It is no secret that your passwords to your personal social accounts are supposed to remain, well, a secret. So naturally, when someone asks you for that information—and an employer, nonetheless—you may feel incredibly uncomfortable. You may even be stunned by such boldness. Are they really allowed to do that, you may wonder? Well, in 2013, the CISPA (or the “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act”), which would have forbidden the federal government or employers from requesting social media passwords from prospective employers, was ultimately did not pass after it was brought before Senate (Koebler: “Legislation Preventing Employers from Asking for Facebook Passwords Defeated”). However, it is illegal in some states for employers to ask for such information. Such states include Oregon, California, and Illinois (Dame: “Will Employers Still Ask for Facebook Passwords in 2014?”). If you are seeking employment in a state in which asking for your passwords is fair game, you may come face to face with the conflict yourself. If you are reluctant to give out any personal information—which is understandable—below are some ways you can approach the situation in a calm and professional manner.
1. Be assertive about your reluctance. Do not beat around the bush with “maybes” or try to change the subject altogether.
Perhaps you do not like saying no, especially to a person of high authority. Maybe you instinctively try to avoid conflict altogether by attempting to change the topic at hand. Unfortunately, avoiding the request altogether will not make the issue go away. Furthermore, facing the problem is good practice in and of itself. Wherever you find yourself working, you never know when you will be confronted and forced to make a quick and careful decision on the spot. So what can you say without coming off as overly confrontational or even too gentle? Perhaps try wording along these lines (Morrison: “What to Do When a Potential Employer Asks for Your Facebook Password”).
“I do not feel comfortable giving out my personal information to anyone. However, if there is any information you need from me that cannot readily be obtained from my Facebook or Linkedin profile, I could probably help you.”
“Have you taken a look at my Linkedin profile or at [a specific point] in my resume? There I have provided extensive information about my goals, my achievements, and aspects of my personal life that may be of interest to you.”
You may even feel comfortable starting with a question:
“Is this any information in particular you need?”
“Is this information required of me if I am to move on to the next step of the employment process?”
In any case, you should not be afraid to stand your ground. If the employer insists that you offer up your passwords, you can politely but firmly decline to discuss the matter any further and, if needed, excuse yourself from the interview or situation.
2. If possible—and if you feel comfortable—offer to log in to your social media accounts personally with the employer present.
If the employer insists on getting your information and you do not feel comfortable just dismissing yourself right away, ask if it would be okay if you used a computer on-site to log into any accounts the employer would like to explore, with you present. This strategy is a sort of compromise: you get to keep your information private, but the employer still can get a closer look at a profile that might not have been available by simply searching your name. If this offer is still not sufficient, then it may be best to simply thank your prospective employer for his/her time and then excuse yourself.
3. Plan for the future: separate your personal from your professional.
Perhaps you have not been in such a stressful situation yet, but dread one in the future. You may be fretting over how you would respond if prompted for your passwords. You may even be wondering how to avoid the topic altogether. Again, remember that you do not have to give any information or do anything that would make you feel unsafe or question your integrity. If an employer makes you feel that way, then perhaps working in such an environment would not be ideal in any event. But, if you are faced with the question, do not panic. Try working on organizing your social media profiles now. For instance, maybe you wish to keep a Facebook account purely for pleasure/personal purposes. On this account, you may choose to go by a nickname of some sort (Morrison: “What to Do When a Potential Employer Asks for Your Facebook Password”). Your LinkedIn profile, on the other hand, is used only for professional purposes. Additionally, you can adjust your Facebook settings to control what employers see when they look you up. Work to portray a certain image. Maybe you want them to know that you are sociable and tend to spend most of your free time with friends, but that you also put a great deal of thought into your work. Tailoring your profiles to be attractive to outsiders goes beyond avoiding addressing the dreaded “What-is-your-Facebook-password?” question. Rather, by working with your social media profiles to convey a specific image to employers, they will be able to pick up on that image immediately. If they ask the question, you can tell them matter-of-factly what they will find when they log in to your Facebook and what you primarily post there but that you would be happy to provide additional information if needed.
College, Jonathan Dame. “Will Employers Still Ask for Facebook Passwords in 2014?” USA Today. Gannett, 10 Jan. 2014. Web. 30 July 2015.
Koebler, Jason. “Legislation Preventing Employers From Asking for Facebook Passwords Defeated.” U.S. News and World Report News. U.S. News and World Report, 18 Apr. 2013. Web. 29 July 2015.
Morrison, Tony. “What to Do When A Potential Employer Asks for Your Facebook Password.” Mashable. N.p., 08 Apr. 2012. Web. 30 July 2015.