Imagine this scenario: you’ve sent out dozens of resumes, and the company of your dreams calls you in for an interview. The process is going great, you’re building an excellent rapport with your interviewer…and then you’re asked for your Facebook login and password. What do you do?
Yeses and Nos
Some applicants, like Maryland corrections officer Robert Collins, are shocked by the request, but provide the information, perhaps because they feel their need of a job outweighs their need of privacy. And others, like New York City statistician Justin Bassett, refuse and withdraw their applications on account of not wanting “to work for a company that would seek such personal information.”
Why Are Employers Asking?
From a company’s standpoint, they want to have as much information on their candidates as possible, and what better way to do that than to access one of the world’s most popular sites? People post their entire lives on Facebook—photos, status updates, links to articles and videos—and this information gives an accurate impression of a person. For example, why would any company hire an applicant if they’ve learned—through Facebook—that the person has consistently posted trashy bar photos or racist videos on their wall? Isn’t it better to find out before the hiring happens?
How Are Applicants Responding?
Applicants hate it. They feel it’s a huge invasion of privacy and employers have no right to encroach on it. Further, they don’t see what it has to do with their job skills, as personal and professional lives are two separate entities. The training that applicants do in order to secure a job is one thing, and how they spend their free time is another. The two have—should have—nothing to do with each other.
Bending to Will
However, the sometimes hopeless-looking job situation in the United States means that applicants are so desperate to get a job, they’ll hand over their Facebook password if it means a regular salary. The obvious solution is if all applicants refused, employers wouldn’t ask the question anymore. But this is neither practical nor realistic; people need jobs and the desire for food and shelter outweighs privacy.
What Does the Law Say?
In 2013, 36 states legislated actions about employers asking for Facebook passwords, and in 2014, 21 states banned it: California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. This shows that citizens, and the government, are serious about putting a stop to this, and employers have to find a new way to vet applicants.
It looks like the tide is turning, and employers soon won't be able to ask job applicants for their passwords in the interview process.