The Social Media Interview, what Employers and Employees should know
Friday, February 1, 2013

Imagine landing a job interview. How do you prepare yourself? You might read about the company, prep for questions, bring your résumé and arrive on time. Then, the interviewer begins by asking for the username and password of all your social media accounts. Surprised? Don’t be. Recent employment practices show your interview starts long before you arrive; it starts online with your social media accounts. Welcome to the age of the “social media interview.”

Companies increasingly rely on social media to support their business. From advertising to customer interaction, social media is the future. However, social media has also entered business in ways that people have yet to fully understand. For instance, the hiring process has changed as companies increasingly rely on social media to search for potential employees. As a result, one recent employment practice has drawn attention.

Specifically, some employers are requesting applicants to provide access to their social media accounts as a condition of employment. MSNBC’s Bob Sullivan reports applicants to the Maryland Department of Corrections have been asked to log onto their social media accounts while the interviewer observes; thus making wall posts, friends and pictures, normally private, viewable by a potential employer. Until recently, Maryland asked applicants to turn over social media account usernames and passwords.

Employers may argue the social media inspection process is voluntary, but many find this practice a violation of First Amendment and privacy rights. According to the same MSNBC article, federal laws to prohibit social media password requests by perspective employers have even been suggested.

Additionally, Sullivan reports this type of monitoring by potential employers may violate the Facebook terms of use. Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities reads, “You will not share your password, let anyone else access your account, or do anything … that might jeopardize the security of your account.” According to a Facebook spokesperson, employer policies that allow “shoulder surfing” appear to violate Facebook’s terms. As a social media lawyer, this topic’s potential for conflicts is apparent.

While many assume that privacy settings on a social media profile will protect one from access by a potential employer, the recent trend of “shoulder surfing” and social media account passwords requests suggests otherwise. The burning question then becomes how employers and employees prepare for the age of the “social media interview?”

Read full article by Pedram Tabibi

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