Under the covers with HR and your Facebook password

Joe killed it.

The interview was just about over and Joe felt really good. He had been ready and answered all the questions just the way he wanted.

As he started to get up to say goodbye, the interviewer shook his hand and said:

‘Joe, we like you. You seem normal (the last guy was just plain weird looking) and you don’t sound insane, and from everything we’ve talked about, you’re the right person for the job.

There’s just one final step of the interview process – it’s just an administrative thing, really – nothing to worry about.

Tonight, when you get home, kindly don’t close the curtains on your windows. And leave them open for the rest of the week. My colleagues and I will be dropping by to observe you ‘in natura’, so to speak. It’s standard procedure to make sure you fit in, that you’re one of us.

I really shouldn’t be saying this, but we’re mostly interested in your activities in the boudoir, but … nudge, nudge, wink, wink… a couple of recent hires who were on the brink dazzled us so much with their abilities that we just had to hire them. And we want to hire you!

Now, don’t worry about any of this. There was that one candidate who couldn’t perform because of a sort of reverse observer effect. He couldn’t take the pressure. It was a shame, but after that we just couldn’t hire him.

As I said, it’s nothing to worry about, all very standard.

Extending his hand to Joe, the interviewer concluded with a giggle:

‘We’ll see you soon.’

Joe blushed. It seemed very flattering, but he was more than a little shocked. ‘These guys are going way too deep into my private life. No job is worth this,’ he thought.

As he shook the interviewer’s hand, Joe said ‘thanks for considering me. I think your company is great, and I’ve really enjoyed the interview, but I’ll be accepting another offer.

Out of the question? Way overboard, you say?

A bit, but not in the way you might think.

The unexpected part of the scenario it is that our hero Joe said ‘no.’

Companies today do the equivalent of the above whenever they demand a candidate’s (or employee’s) Facebook login and password.

And, from what we’ve heard, just about everyone says ‘do you want me to tell you my password out loud, or would you prefer that I write it down.’

It’s one thing when you ‘friend’ your boss or co-worker and they see something stupid or offensive that you’ve posted. We’ve said many times that whatever is on the internet is public. If your boss or a colleague is paying attention, then you’ve likely hurt your chances for that bonus. You may even lose your job.

It’s entirely different when your company demands access to your login and password – basically getting behind the ‘firewall’ of your privacy settings. Like asking to read your diary (note for our younger readers: this was a little book with a lock that people used to write personal things in), or going through your underwear drawer, this is inappropriate and asocial behavior. Not to mention an invasion of your privacy.

Dear Diary

Is this an acceptable innovation in human resources? Hardly.

Coming at a time when most ‘modern’ people are experiencing a general loss of sensitivity in the area of privacy, we have many companies over-stepping what are natural boundaries. This laziness and voyeurism. Instead of focusing on your résumé and following-up on your references, the company is able to claim to have done the due diligence of a background check – by playing the peeping tom in your Facebook.


This has nothing to do with protecting corporate image. This isn’t about security, but it does set a very bad precedent as to where the company stands on passwords and privacy.

So, while a hiring company is not permitted by law to ask a candidate about:

–          any private organizations you belong to,

–          your religious affiliation,

–          your date of birth (except where you need to meet a minimum age requirement),

–          your lineage, ancestry, national origin, descent, parentage, or nationality,

–          names and addresses of relatives other than a spouse and dependent children,

–          sex or marital status,

–          height or weight (except where it can be demonstrated that it’s a job requirement),

–          any physical or mental disabilities you may have,

They are allowed to demand your password and login to your social network site. That seems more than strange to us. As if the voyeur will not get the answers to these and potentially even more personal questions sifting through your private stuff.


We’ve heard several companies try to mitigate the negative connotation of their voyeurism by saying it’s just ‘shoulder surfing’ – just looking over the shoulder of their employees while they are on their computers at work.

But this is disingenuous.

Forcing Joe to login to a site in front of you and then having him navigate through his private stuff is not OK. (Somehow, that almost seems worse that the boss doing it in private.)

Shoulder surfing by the boss – looking over Joe’s shoulder, while Joe is using company resources during company time – would not actually be a violation of privacy, inasmuch as the boss has the right to know what Joe is doing on company time, and would presumably tell him to stop doing anything inappropriate. Of course, that would be annoying and embarrassing for both individuals. Instead, companies want the boss or the HR team to log into your Facebook account when you aren’t around.

Much less embarrassing this way, but oh so much more intrusive.

[Thank you to Amana07 at deviantart.com for the great Creepy Eyes.]