It used to be that when companies conducted interviews it was the only chance for both the candidate and the company to get to know each other. With the prevalence of social media, companies have now been given a way to find out more than they ever need to know about their potential employees. Some have taken this research to the extreme leaving job hunters unhappy.
News agencies have been carrying stories about companies that have been asking job applicants for their Facebook logins and passwords before or during an interview. This is a slightly unsettling trend when observed from the job interviewee viewpoint.
It’s become a common practice of employers to look at the social profiles of potential employees to get to know the job seeker on a more personal level. Users have responded by ensuring that their profiles are private, much to the chagrin of would-be snoopers. So what have companies done? Some have started asking potential employees for access to their social media usernames and passwords. This new practice has the masses wondering, “Is this legal and am I protected?”
Currently there are no laws (in the US) that state that it’s illegal for employers to ask employees, potential or otherwise, for their social network usernames and passwords. There are however lawmakers in California, Maryland and Illinois who have introduced legislation that will bar companies from asking for account information. But this is by no means law yet.
Facebook has weighed in on this as well, “This practice [asking for passwords] undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends. It also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability.”
What Facebook means by this is that if a company does check into a potential employee, sees they are part of a protected group e.g., LGBT, and does not hire a person on those grounds the company could face claims of discrimination. Beyond that, Facebook also pointed out that giving out or soliciting passwords to your or another user’s account is a breach of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.
According to most articles, this is a fiasco. But if you look at it from an HR point of view, you want to know that the person sitting across from you really is who they say they are. You are protecting your interests as much as the interviewee is protecting their privacy. Short of asking people for their passwords there are five legal actions you can take to find out more about an interviewee.
- Basic Internet search: Your results may return hits for other people with the same name. To get around this, narrow the search by adding an email address, phone number or address.
- Facebook: It’s perfectly fine to use Facebook to search for a job seeker’s profile and do a little social snooping. Don’t forget, there are other social media sites out there, LinkedIn is a particularly good source for discovering a person’s work history. A big boon of Linkedin is that users tend to be free with their work related information on this site.
- Conduct background checks: It’s a good idea to conduct checks, especially if you work with money or other high value items. If you don’t have time to conduct checks, there are companies that will conduct checks for you. It’s important to be aware of the law regarding background checks in your region.
- Ask for, and check references: Companies just don’t do this anymore. It only takes a few minutes to call or email each reference provided. If you call the referrers and ask the right questions, you could learn a lot more about the applicant this way.
- Prepare ahead of time: We are all busy, but it’s important that you look over a resume before the interview. Pay close attention to employment history and take note of gaps in employment or short stints (less than one year) at companies.