How To Respond If An Interviewer Asks For Your Facebook Password

Padlocks by Jon Worth

The news media recently exploded with reports that employers are asking prospective employees for their Facebook passwords. A few years ago, I heard of interviewers asking prospective employees if they could see their Facebook pages. This takes it to a whole new level, and I think it’s disrespectful.

A lot of prospective employees are desperate for work, so I suspect a lot of them are complying with the request. I think a lot of people are shocked by the question and are saying “yes” without fully realizing what they are doing.

If a prospective employer asked for my Facebook password, my first thought would be two choice words (seven letters – you figure it out). Hopefully before those words escaped my lips, I’d temper that thought with something like, “I’m a very private person. I use Facebook to connect with close friends and family. I’d rather not give you that information.” I could follow that up with a statement that all my tweets are public if they want another glimpse into who I am as a person online.

I look at this question like when a police officer asks to look in your bag. They wouldn’t ask the question if they didn’t need your permission. You have the right to say “no” to the cop, just as you have the right to say “no” to prospective employer who asks for your social media passwords.

When a prospective employer asks for your social media passwords, they are opening themselves up for liability. There are a lot of things an employer can’t ask about in an interview, and they can be sued if they make hiring decisions based on things like race, gender, disability, or religion. If they have access to your otherwise privacy protected Facebook page, they may see information like your race, religion, or disability that could influence their hiring decision and put them at risk of getting sued for discrimination.

If anyone asks for your Facebook password, whether it’s your best friend or a prospective employer, the answer is always, “No.” If an employer won’t hire you because you won’t turn over your Facebook password, you don’t want to work for them anyway. A concerted effort from prospective employees pushing back against this question could be enough to make it stop.

UPDATE (3/26/2012): Facebook is warning users not to give their passwords to prospective employers.

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Comments

  1. Hi Ruth, another consideration is the TOS for different social media sites–Facebook prohibits the sharing of your password. The potential employer is invading your privacy and seeking, potentially, a run-around employment laws, as well as asking the potential employee to violate it’s contract with Facebook. Problematic and unnecessary, although there might be a rational for exempting law enforcement employees, but I’m not quite convinced of that.

  2. There are interviewers that may pose as “employers” to gain access to an individual’s private information. Also, there may be unscrupulous people that want to “pick your brain” for free while posing as employers which means you just lost out on that many hours of consulting pay.
    Some employers may just want to verify information that is posted publicly (not a password of course), so this may be part of the background checking process. Interviewees have to keep in mind that potential employers will check publicly available social networks to see what you post.

    • There’s nothing wrong with employers Googling prospective employees to see what’s out there. They cross the line when they ask for the person’s password.

  3. It’s far, far more invasive than if a cop asked to look into a backpack or purse. You’d almost expect a safety officer to do that, even if they couldn’t totally justify it for safety reasons.

    But an employer? Hell no. Not a reason in hell they should have access to any personal passwords, and they are assholes for asking in the first place.

    The only reason they want this information is to disqualify you and/or protect themselves. You lose, no matter what.

    But seriously…this isn’t okay to ASK someone. What a ridiculous invasion of privacy.

    • I agree! I would feel completely disrespected by anyone who asked for my password. That’s the type of behavior that would make me cut an interview short and walk out.

  4. This kind of blows my mind – I wouldn’t have expected anyone to try to ask for passwords (outside of apple, of course)

    • It blows my mind on some level that logic doesn’t prevent people from asking this question, but I’m not surprised that people don’t think things all the way through.

  5. I totally agree with the final assessment.  Any prospective employer who does not understand that your Facebook account is private, does not understand social media, nor do they respect your individuality.  The job will not be worth the invasion of your private space.

  6. Wow, things never cease to amaze me.  I can’t believe they have that power over privacy.  

  7. crysohara says:

    My take on it is… if I were to say risk asking my fellow employee for his password so I can use his computer I would be held liable for anything that would happen as well as the person who allowed provided the password.  If we don’t sharepasswords at work why would I share my password outside of work.  Works both ways.

  8. Johnsaxton says:

    Look at it this way… if a PROSPECTIVE employer asks this question, you just learned everything you need to know about their culture. In the process you saved yourself from making a terrible mistake and wasting a few years of your life. 

    I would curious to know if this would be a legal request from a curent employer. Could a current employer make continued employment contingent upon disclosure of this personal  information?

    • That’s an interesting question. On one hand, the law holds people to the contracts they willfully sign; however, I don’t think the law would support you entering into a contract that requires you to violate the terms of an existing contract. From what others have said, Facebook forbids you from sharing your password with others.

  9. newsworthy_az says:

    Ruth, thanks so much for making a post on this topic. I enjoyed reading the comments to date and am happy to know that everyone is not clueless when anyone, including an employer, makes a request like this. Sadly, too many people think that they have to comply with a request like this.
    Do I have your permission to share this with my LinkedIn and FaceBook contacts??

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