Awkward, My Interviewer Facebook Friended Me

I’ve been watching the massive growth of Facebook just like everyone else. From a small idea in a Harvard dorm room to over 400 million global users, Facebook is huge. As a Facebook user for the past several years, I’ve successfully dealt with some interesting friend requests. First, people from high school that I used to be friends with but by graduation we were no longer speaking. Accepted, we’re all adults now. Then, my ex-girlfriends asked to be my friend. Declined, too hard to explain to the wife. Next, my parents asked to be my friend. Accepted, despite being awkward, family is important. However, all of these pale in comparison to a recent friend request I received.

After scheduling an in-person interview with a company I’m interested in joining, I got a friendship request from one of my interviewers. On the one hand, this might be a good sign that the company is really interested in me joining the team. On the other hand, this could be a clever way for my interviewer to gather some personal tidbits of information about me before the interview. Already weary of such intrusion, ever since Facebook changed their privacy settings, my profile has become a virtual Fort Knox to those outside of my personal network. Search engines, invisible; profile info, locked; status updates, locked; photos, locked; shared links, locked; friends list, locked. This is not because I’m a super secret person. Quite the contrary, the simple fact is that I believe the purpose of Facebook is to socialize online with my friends. These people already know me, are aware of my faults and still choose to be my friend. If I end up working at the company and I hit it off with my interviewer, then we could end up being great friends online and offline.

However, this friend request has put me in a jam. I could decline the request (First Instinct) which might place me at a disadvantage relative to other candidates. Did the other candidates accept the request? Will I appear unfriendly? I could leave the request in limbo, pretending that I did not see it. This might work, but what if I get called on it? Or, I could accept the request and open my personal network to a stranger. This would mean that I would have to go through and check all my photos, status updates, and other wall content to make sure there is nothing that might be perceived as controversial. I shouldn’t have to be thinking about this. I should be preparing to communicate the unique skills and experiences that I will bring to the position under consideration. I should be anticipating what areas of concern the company might have about my candidacy and my plans for addressing them. Instead, I’m struggling with how to respond to a friend request from one of my interviewers. What would you do?

-Omowale Casselle

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About the Author: Omowale Casselle is the co-founder and CEO of mySenSay, a social recruiting community that connects college students and corporations.

Views: 2114

Comment by nick on March 10, 2010 at 4:21pm
I keep this from happening by not having a facebook account. There are a ton of ways for someone who is looking to find me. Just two days ago a friend from the past (1979! to be exact) sent me an email. He found me on linked in. Linked in is the only "social" media I need. And then I have no worries about someone reading something they shouldn't.
Comment by Isaac on March 10, 2010 at 9:48pm
Interesting. I do like Patti's answer, and quite frankly, they would probably respond the same way if the question was posed to them by someone they had no intentions of hiring or interest. Now Samantha is certainly on to something.... but, overcomplicating... maybe.

I would divert them to my linkedin account though.
Comment by Omowale Casselle on March 10, 2010 at 10:51pm
Nick,

That's certainly one way of dealing with it. Personally, I'm not sure I could move away from Facebook. To me, it has much more utility than simply being found by old connections. But, to each his/her own.
Comment by Patti Yaritz on March 11, 2010 at 7:33am
One thing I try to keep in mind is that I am a very avid user of social media and know the etiquette associated with different usages. Maybe some social media etiquette blogs are in order? What do you think? Anyone laready know of such a resource?
Comment by Pat ODonnell on March 12, 2010 at 11:36am
Their request is not only inappropriate, but do you want to work for a company who would ask? Would you want to work for a company who wants the password to your personal email? Their request is a violation of the first amendment. An actual sue-able offense. You have the right to any opinion you want - and until they are in a court room, they can't ask.
Comment by Omowale Casselle on March 12, 2010 at 11:58am
Patti,

I'm not aware that there is a social media etiquette blog just yet. But, I'd love to collaborate with someone on getting the information out there to the community.
Comment by Patti Yaritz on March 12, 2010 at 12:05pm
Hit me up offline and let's talk My office is 651-214-9219 pyaritz@divercitiesresearch.com
Comment by Ben McGrath on March 12, 2010 at 1:26pm
You have answered your own question with the following paraphrase........ I shouldn’t have to be thinking about this. I should be preparing to communicate the unique skills and experiences that I will bring to the position under consideration. I should be anticipating what areas of concern the company might have about my candidacy and my plans for addressing them...........If I end up working at the company and I hit it off with my interviewer, then we could end up being great friends online and offline..............First let me qualify that I do not belong to any social network sites. (unless you consider Linked In part of that category) However, I do not use L. In in that fashion.
You should simply tell the interviewer that you do not feel it is appropriate and that if you do accpet an offer from the company that perhaps you can consider responding to such a request. It has to do with protocol.
Let's go waaaaaay back in time (10 years) and pretend that we are in a similiar situation. Only inthis scenario the interviewer/hiring manager picks up the phone and begins a conversation on a "social" level. Acceptable?? NO!!! Just because there is no "personal touch" to the entire social network abomination it does not lessen the inapropriate relationship that this would initiate.

All the best,
Ben McGrath
619 465 9580
Comment by Patti Yaritz on March 12, 2010 at 1:58pm
I see social media as a very valuable tool in my marketing and recruiting toolbox. One 1 am willing to spend time learning and being a part of the online communities. Just like anything else there are those who will use it well and those who will not. If you are marketing and recruiting using social media I do believe there is an etiquette that can help you be successful. I think corporate professionals often in their overly busy existence sometimes take short cuts that do not benefit them or their extended organizations. Trying to friend a candidate and peak into their life on Facebook would be in my opinion a classic example. I think the first step is to realize all Social Media is not created Equal and different sites attract people for different uses and reasons. Maybe that is the beginning of the etiquette lesson right there.

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