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Why Demanding Facebook Passwords from Job-Seekers Is Wrong

Why Demanding Facebook Passwords from Job-Seekers Is Wrong

Photograph by Paul Morris/Bloomberg

I was startled to read recently about employers requiring Facebook login info from job applicants. It was only a couple of years ago that most employers were barred from checking the credit scores of their candidates as a condition of entering what HR people call ‘the selection pipeline.’

Once I thought about it, I realized it’s a good thing that some employers are requiring Facebook passwords, as long as they make their Facebook-snooping intentions known. In the best case they’ll put their requirement right in the help-wanted ad: “The selected applicant will share his or her Facebook login info with our Human Resources staff.” If job-seekers know which employers are keen to explore their job applicants’ personal histories, friendships and proclivities, the job-seekers with other options and an ounce of self-esteem will be able to drop those organizations from their target lists to focus on more appealing opportunities.

When you apply for a job with the FBI, you expect someone to come around the neighborhood and interview the neighbors about you. National security could be at stake. But when you’re applying for the Assistant Product Marketing Manager at the local organic chocolate manufacturer? Can you imagine having so little faith in your own management team that you couldn’t trust them to make excellent hires on the basis of job interviews, reference-checking calls, writing samples and other evidence, without the need to also dig into the job-seekers social conversations?  If your HR managers or lawyers tell you your firm has to demand a job-seeker’s Facebook login in order to assure a good hire, you need new lawyers, a new management team or both.

Employer branding has never been more important that it is now. When your brand screams: “We don’t trust you, job-seeker, and your privacy means literally nothing to us” expect the most capable job-seekers to avoid your organization like a tropical sickness.

In the current talent marketplace, the sought-after new hires are the ones who don’t have time (or the need) to climb over successively higher piles of broken glass to get a job. People like that won’t submit to the insulting demand for their private login information. If an employer wants a person to grovel during the hiring process, how well could they possibly treat their people once they’re on board?

Facebook snooping of applicants is just another fear-based tactic that lousy management teams will deploy, never realizing how the practice will drive the most talented applicants straight to their competitors.  The Facebook-login flap serves as a reminder of just how badly many large employers have deluded themselves that they’re in the driver’s seat where talent is concerned. Sharp employees will always be in demand, and the organizations that think it’s appropriate and wise to tell job-seekers to fork over a private Facebook login will get the more-docile-than-talented employees they deserve.

Liz Ryan is an expert on the new-millennium workplace and a former Fortune 500 HR executive.

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