The Social Media Debate: Should You Ask for a Job Candidate’s Facebook Password?

Recently there has been a trend for employers to go beyond the usual job interviewing process. In an effort to get to know job applicants, some employers are looking at candidates social media pages during the hiring process.

This has resulted in debates over privacy issues. While it seems reasonable that viewing a social media page might be a way to “get past the resume” to see the real person that the resume represents, there are justified concerns about privacy that need to be considered.

privacy issues
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Right to Expression

Within reason, everyone has the right to express their thoughts and opinions on social media sites. Facebook is an ideal platform to share ideas about interests, activities, and the lifestyles lived by an individual. This makes it the perfect place to learn about a person.

Facebook is like an online reality show that provides a glimpse into a person’s life. In effect, viewing a job applicant’s Facebook account can reveal more about the individual than even a detailed and focused interview can. The information discovered can help determine if the person is right for the job and if he/she is a fit for the company.

Some things shouldn’t be shared.

Personal Life vs. Professional Life

Debates about asking job candidates for their Facebook passwords always focus on privacy concerns. After all, for most people, there is a separation in their work life, or professional life, and their personal lives. For example, drinking alcohol may be something a job applicant enjoys after work hours and on weekends, but he/she would never consider drinking while on the clock.

Postings on Facebook could be misleading. Photos from college years, for example, may not be a true depiction of the now mature professional that is applying for a position with the company. The reality is, in some cases, information found on Facebook could make it more difficult than ever to make accurate determinations about a person’s character and work ethic.

Does an employer have a right to know about a job applicant’s personal life?

Let’s Talk About Ethics

Is it really ethical to ask a job applicant for his/her Facebook login credentials? According to Facebook, giving out that information is a violation of their terms. In addition, there is some question about the legality of this practice.

In fact, is it even ethical to “shoulder surf” as a job applicant opens his/her Facebook account? This is another tactic used by some companies. Rather than asking for the applicants’ passwords, job applicants are simply asked to open their Facebook page as the potential future employer looks on to view the photos and posts that are there.

Should You or Shouldn’t You?

When it comes down to it, should an employer have the right to ask job applicants to bare their souls in order to get hired? Some would wonder what type of person would want to work for a company that feels justified in such practices.

The flip side is, if an applicant isn’t willing to open up to a potential employer, is he/she really the kind of person the company wants to hire? But are company leaders setting a good example when they invade a person’s privacy?

All of these considerations have merit. However, it is important for hiring managers to keep in mind that everyone has a personal life. We all have secrets, friends, thoughts, etc., that we don’t share with each and every person we meet.

Do we really need to know everything about everyone we work with?

Although the Internet has made character transparency a potential reality, caution should be used when trying to accurately decipher the information presented on Facebook and other social media sites.

How do you feel about this controversial topic? Have you ever asked to see a job applicant’s Facebook page?

About the Author: Debbie Allen, founder of, is a professional writer and blogger who specializes in topics of interest such as online marketing strategies. She often provides links to exceptional information from and other quality sites.

Image 2,3 and 4 courtesy of Master isolated images and Stuart Miles at