Job applicants handing over all social network logins and passwords for background checks

In 2009, I totally missed the story 'City in Montana requires job applicants to hand over all social net...'. And here's the aftermath. Did others see this?

It raises for me the whole issue of whether it is kosher and valid for recruiters to check out candidates on facebook etc and use search tools like and to uncover their social networking footprint. I know jobseekers check out employers, but what about the other way round? Or should we just let candidates be alone with their own private lives, drunken habits etc.? I'm sure if we searched recruiters' profiles we would be shocked with some of their antics (but that doesn't mean they wouldn't be excellent in their jobs). We often say to jobseekers they need to watch what they say and reveal online, but should the recruitment industry be less prying in the first place? Your thoughts?

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My first thought is "Holy Moly". But upon further thought, we are moving towards a collective mindset in which the best advice for social networking is to use discretion when putting things in the public domain.

If your name is attached to it, a hiring company does have a vested interest in making sure that an employee is not sullying its image via direct or indirect association.

It still sounds very socialist to me, but it essentially is being done right now by those of us who reference candidates by social networking.
Paul ~ If it is public domain, it reflects upon the company and lends some validity to the argument of listing usernames and logins. However, how can a company/city/entity ask or require that you provide passwords?

This opens up a huge case of confidentiality breach and liability with those that have been in correspondence with the applicant. What if you as a recruiter applied for such a position that requested all of your logins and passwords?

Would you expose and violate the confidence of every person that sent you personal or professional emails to your social networks? How can you pass along information without his/her consent to a third party? What about those unasked for emails that spam your box which contain adult content? I never signed up to have my nonexistent penis enlarged or optimized, but that doesn’t keep bots from sending explicit emails.

Then you have financial passwords or links to change passwords sent to your Inbox. Why would anybody knowingly pass that along?

Do I provide hiring teams with information found publicly on Social Networks? Yes
Do I request him/her to submit passwords to social networks including Google and Yahoo accounts?Never
I get paid to find really smart people and only an idiot would agree to this policy!
Sure. And while we're at it, why not offer up your checking account number and mother's maiden name as well. After all, doesn't my future employer have a right to know how I spend the money they'll be paying me? By the way, this is a June, 2009 story – there was a bit of a stir when this directive first became public – with – interestingly, a fair amount of positive support!

Come on people, we need to start drawing the line somewhere. As leaders in the HR (read: people matter) arena, we need to call out the companies and executives who attempt to do this sort of stuff.

The information you and I put out on Twitter and onto FaceBook and elsewhere is information we want to share in public, and therefore no expectation exists regarding the privacy of this material. It's there, it's findable and shame on us both if it comes back to bite us on our behinds because we were reckless goofballs when we posted it.

But passwords, that's another story. I personally do not choose to share information about my family, my hobbies, my health, and my dreams and aspirations on-line, because that's just not me. That's my business. But, in case you've noticed, others may well want to do so and will limit access to this information to only certain "friends" by enabling privacy filters. When a prospective employer requests a social networking site password from you it seems to me that you can reasonably expect that privacy is out the window. And this smacks of, at the very least, a paternalistic employer mentality, if not full-blown "big brother" attitude.

The organizations requesting this information are simply doing so because they can. Hey, it's a recession, and we have jobs, so we'll get the info we want from you or you can just go take a hike, buddy. Great attitude, huh? Sure generates lots of respect for people and really builds a platform for engaging their "most valuable assets" right? These are the same companies which address employee questions about career growth, promotional opportunities, and earned merit increases in compensation with the response, "Hey, just be glad you still have a job, Bozo."

But guess what. When the "war for talent" comes roaring back like a tsunami, soon, I think, these asinine practices will quickly drop by the wayside. And probably the idiots who came up with them as well.

And that’s the way I see it. Adam Zak
Wow this is just crazy. I would never give my password to a recruiter, are they going to give me theirs? doubt that. Any information they find while during a search is public and public for a reason. Everyone has a right to privacy. I really think a big issue with this is security. Identity theft is huge and I think this just increases the risk of that happening. Majority of the time identity theft is from an internal source.
Now everyone that has an account on a social networking site has to assume that they will be searched eventually. Just have to think about what you post.
Very interesting post, thanks for bringing this to my attention Paul.
It's one of those golden rule things - I would never ask for passwords from anyone for any reason, and would never expect to be asked for them. If the employer wants to look at your social media profile, I do agree it's not a bad idea to put the candidate on notice of that - add a statement to your pre-employment release form on the application. That way you as an employer are covered if it ever comes back to haunt you (as it well may in California's litigious employment climate).

Candidates do need to expect that a recruiter or potential employer may want to consider the candidate's online reputation as a data point in the employment process. Especially if the individual works in any online capacity - and who doesn't these days? It goes to the issue of judgment - does the candidate show common sense in what they put online? Will this predict good performance for you as a company in the larger online presence?

This is today;s digital world - we need to think like our customers, whether we're recruiters or employers.
Thanks everybody for taking the time and effort to give such awesome responses. I had a chuckle at some of the analogies. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in 2010. Has anybody seen the film We Live in Public? I saw it last year and I can see synergies with this whole topic. If you haven't seen the film I recommend it - it is thought-provoking.

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