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Social Media and Interviews

By Steve Jones,

When I first saw this story, I was a bit disturbed. In an interview, for a statistician, the candidate was asked for his Facebook username and password. The interviewer wanted to view non-public parts of the candidate's profile on Facebook, and the candidate refused and withdrew his job application. I've heard of this in the past, with the city of Bozeman asking for credentials, but it appears the practice is growing. College athletes are asked to "friend" coaching staff, and some public sector workers must connect with their superiors.

If I were asked in an interview, I would politely decline and state that I have set up privacy for a reason. There are things I post to share with friends and family that are not meant to be available for the general public. In my mind, these are akin to photo albums or letters I've written that I store in my house. Anything that I post publicly I take responsibility for, but private posts are private. I would suggest you do the same.

On one hand companies are free to ask and candidates are free to decline, and that's the free market. At some point, however, if all companies were to ask for this, employees would essentially have no choice but to comply, which feels like an intrusion into employee's lives at a higher level than I feel should be allowed. It strikes me as a little too 1984-ish for my own comfort.

Part of the problem is that the laws we've written for the real world frame the way we interact. Those laws, however, don't necessarily translate and apply to the digital world, which means that we struggle to apply them in this new frame of reference. I think that we also aren't always sure exactly how we would want to have our privacy or rights preserved in the digital world, and all too often we have companies, and criminals, taking advantage of that fact.

I suggest everyone make an effort to separate your public and professional posts and profile online. Point employers to a professional profile, and let them know this what they should expect from you at work. Your personal thoughts and ideas are separate, and you'll keep them that way at work, just as you do in the digital world.

Steve Jones


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