Recruiters ask job applicants to give their facebook password

1. What is this negotiation about?

What is the situation background? Some recruiters in the U.S.A are asking job applicants to hand over their Facebook ID and password. Recruiters are looking to get more information about candidate social life. Facebook Chief Privacy Officer says that “We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think it’s the right thing to do” BUT do you have a choice when you really want THAT job?

Who is engaged in the negotiation?

Not that I try to dramatize the situation, but you could become one of the protagonist next time you look for a new job. Companies that receive more applications than they can process and have little respect for social privacy might ask you to reveal your password after the first interview.

What are they negotiating about?

The negotiation is about more than a password. The negotiation is about how private should be your social life in the recruiting process.

2. What are the strategies used?

What is your objective? For you, it is about more than just keeping nosy recruiters out of your first spring break photo album for example. It could be about keeping information such as your religion, children, marital status to you and your friends.
What would you do if the negotiation fail? You would have to apply to a new job and hope that they do not ask for your Facebook password this time.
What is the recruiter objective? Have access to your online social life to gather information
What would the recruiter do if they do not get your password? Depending on how important it is for the recruiter, they might still accept to hire you or look for another candidate suited for the job and who let them have a sneak peek in their social life

3. ‘The negotiation room’ interpretation:

Who has more power?

You have more power. It is not because the recruiter initiates the request and has the authority or hiring or not hiring you that he has the upper hand. Recruiting is an expensive process for all companies. If you are the right candidate, there are few chances that a company in its right mind would turn you down, only because you have not given away your password.
Why do you want to keep your social information private? The reasons are numerous and I do not even think that it matters. It could be because you have something to hide (nobody is perfect after all), it could be because your profile is not a fair representation of yourself, or simply because you have the right to a private life (DSK seems to have done a good job at the IMF despite his behavioral condition.) All in all, it is not because you want to keep your private life private that you have some thing to hide.
How far would you go? You have several options: You could ‘friend’ them and give them access top partial information, log in yourself and let them watch your profile over your shoulder or grant them full access by sharing log in and password.
Why does recruiters want to know more about your social life? For recruiters it is about getting information on you to ensure that you are the right person to recruit. They want more insight into your behavior personal life. They are not as much looking to know everything about you, but rather checking for red flags that would make you bad fit or a potential liability for the business.
How far would recruiters go? Let’s be clear, a 2011 study shows that 91% of recruiters will check candidates social network profile. So expect to be at least Google searched and remember to double your social media privacy settings (they change all the time). Let’s also be clear that recruiters can not force you to hand over your credentials. Although there are no law about it yet, we should all be aware that recruiters can not ask for information such as religion, age, sexual orientation (just to name a few), and typically this type of information can be found on someone’s profile.


I see this password situation not only as a negotiation but also as the beginning of a relationship, and in a relationship trust between people is essential to success. Therefore, if I was asked my facebook password, I would explain that perceive it as a lack of trust, and hint that might have concerns about entering this relationship if this is the case. Instead I would offer to spend more time to answer any (legal) questions that they might still have about myself and my activities and maybe offer access to my LinkedIn profile.

1 Comment

  1. Interesting points and observations. What do you think of:

    1) Changing Facebook account name so that it is not detectable in a search and saying, “Well, I don’t have a Facebook account but my friends keep telling me to get one. I just don’t have time between work, research and my private life to spend time online.”

    This would work for applicants not seeking work in the media.

    2) The counterpunch: “If I gave you access to my Facebook account in order to secure a job at your firm, how could you trust what other principles I would be willing to compromise in the interests of self-enrichment?”

    Personally I would not hire someone willing to give me access to their private information.

    3) Worst case: duplicate accounts. On one account you have “corporate friends” and post “acceptable” updates, and on the other account you have the rest of your life.

    It’s extra work, but is a long term strategy with lower risk.

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