What would you do if a potential employer asked for your Facebook password?

A new study suggests that employers believe that they can judge how good you will be as an employee just by taking a look for a few minutes at your Facebook profile. This might sound obvious or terrifying, depending on how familiar you are with social media and the shift towards living a transparent life – with your thoughts and feelings always on display.

Forbes magazine has listed some of the categories that potential employers will look for when they search your various online profiles:

  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Neuroticism
  • Openness to experience

It is easy to see that if most of your Facebook information is publicly available then most of these categories can be quickly addressed with just a few minutes of browsing. It is far more valuable than the traditional job interview where an employer might ask such questions as ‘where do you see yourself five years from now?’

Your imagination, ability to communicate, engagement with friends, sense of work and sympathy can all be quickly judged just by looking at your online personality.

Which is good news for employers, as they can make better hiring decisions with more information, but what about for the employees? It is easy to set your online Facebook profile to be ‘friends only’ so no prospective employer can snoop around on the site.

But I am wondering if a culture will develop amongst employers that assume if you are very private about your online life then there must be something to hide. This is no idle fear. There have been several reports recently of organisations in the US that forced prospective job applicants to reveal their Facebook password – so the potential employer could login to have a look around your profile.

We are bumping up against a real challenge in society that is much bigger than just telling people to be careful with their personal data. if employers start demanding the right to see online data and refusing to interview those who do not hand over their passwords then there is a danger that many will switch off these useful tools and head to more underground online spaces where they can swap thoughts without their boss overseeing their personal life.

Privacy And Control

Photo by Mike Pickard licensed under Creative Commons

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