By Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, MBTI Certified
What would you do if your employer asked you to give them access to your social media sites by providing your login and password information to them? What if you were interviewing for a new job and the interviewer requested those details? It may seem a bit farfetched, but that’s exactly what has happened to a few job seekers recently according to an Associated Press story that broke last week. As a result, this story has created quite a buzz and even stirred legislators to action drafting bills that would ban this practice.
Asking an employee or interview candidate for their social media login credentials is a violation of their privacy – plain and simple. I would NEVER encourage anyone to disclose login information to their personal social media accounts. (There may be exceptions if you are using a corporate account and represent the corporate entity on various social media sites, but that’s not what these articles were talking about.) Employers can use all sorts of assessment tools and background checks to screen candidates, and they can learn plenty about someone online without asking for login access to any candidate’s social media sites.
But the question still remains: what if you are asked to provide this information? What should you do? How should you handle it? How can you respond positively without compromising your personal privacy? This is where the power of a solid LinkedIn profile and a professional portfolio can help save the day! Let me explain.
When I’m coaching candidates on the job search, one of the first things I tell them to do is update or create a profile on LinkedIn. Once the profile is complete, I encourage them to participate in LinkedIn groups related to their industry or areas of expertise. They can even showcase samples of their work using the LinkedIn SlideShare app, connect their blog to their profile (if they have one), and share books they recommend or are currently reading. This helps potential interviewers get to know more about them than just what the resume alone provides. LinkedIn becomes your electronic professional portfolio.
With their LinkedIn profile in place, I strongly urge candidates to development a print version of their professional career portfolio. The print version of your professional portfolio may contain your updated resume, letters of recommendation, awards, proof of degrees or certifications, training and professional development they’ve completed, actual work samples that demonstrate their skills and strengths, and even personality type profiles or assessments. A professional portfolio is used in the actual face to face interview setting so the candidate can physically show the interviewer proof of their education, skills, and abilities.
So how do these two valuable career tools help save the day if you’re asked to provide social media login credentials during an interview? Your LinkedIn profile and your professional portfolio give you two fantastic ways of being able to provide additional insights and visibility into who you are, how you work, and the skills you bring to the position WITHOUT giving an interviewer access to your social media login information.
Here’s how I’d respond to being asked for my social media login details:
“I appreciate that you’re really trying to learn as much about me as you can so we can both determine if I’m a good fit for your company. I’d like to provide you with a copy of my professional portfolio which contains detailed letters of recommendation, personality type profile reports, numerous samples of my work product with explanations of my role in each, and additional information regarding the training and professional development I continually pursue to stay current in my field. My portfolio will give you a lot more insight into how I function at work than my social media sites do.”
Notice: I never flat out said, “No, I won’t give you that.” I expressed my appreciation for what they were trying to learn about me and suggested another (and better) way for them to do that. Most interviewing managers don’t even know what a professional portfolio is let alone know to ask a candidate for one. So if you show up with one and can “wow” them on the spot, it’s a HIGH IMPACT job search tool to have in your arsenal.
If the interviewer persists, I’d ask these questions:
- What is it that you trying to find or learn about me that you believe access to my social media sites will provide? (Then I’d find other ways to provide proof of that information.)
- May I suggest we connect on LinkedIn so you can see additional details from my personal profile and the groups and forums I regularly participate in?
- Could I do a job shadow for this position so you can get to know me better in person before you make your final decision?
But I would NEVER give (or encourage anyone else to give) social media site logins or passwords to an interviewer!
What if you are desperate to get the job?
As I watched this story trend on social media last week, there were several comments that indicated some may feel compelled to hand over this information if they were desperate to get a job. But providing this information does NOT guarantee you’ll get the job!
Providing this information may actually be a hidden two-edged sword. Quite honestly, I don’t want someone working for me who is willing to give this type of information up with the teeniest bit of pressure applied. If you’re willing to give this information up about yourself, what are you willing to give up about me and my company once you’re working for me? Why should I trust you with my confidential information? These questions would always linger in my mind, and subconsciously the trust factor is damaged before you ever start working for me. If the company you are considering working for doesn’t trust you before you ever start, don’t expect that to change or improve once you walk through the front door on your first day.
Cleaning Up Your Social Media Sites
Whether you’re looking for a job or not, your social media sites should always be maintained as if your boss or potential employer is reading it every day. Your personal life may not be any of their business, but your personal life reflects on your professional life whether you want it to or not. If you lack discretion in your personal life, chances are pretty good you lack it in your professional life, too. That is of concern to your employer as you represent the company or they consider you for additional responsibilities or promotions.
Here are a few things I recommend you do immediately on each of your social media sites:
- Review and remove any inappropriate language, beer drinking pictures, wild party pictures, etc. that could be misunderstood without the context explained.
- Review who you’re connected to. People do form opinions about you based on who you hang out with. At times it may be appropriate to clean up your “friends” list.
- Update your “about you” bio info to reflect what you’re trying to accomplish in your life and career (especially if you’re on the job hunt).
- Have someone else review your sites as a potential employer and provide feedback.
- Don’t complain and moan about everything imaginable in your posts. (Start journaling if you need a productive outlet for your frustrations.)
- Be positive or don’t post at all.
A few final thoughts…
It’s not just personal, it’s business. When you choose to play or participate online, you can’t separate the two – no matter how much you may want to believe you can. So keep it professional and you’ll be much safer. You can still have fun and be professional!
I can learn a lot about you without being your friend, so check your security settings regularly and make sure you’re only sharing what you intend to share with the public.
Monitor your online presence daily! Google your name at least once a week…maybe daily if you are job hunting. Who else out there has the same name as you do that could be mistaken for yours? You need to know what a potential employer may be seeing so you can proactively guide them to the right information if there are others with the same name as yours.
THINK BEFORE YOU POST! Once you put something online, you can never completely guarantee you’ll be able to remove it. One quick screenshot of your online post or photo captured from my computer is completely out of your control. I can save it forever. Back away from the keyboard when you feel the urge to post reactively and save yourself a lot of headache and heartbreak.
Finally – and most importantly – if you don’t already have a professional portfolio started for yourself, get one started now! This tool can overcome so many interview challenges, you wouldn’t believe it. It’s like having a security blanket with you throughout the interview to jog your memory about projects you’ve worked on and accomplishments you should share. It provides physical proof that you can do and have done the things you share on your resume and throughout the interview process. You can find resources to help you create a professional portfolio or e-portfolio here.
Don’t get caught off guard by an unexpected request for personal information in an interview. Practice your responses to tough questions beforehand. Respond positively by providing alternative solutions. Be proactive and develop a solid LinkedIn profile and your professional portfolio now. These key career building tools may just save the day – and get you the job – when you least expect it!
© 2012 Julie Perrine International, LLC
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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.