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: 1404

Comment by Patti Yaritz on March 9, 2010 at 11:27am
Omowale,

I actually recently had a similar situation with a client looking to hire me as a consultant. So I came up with a viable alternative. When I am asked to be a facebook friend in a situation like that I often say that I use Facebook for friends and family. But I have an active social media presence on Linkedin for professional reasons that I would be happy to let them join. I also have a Facebook Fan Page for my company Divercities that I can offer as a way to share the "professional side" of myself on Facebook. Great Question! I am looking forward to hearing how others are navigating this challenging scenario.
Comment by Omowale Casselle on March 9, 2010 at 11:45am
Patti,

Thanks for the comment. That seems like a great way to deflect the awkward request. Have you ever had any push back when setting the boundaries between your personal/professional network?

Regards,

Omowale Casselle
Comment by Patti Yaritz on March 9, 2010 at 12:05pm
No I have not had any pushback at all. There is always a possibility that this relationship can grow and become more personal. To me it's like inviting company into the "living room" for a visit. Most people do not expect to "look in your closets" the minute you meet. Personally if they did have a problem with it, that would be very telling of their intentions in getting to know you in the first place.
Comment by Omowale Casselle on March 9, 2010 at 12:50pm
I think that's exactly right. With the other social networking sites (LinkedIn/Twitter) that are more professionally geared, there really is no reason to try to connect on Facebook until there has been time to get to know each other better.
Comment by Patti Yaritz on March 9, 2010 at 1:44pm
I do share myself more with colleagues and professional contacts that have grown over the years on Facebook and I think that is a very natural progression of trust, common interest and human connection. Many of my former hiring managers and candidates are friends as well as a host of people I personally admire and follow professionally. I hope more people chime in, I think this is a great conversation that needs to develop.
Comment by Omowale Casselle on March 9, 2010 at 10:57pm
Absolutely, online relationships should follow the same well-established norms of offline relationships.

How does everyone else think about the boundaries between personal & professional networks? How would you respond to a friend request from a Facebook friend?
Comment by Samantha on March 10, 2010 at 10:59am
Hey Omowale! I have preempted these issues by having two Facebook accounts. One account (my personal one) is listed under my married name and the other listed with my actual name. I encourage clients, learners, coworkers etc...to add me on Facebook because of this. It allows me to keep my two networks separate (for the most part) and streamline the conversations that I have.

My only problem now is that I would love to have a third account where I could stick all those high school people and others I almost never interact with.

Maybe I am just over complicating my life? LOL
Comment by Omowale Casselle on March 10, 2010 at 12:04pm
Samantha,

That's a great idea. I like the idea of complete separation. I recently read a story about students using taking steps to shield their identities from employers by changing their name. http://bit.ly/9dBVjF

Someone suggested using the lists feature of Facebook, but that seems like it might be challenging to always remember to filter wall posts, photos, and other information.
Comment by Sylvia Villa Reuling on March 10, 2010 at 12:45pm
Hi Omowale,

I have had the opposite where I have spoken to a candidate and they look me up on Facebook and sent me a friend request. Like Patti I send a canned answer that I only use Facebook for friends and family and direct them to my Linkedin. Now I have a few relationships that have evolved from Linked in to Facebook, but that is rare. I really like the separation of personal and professional space. As for the high school crowd, well classmates is too expensive when you have no interest in keepin in touch with those folks :)
Comment by Omowale Casselle on March 10, 2010 at 1:17pm
Sylvia,

That had to be pretty awkward. Did that change your impression of that candidate?

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