Give me your Facebook password if you want this job.

In the US, employers are asking job seekers to hand over their Facebook login details and passwords as part of the recruitment process. One law professor described the process as the equivalent of “requiring someone’s house keys”.

This is from

WHEN Justin Bassett interviewed for a new job, he expected the usual questions about experience and references. So he was astonished when the interviewer asked for something else: his Facebook username and password.

Bassett, a New York City statistician, had just finished answering a few character questions when the interviewer turned to her computer to search for his Facebook page. But she couldn’t see his private profile. She turned back and asked him to hand over his login information.

Bassett refused and withdrew his application, saying he didn’t want to work for a company that would seek such personal information. But as the job market in the US steadily improves, other job candidates are confronting the same question from prospective employers, and some of them cannot afford to say no.

While some companies aren’t asking for the passwords so bluntly, they’re asking job seekers to log in to company computer’s during interviews, or having them “friend” HR managers.

Questions have been raised about the legality of the process and it’s the focus of proposed legislation in some US states that would “forbid public agencies from asking for access to social networks”.

But more generally, checking people’s social media profiles as part of the recruitment process is nothing new.

A couple of years ago when I was looking to hire my first MM employee – an editorial assistant – I wrote about the process in a column called: “Wanted: Job interview magic” and many people completely lost their shit.

At the time, I wrote in part:

Job interviews have changed. I didn’t realise this until recently when I had to recruit for the first time in years and found myself doing some surprising things. When I worked in magazines, I disliked hiring even more than firing. And this was problematic because when you spend a decade managing women in their twenties and thirties who frequently hop around between jobs, countries and babies, you want to be friends with recruitment.

Resumes? I’ve seen a few. Hundred.

One of the best things about leaving management and starting my own small business has been no more recruitment.  But as continues to grow, and after three years of doing everything myself, I recently waved the white flag and admitted it was time to hire an editorial assistant.

I didn’t have time to trawl through a thousand resumes and nor did I have the stomach to disappoint 999 hopefuls. So I asked around my media contacts and edited it down to five good prospects.

That’s when it became interesting. Have I mentioned I find CVs useless? Mostly because they’re the work equivalent of the profiles on dating sites. Total spin.

Without even consciously thinking about it, the first thing I did before meeting each candidate was to look them up on Facebook and Twitter. Interesting…..

And then there were two.

I didn’t even need to glance at a single CV to eliminate three girls based on their social media profiles alone. One had a constant stream of Facebook updates bitching indiscreetly about her current job. Another evidently spent much of her time getting drunk and a third had some very strident views bordering on racist.

Is this fair? Sensible? Justified? Who knows but I did it. Yes, I made judgements on the character of job applicants based on social media profiles. And why wouldn’t I? It’s absurd to believe that how you behave on social media sites can be quarantined from you ‘proper’ work life. It can’t.

What you say online and what you choose to post on Twitter or Facebook is like your shop window. It’s not your bedroom. It’s not private (unless you have your privacy settings turned up which I would have thought was standard on Facebook these days but apparently not). And it’s a better indication of character than any written reference.

And here are some of the comments:

Clearly, asking someone for their Facebook password crosses a line and is probably illegal. But checking people out via Google, Twitter and Facebook are (I would have thought) very much standard practice in 2012.

There’s a lot at stake for employers too. What employees say or do on social media can impact on your company and your brand. As Kate pointed out in that comment above from 2010, I would only assume that a prospective employee would Google me, why wouldn’t I do the same?

And if you have a problem with that, I hope you’re not looking for a job….

What do you think? Would you freak if your boss – or prospective boss – checked out your social media profiles or googled you?