Imagine applying for your first job after U.Va. You get a call back for an interview and after enduring intense scrutinizing you start to feel that you may have landed this job. But this was before hearing, “Alright, everything looks promising, but one last step. May I have your Facebook password?”
What will you say?
As college students we should think about our answer before application time. It may sound unrealistic, but recently throughout the country employers have been requesting this information from prospective employees and even current employees. Unfortunately, many are being fired or not hired due to refusing to give over this personal information. When Kimberly Hester, a teacher’s aide in Michigan, refused to give her supervisors her Facebook password the district’s special education director wrote to her, “[I]n the absence of you voluntarily granting Lewis Cass ISD administration access to you[r] Facebook page, we will assume the worst and act accordingly.” Hester was suspended and put on unpaid leave.
So now is the time to ask yourself, do you have anything to hide? Would it even bother you to give up your password? Regardless of whether or not you have anything to hide on your Facebook, should you even feel obligated to provide your password? More importantly, is this a violation of our rights?
Some employers feel that social media is such an important part of our culture and therefore it should also be a part of the business world and the hiring process. Employers see Facebook as a tool in today’s culture that allows them to make an easier and more accurate decision for hiring employees pertaining to tastes, talents, personalities, affiliations, but also whether or not a person would be a good fit in the office among the existing employees. While Facebook would possibly be an eye-opening experience for employers, many people choose to keep their work lives and personal lives separate. For some, how we act on Facebook with our friends and with people whom we hold casual relationships should not have any relation to how we behave at work in a professional atmosphere. Through this perspective, Facebook would not actually provide valuable information pertaining to “fitting in the office” if majority of people do not associate social media behaviors with proper business manners.
Another, and possibly more likely, situation which could occur is getting a friend request from your boss or potential employer. While many business etiquette specialists would strongly recommend employers to refrain from friend requesting employees, it still exists in today’s society. It seems no matter what you do, you run the risk of either offending the employer due to your Facebook content or causing the employer to grow suspicious if you ignore the friend request.
Disregarding which is the most “proper” answer, as the owner of the Facebook account with the password you have the power and the right to determine which decision is the most comfortable for you. If refusing to provide your password causes you to lose the opportunity, maybe that’s a big sign that it was not the right company to work for after all.