Early this morning, I read the Associated Press article about the job interviewer who asked a job candidate to provide his Facebook username and password in order to access the candidate’s private profile. Frankly, it floored me. On the surface, it is such an inappropriate and unprofessional act. And while I am not a lawyer, I have to believe it is also illegal.
At this point in our history, I think most people know that it is illegal to ask job candidates about their age or religion. You cannot ask someone if they are married, have children or are pregnant. You cannot even ask their citizenship. Clearly, asking someone to access their private Facebook profile would provide answers to most, if not all of these kinds of questions.
But more importantly, this kind of practice is a blatant violation of someone’s privacy – and it is no way to start a relationship – especially a working one.
I run a company, Jobvite, who’s product is a social recruiting platform that helps companies empower all employees to share open jobs quickly and easily with anyone they know in their growing networks on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and others. This has become a very powerful way for companies to find the highest quality employees – referrals made by your own employees – and the best and most fair way to vet candidates for their fit with a specific job and with your particular company and culture.
But asking a candidate to open up their private profile and network for you to see is not social recruiting. It is the old-fashioned behavior of a bully. And it is not the appropriate behavior of a hiring manager or recruiting professional.
Frankly, there is absolutely no reason a company or a manager would need access to an employee’s or a candidate’s personal and private social network in such a manner.
Facebook’s vision, as stated by its founder Mark Zuckerberg in their S1 filing, is to “accomplish a social mission – to make the world more open and connected.” In such a world, it will be easier for people to find what they need and want and help others do the same, simply by sharing more openly.
I imagine Facebook employees are motivated daily by people reconnecting with friends, finding new ones, learning new things from their network and finding new and better ways to improve their lives by being more open, honest and authentic in their network… just like we are at Jobvite in helping people find new and better-fit professional opportunities through their networks.
This vision will not be realized if people begin to fear that by sharing more openly and authentically, they will set themselves up for embarrassment, ridicule, judgement – or new opportunities. People will only revert to a more “generic” definition of themselves, an almost fake on-line façade, extinguishing the value of this emerging new social world.
I think it is clear that the promise of social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter is a world in which people, by being increasingly but authentically open and connected, will be better to reach their potential in all aspects in life, including professionally.
We all intuitively know that it takes “all kinds of people” as my grandmother said, “to make the world go around.” A culture that embraces tolerance and openness is most likely to foster innovation and growth. Companies need all types of people to thrive – introverts and extroverts, logical and creative, passionate and stoic. The freedom to be more open and authentic is the necessary environment for people to find the best people with which to live, play and work!
This interviewer clearly does not get that, and his company will suffer. His is an Orwellian vision, one in which everyone adheres to the same bland standard of behavior. I am certain this interviewer’s defense will be something about his goal to determine if the candidate had participated in inappropriate behavior or even criminal behavior. But that is why we have references and background checks.
His behavior, instead, will only chill the openness that Zuckerberg and many, many others envision and will keep the social Web from its full potential to help people authentically improve their lives.
To companies that ask for such personal information, you are simply bullies, should be ashamed and are breaking the law!