I heard rumblings on the internets last week of applicants going in for interviews and being asked for their Facebook passwords. Facebook released a statement and I dismissed this as a response to isolated cases. Surely employer are not doing this. Perhaps I was wrong and this is more wide-spread than I had thought.
What exactly do employers think they are going to find that a good manager or interviewer doesn’t discover? Over the years as a camp director when Myspace first came on the scene and then Facebook, I have been asked by fearful camp directors about managing their employees’ digital life. As camp directors, we need to have an interview and screening process that selects people who will represent our brand well and keep kids safe. Staff need education on how to behave online and what their digital life says about who they are as well as what it says about the camp and the director who hires them. I know, from running this type of training at camp, that young people don’t consider that my reputation is tethered to theirs when I offer them a job. By saying, “You are right for our camp,” I am making a judgement based on two decades of managing people. In addition to my judgement, we also have additional background checks, reference letters, and supervision on the job. Do I need to see their private Facebook posts to make that determination? Maybe I have been in Berkeley too long but I think people should be able to have a private life while presenting themselves in a professional manner when at work.
I do like Jeremiah Owyang’s post Employers Shouldn’t Request Facebook Access – Instead Provide Governance and Training. He talks more about what happens after the individual is hired. I would add that you need strong interviewers on your hiring committee who have a better than average ability to spot trouble in an interview without needing to see a Facebook account. With the digital natives, it is then essential that you teach them how their private digital life can bleed into their professional persona and how to live successfully in both worlds. It is a form of code-shifting that they need to learn, testing me as their boss is different than texting a peer in both substance and form.
What do you think? Are you asking for passwords to see private Facebook messages of your potential employees? What sort of training do you do to help your staff manage their digital life?