When Does Social Recruiting Become Social Sleuthing?

What should you do if an employer asks for your login info?

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Lindsay Olson
We know that employers are sometimes checking your Facebook or Twitter to verify if you're hire-worthy. But what should you do if you're asked for your login information during a job interview? It's become a reality, as employers realize that they can learn a lot about job candidates through their social media profiles. And since many people set their profiles to private, where only those they approve can view intimate details, some employers may want access to your account.

"Asking a candidate to open up their private profile and network for you to see is not social recruiting," says Dan Finnigan, chief executive officer for the social recruiting software platform company Jobvite. "It is the old-fashioned behavior of a bully. And it is not the appropriate behavior of a hiring manager or recruiting professional… If this becomes standard, people will only revert to a more generic definition of themselves, an almost fake online façade, extinguishing the value of this emerging new social world."

Most people are outraged at the idea of employers essentially snooping through their virtual home. After all, you go to Facebook to let down your hair and talk about your personal life. Even if you've got nothing to hide, it still feels like an invasion of privacy. And while the Department of Justice recognizes that allowing someone else to log-in under your account violates terms of service, there are no laws—to date—that prosecute employers who are doing so.

In a press release, Facebook's Chief Privacy Officer for Policy Erin Egan stated that this practice "undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user's friends. It also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability."

This is potentially a ticking time bomb: Employers who practice "social sleuthing," which is using a social media site like Facebook to glean personal information about a prospective employee, are violating Facebook's company values.

So what should you do if an employer asks for your login info? You always have the option to refuse to hand over your password, though it may jeopardize your chances of getting the job. But consider whether you want to work for a company that thinks nothing of personal privacy.

Before letting them log-in to your account, suggest accepting their friendship so they can view your profile. Or guide them to your LinkedIn profile, which is designed to showcase your professional side. It's better to do this than allow them access to your account. Sad as it is, filtering what you post to your social profiles might be your best bet for getting the job you want.

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.