Why employers ask for social media passwords–and how we work around it

Globeblogger – Mission accomplished
The hot topic of his week was employers asking for Facebook and other social media passwords.

I can completely understand why employers want this information. I talked about things applicants often do wrong to tank their employment efforts , but many times it’s more about learning the nuances of the applicant that can’t be derived from a simple interview. I learn as much about the person as I can before I send an email for an interview. We have no need to ask for passwords because all the info is right there in plain sight. Here’s my process (which you are free to use)–and we absolutely never ask for a password. Employers that ask for social media passwords are lazy in my opinion.

1) Facebook

That’s where I start. I search first for their email address so I find the correct person. I use the email on their resume and if that doesn’t show results, I then go by the email they used to send the resume (sometimes it’s different). If all else fails I search by name and often Facebook is pretty good at finding the right person. To verify I have that right person, I’ll use cues from the resume to see if it all matches up (relative age, job experience, college, high school etc.)

Once I have the right person on Facebook, I’ll then look to see if we have any mutual friends. That’s really important because I can get references from people I already know and trust. Since friends often have a similar world view and mindset, I know if they are friends with some of my friends, it might be a good match.

I then look at their privacy settings. Are they professional? What are they portraying to the general public? More privacy and a professional page facing the general public is a big plus. I also use their public Facebook info as a way of learning what type of person they are. What are their hobbies and interests? On a very basic level, the info in their profile gives us topics to talk about in a job interview (“I saw on Facebook you are a Doctor Who fan. Which Doctor is your favorite?”).

2) LinkedIn

LinkedIn is all about professionalism. If the profile isn’t on their resume I’ll use the same search techniques I did on Facebook. The more filled out their profile is, the better image they portray. Is the picture professional or the same “fun” picture from Facebook? How extensive is their network? Are they connected with coworkers from previous jobs? The more connections with previous employers or other similar professionals the better. This isn’t about numbers but rather the quality of the connections. I wrote all about how to use LinkedIn for your job search here (http://www.calldrdave.com/wp/2011/06/using-linkedin-to-get-a-job-lessons-from-the-kcitp-career-fair/) but in general I’m looking for consistency with their resume, what groups they belong to and the comments they make in those groups. On occasion I’ll bring that information up during an interview (“I agree with your opinion about the need for certification.”)

3) Twitter

Here I’m looking for both a personal and professional account as some people have both. Often the personal account is “protected”. I won’t request to follow them because I respect their privacy. Similar to Facebook I am looking for their public face. I try to see whom they are following and who follows them to find those mutual connections.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter is generally all or none privacy so if the account is unprotected I get a more complete image of the applicant. Since Twitter is “in the moment” I get a keener picture of their personality. Are they hotheaded? Are they a complainer? What do they choose to share and why?

4) Google +, Pinterest and all the other social media profiles

I’ll look on Google + especially if they have a Gmail account and I’ll use the same techniques above for evaluating them: looking at their public face and the connections.

Ultimately social media creates a digital fingerprint of our personalities. This helps me as an employer to get a more complete picture then a short interview or a background check can provide. If you are an applying for a job, it’s something to consider not just to prevent “tanking” your interview but as a way of communicating information to your employer that isn’t always available during a job interview.

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