Could your Facebook page or Twitter feed prevent you from getting a job? It seems for some employers it isn’t enough to do reference and background checks as part of their pre-employment screening, they also want to review candidates’ social media sites before making any offers. While it has become fairly common for managers to check out a candidate’s public profiles, some are now demanding the passwords for email and private social networking sites in order to gain further access.
This trend has become popular for positions in the public sector, but it also seems to be gaining traction with private companies as well. Managers want to know they are hiring people of good character who are not engaged in illegal activity, and social networking sites such as Facebook can provide a unique glimpse into a candidate’s life away from work. Companies who don’t ask for passwords are still finding creative ways around this issue such as having candidates use a company computer to log into their profiles so the hiring manager can review them, or asking the candidate to “friend” the HR Manager.
As a former HR Manager, I find the practice of demanding passwords excessive and well over the line. While I certainly understand a company’s desire to screen out potential problem employees, I find requiring the disclosure of passwords for consideration of employment to be overly intrusive. At least two states agree, Illinois and Maryland. They are currently proposing legislation to make it illegal for public agencies to ask for social networking access. In the meantime, the private sector can do what they want.
I have been cautioning people for some time to show restraint and to be smart about the information they share on social networking sites. Bashing your company, complaining about your boss, sharing photos of your drunken exploits may be good fodder for your friends, but understand that somehow that information usually makes its way back to your employer. I know of one situation where a manager was shown a Facebook post from an employee who bragged that they had been drinking all night, had just finished their last beer and they were on their way to work, late of course. The employee arrived with an excuse about car trouble. Can you guess what the manager did? Yep…sent him for a drug test which resulted in the termination of his employment for being under the influence at work. As Jeff Foxworthy says, “Here’s your sign.”
As an employer, it is difficult to know for sure that you are making the right hiring decisions and hiring the wrong person can be an expensive mistake. With that being said, any information that you as a hiring manager can glean through public channels is fair game as far as I am concerned. Asking for passwords feels like the beginning of a very slippery slope to me. What’s next, demanding copies of medical records so companies can keep their healthcare costs down?
What do you think? Should employers be allowed to demand access to a candidates social networking sites as part of the pre-employment screening process?