Master Anonymous January 18, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Just untag yourself. When they see the photo and realize your tag is missing, they may try to retag you, but they will get an error message saying something to the effect, “this person has already removed the tag and you cannot retag.”

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Anonymous January 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm

When I was much younger, my bank account was comprised due to information I left on a rental app…I put my routing number on it! I wasn’t the dumbest 22-year-old in history, just a little too trusting. I could totally see my old self giving out a Facebook password to a prospective employer.

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John Hunter January 17, 2012 at 5:45 pm

I agree this is an insane request. You advice is good, and I would certainly need questions answered about how the organization made such an crazy request. It is one piece of evidence that this is no place to think of working.

But it is also possible it is one lone fool. If one lone person, is doing this it does indicate the company has poor processes to avoid really crazy requests of applicants. But many organization have weaknesses that seem outrageous looking at only that. The warming sign would make me need to take extra care to examine if this organization is worth working for but I wouldn’t automatically withdraw. If it was an actual policy they thought about and officially decided on, I can’t imagine working there. If they decide things like this I can’t imagine all the other insane things they decide.

It is easy to find whatever I have online. I wouldn’t care about sharing my links. I think asking for that may be obnoxious. I don’t really care about people looking at online info in general (and I don’t care about them looking at mine). I’m just not sure if I like the policy of specifically asking for urls, I haven’t really thought about it. I would be happy to give them, but I don’t know about the policy (just like I don’t care about telling stuff I guess companies don’t want to ask like marital status or whatever… I agree those are not sensible to ask but I often don’t care personally about answering. My password or PIN, however, ah no.

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anon-2 January 17, 2012 at 6:09 pm

They want your PASSWORDS?

Besides the ethical (and criminal) ramifications, I’d be rather frightened as far as what they’re going to ask you for next, or what they’ll ask you to do next.

Hold nose. Turn 180. Run. Fast.

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anon-2 January 17, 2012 at 6:21 pm

I might add — having worked in data security along with other responsibilities — you should NEVER share your passwords for work access with ANYONE — not your peers, not your subordinates, not your manager.

Nearly every company has published policies. I cannot count the number of times that people would call my desk and ask –

“Can you give me (someone’s) password?” .. most modern-day security admins aren’t in a position to retrieve them, by design.

“Joe Schmoe’s ID is in use, and I need it. Can you cancel the user?”
Huh?

“Whaddayamean you can’t give me Betty’s password. I’M HER BOSS.”
Because you just might log in under her ID and do something dastardly, even if we COULD retrieve it.

“I need a list of my people’s passwords.” Again, they can’t retrieve them, but why?

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Laurie January 17, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Good God. Managers ask for this kind of stuff?? I’m getting chills down my spine.

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Piper January 19, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I worked somewhere once where the owner of the company pulled these kinds of stunts all the time. It was a fairly small place, he was pretty convinced he was above the law (including not having to adhere to OSHA standards- it was big enough to be required- and not paying up to the IRS). So yeah, this guy was a real treat to work for. I didn’t stay long.

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Steve Berg January 17, 2012 at 6:43 pm

“I do not give out my personal user names and passwords, just as I do not give out my user name and passwords to company computer resources.”

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Karthik January 17, 2012 at 8:08 pm

You could also mention that if you provide the passwords, the company becomes liable for securing that information.

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uncle January 17, 2012 at 8:09 pm

1. Tell them you don’t have an account on any Social Media site.
2. Set up a 2nd account like the kids do so their parents don’t know what they’re really doing…

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Anonymous January 17, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Or just say you don’t have one. Yes, there are people who do not have them.

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JT January 17, 2012 at 9:24 pm

@Anonymous 858: Never lie.

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Anonymous January 18, 2012 at 9:36 pm

That’s why I said, yes there are people who do not have them.

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Sean January 17, 2012 at 9:07 pm

This is honestly scary as anything and a breach of privacy. I know they can ask for your actual Facebook profile link, but asking for your username and password is not only sketchy, but in my opinion, it’s sketchy indeed. I mean it’s not them asking for your credit card pin or that sort of thing, but it’s very similar along the line of privacy. I would say if anyone ever did that, I would run, FAST.

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Just Me January 17, 2012 at 11:02 pm

This is just wrong. Like most of the posters it is a major privacy issues on all levels. It is disturbing that a company would ask for passwords knowing that in their own company if you don’t lock computers when you are gone from your desk and if you give out your passwords you could be in violation on their policies involving confidential information.
I realize hiring is tough and making the right decisions can be tedious and sometime the wrong decisions are made. But you know what? I have made wrong decisions accepting offers from companies as well. I don’t always have the tools to know what I am about to embark in a company. Regardless of the best questions I was asking, upon hire I realized I had been lied to, tossed into the lion’s den with no training so on and so forth. No complaining, really I am not, just saying, it is sometimes just a crap shoot either way.
If someone, like the other posters said is right out there on the net as drunk, sure no longer a viable candidate but whatever happen to simple gut instinct?

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Piper January 18, 2012 at 8:58 am

Absolutely. There is no foolproof way to know if a hire is a good match, and that goes both ways. You can do what you can do, but there are always mistakes. I’ve been in awful situations where the job turned out to be nothing even remotely close to the job description I was sold during the interview. No matter what questions I asked, I never would have known that. And a search of social media profiles wouldn’t have helped me know that either unless someone was cackling online about how they just sold a new employee a back of rotten potatoes (highly unlikely). These continually increasing invasions of privacy are startling. Employers, no matter what they like to think, are not deities with supreme power.

