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Job Seekers in a Social Media World

March 21, 2012

Today I just happened to notice a trending topic in the news — the use of social media websites for job seekers. A quick roundup:

  • In Forbes’ Is Pinterest the New LinkedIn?: how job applicants can use their pinboards to project an image of themselves that will provide boost their credentials or further support their resumes. It also mentions using a company’s own pinboards on Pinterest to do recon on its management style, organizational values etc. to tailor a job application or to prep for an interview.
  • In USA Today‘s Job Seekers Getting Asked for Facebook Passwords: how prospective employers, particularly public agencies, are going beyond merely searching for and looking at a person’s social media profile(s) before hiring, and instead are asking for credentials to log in as the user to have a look around. I find this particularly troubling not just for the privacy issues it raises, but also for a cyber security one: many users, despite advice to the contrary, use the same password for their Facebook accounts as they do for email, their online bank accounts, and everything else too. So giving up their username and password to Facebook in a job interview is indeed like “requiring someone’s house keys” as part of the job application process!
  • And finally, in the LA TimesIs Facebook Profiling of Job Applicants Fair or Legal?: how lawyers are advising employers that using data gleaned from cybervetting candidates on social media websites is a potential legal hazard because applicants’ social media profiles likely contain details that are, by law, basically off-limits for consideration in the hiring process — things such as race, sexuality, religion, and preexisting medical conditions.

The last piece also rightfully points out that the practice of asking for your password violates the terms of service for Facebook…and is regarded by the Department of Justice as a federal crime! But in this economy, a desperate job seeker may not care…

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