In Bozeman, Giving Up Privacy For a Chance at a Paycheck

Job seekers are asked to hand over their passwords in this Montana city.

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As if job seekers needed further proof that employers have the upper hand in this economy--city officials in Bozeman, Montana are asking applicants to list the various elements comprising their web presence (blogs, chat groups, Facebook or MySpace accounts, etc.) along with the passwords they use to access the sites.

The policy invites all sorts of privacy questions--the American Civil Liberties Union is no fan--but it also speaks to the challenges facing the unemployed in this market. A piece in the WSJ earlier this month--aptly titled "What Won't You Do For a Job?"--told how a Connecticut toymaker asks applicants to bring three years worth of W-2 forms to interviews, where they are put through a battery of simulated work tasks and surveys. The company describes its process as a bit "rough around the edges." This screening process seems pretty mild, however, compared with some of the other requests job seekers faced--such as supplying 12 references, or giving a business presentation half a dozen times in a day.

However painful for those looking to join a payroll, the fact is that employers can apparently afford to put these kinds of requirements on applicants when they're facing down piles of resumes for fewer openings--they're desperate for new methods to filter the potential hires. I recently wrote about the increased use of psychologists in job interviews--not just increased use of psychological tests but actual face time or telephone conversations with psychologists. It's not a new practice, but it's experiencing something of a revival.

Time will tell if the more extreme methods pan out for businesses in the recovery. In Bozeman, city officials insist that their controversial request is not a requirement, and keeping your passwords private won't get your application tossed out. 

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