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Master Anonymous January 17, 2012 at 11:07 pm

There are a lot of posts on here so if I’m repeating, I’m apologizing ahead of time.

Facebook constantly changes its privacy settings and ways you can manipulate them. That is true. But if you want to know what you look like to your friends or to the public, you can hit the little star button. The drop down menu will give you the “view as” option so you can see how your profile is viewed by the public. It also helps when you have friended people who don’t need to see everything and you can see how much that person says. Work on your privacy settings and use the “view as” option to see if everything is working the way you want it to.

Yes, many people do not realize how much their privacy is not so private. You can see someone’s profile, and it looks as if you can’t see anything. Give the profile photo a click, and then you see a ton of pictures. When you lock-up your profile and photos, remember to check every possibility. Take a look at someone else’s profile to see where you find info and compare it to where yours needs to be locked up.

I agree with those who say that the giving out of the information violates the terms of service.

And to anyone who says they would rather hand over the information instead of passing a job, here are a couple of things to consider:
1. Do you know who you are giving the information too? Yes, it’s a potential employer, but what has this person done to give you that trust to hand over your FB life? Who’s to say that this person won’t mishandle your account – either post on your wall or change your password so you can’t access it later? I don’t know about any of you, but I would fear of potential identity theft.
2. How can you trust this company later on? If they are asking for this sort of information now, what can they ask of later on?

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Leadership Development Course January 18, 2012 at 6:31 am

I don’t think that’s right at all. That would suck.

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Wilton Businessman January 18, 2012 at 9:34 am

“Sure, would you like my credit card number too?”

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Scott Woode January 18, 2012 at 10:47 am

I must say this dialogue is quite apropos given the current political climate regarding PIPA & SOPA.

My $0.02: I think they’re asking way too much and (inadvertently) breaking the law by doing so. Do I understand where they are coming from and how they want to see as much as they can of the employee? Absolutely. But this is the quick and exceptionally dirty route. What ever happened to a good ol’ fashioned Boolean search of the interwebs or a more modern, filtered Google search? It would yield the same information and it wouldn’t break any laws. Plus it might be fun “First Day Conversation” fodder: “Do you know what the first entry was on my Google search of your name, Christopher?”

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nyxalinth January 18, 2012 at 2:01 pm

I made a Facebook account because I’d read some article back in 2009 that asking about your social media site was becoming common in interviews and that many employers didn’t believe it when told “I don’t have one.”.

So I have a very mundane Facebook, consisting mostly of old high school friends and me playing Castleville.

All my personal stuff that I don’t want anyone seeing is on a friends only Livejournal account, and NONE of my personal info is in my details, other than the city I live in.

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anonymous #something January 18, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I agree with the others, it violates the Terms of Services for these sites to give away your password- so just say that/write that.
—–
To go along with invasive hiring practices theme…
With so many companies *requiring* so much personal info up-front we’re going to see a rise in identity thefts. The thing is it’s not just scammers requiring such info but big brand named companies too.

We’re also probably not too far off from seeing employers asking, and requiring a numerical(!) answer for, how many jobs has the applicant applied to recently or how many interviews s/he has had recently. *Really hope I’m wrong about that*

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galt January 19, 2012 at 11:54 am

Not only would it violate TOS for the sites, it also shows no respect for the candidate, their life or the concerns of their family or friends.

I mean, really, even if your page is completely professional, non-work related, on social sites everyone knows someone that will occasionally make a flippant comment or post about work. All of that could show up in the search.

Potential employers are taking on the role of a voyeur with consent. Beyond TOS violations (and creepy), what else are they going to ask you to do?

Does it really get down to who you know, what they did, who they did it with and what they say in addition to personal relationships and dialogue? Who’s more interesting? More attractive? More sexual, more drunk, more of a voyeur?

Who is really qualified to police our lives and make decisions that impact them? Please, HR departments, stop playing God.

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Kat January 21, 2012 at 11:53 pm

If I was asked for my username and password, I would respond with: “You first.”

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Billy April 9, 2012 at 10:59 am

in response to:

Ask a Manager January 17, 2012 at 3:32 pm
I look at social media profiles when I’m hiring (which is totally different from asking for someone’s passwords). I look because if I find racist rantings, references to being drunk at work, or constant complaints about your boss (all things I’ve found), I’m not going to hire you.

Not being funny, but if I don’t like my manager, I can bitch about them all I want on my Facebook, thats freedom of speech, you aren’t obliged to like someone just because you work with them.

By that logic, I have to have a recording device on me when i’m out with friends in a bar, just so you can check if I bitch about you? sorry not a good enough reason to hand over my password in my eyes! work life and personal life are seperate, I can be a dick on Facebook, but a perfectly good worker. I wouldn’t even accept my managers friend request.

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Ask a Manager April 9, 2012 at 11:56 am

Actually, no — freedom of speech refers to protections that you have from the government restricting your speech; it doesn’t give you protection from a private employer doing the same. If you happen to have your Facebook profile public enough for me to see it, and there happens to be bad judgment displayed there, then yep, employers are going to factor it in.

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