What if a Hiring Manager Sends You a Facebook Friend Request?

It’s no secret that with everybody, or close to everybody, now being online, what you do online could be a factor in your next job search. This is especially true for young people just entering the job market.

facebook logo thumbIn recent years, the lengths to which hiring managers will go to vet candidates using online resources has been well chronicled.  A new wrinkle came to light this week, as an article at NPR.org revealed how employers are using a unethical Facebook ploy to put job seekers in what may be a no-win situation.

Basically, there are three levels of intrusion job seekers who are active on social media may be subjected to, in the event that they may have something online that does not fit perfectly with what an employer is looking for:

Employers will check you out – Google became a public company in 2004, and by 2007, users were doing 400 billion searches per year. Also in 2004, Facebook was launched, and by 2008 the network passed the 100 million-user mark, as people became accustomed to putting their private lives online. It is now second nature for people to search for things online, and with Facebook, you can search for people too, and in many cases get a clear picture of who the candidate “is”. It’s not surprising that inquisitive hiring managers might look to gain some additional insight on individuals before making a hiring decision.

Employers might ask for your social media login credentials – Job seekers wishing to avoid being checked out can set their profiles to private, which some have done, making a social media search a futile exercise. As early as 2010, there have been incidents involving companies demanding that employees or applicants turn over Facebook passwords. This seems extremely invasive to us, and since then a handful of states have passed laws banning the practice. A Federal law outlawing this demand failed to pass, however.

young-woman-during-an-examEmployers might send you a Facebook friend request (!) – An article at NPR.com this week brought to light a sinister practice that some employers are now using – sending candidates a friend request on Facebook at some point during the hiring process. If this happens, all but the most squeaky-clean applicants are in a bad situation. Refuse the request, and you’ll look like you have something to hide. Accept the request and you might have to do a thorough purging of your profiles before hand. That is not the full story, though.

Even if you do have nothing to hide, the article implies that employers may intend to use your social media profile to glean information that they are not allowed by law to ask in an interview – religion, family aspirations, sexuality.

That is not okay, in our opinion. Our advice to job seekers, especially young ones whose online profiles may be all play and no work:

  • Maintain social media profiles and activity that portray you in the best possible light
  • If your profiles are set to private, and you do receive friend request from a hiring manager, consider temporarily setting your accounts to public, but don’t accept the friend request.

Facebook is not LinkedIn – it should be reserved for your network of friends and family. It’s personal.


Do you have a different opinion? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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