You've likely heard the stories of late about prospective employers asking job candidates for social media passwords — mostly Facebook — as a condition of employment. It's a recent trend where people apparently think they learn more about you by what you post — and hide — on social media than they can in any interview.
But your social media profiles already pass the grandma test, right? If you wouldn't say it to your grandmother, you don't share it on social media. So that one time you did that thing in college and that person was there with a camera — you didn't post that on Facebook, did you? If so, you need to clean up your Timeline. But back to the matter at hand.
Regardless of what you've posted and no matter how badly you might want or need the job, your passwords must not be compromised. Even Facebook says so.
"This practice undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user's friends," wrote Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer on the company's privacy blog. "It also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability."
Even lawmakers are appalled and stepping in to protect constituents. A bill introduced by state Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, would ban the practice in Illinois. And the American Civil Liberties Union has said it would support such a law.
But until the dust is settled, what should you do if you're on an interview and someone asks for your passwords? Try these suggestions.
Be forceful, yet respectful: Explain, nicely, that your passwords are private but offer to provide further information using other means. If pressed, explain that certain information contained in your profiles may or may not have been intended to be shared only among friends or family members.
Be honest: Explain that you take Facebook's terms of service seriously and that sharing passwords would be a violation of the terms you signed.
Use fair comparisons: Explain that you wouldn't share a password just as you wouldn't share a bank account or credit card number.
Be clear: Explain that you have nothing to hide, but that you consider what you do on social media networks to be your personal business and that you wouldn't bring personal business to the workplace anyway.
Be willing to assist: Offering to show the employer what your timeline looks like to the public using the "view as" feature. Reiterate that this level of access should be more than adequate.
Provide alternatives: If your LinkedIn public profile is up to date, explain that your professional experience is highlighted there much like a resume. And because LinkedIn is a professional network, your work-related connections are a better indicator of what you bring to the table.
One or all of those things should do the trick, but if not don't give up your private information no matter how badly you want or need the job. This sounds like a place that doesn't respect the work-life balance and would scrutinize your personal life all the time anyway.
Scott Kleinberg is social media consultant for the Chicago Tribune Media Group. You already know he won't give you his Facebook password, but you can subscribe to his posts at facebook.com/skleinberg.
Online privacy settings apply offline too
A prospective employer wants your social media password? Yeah, that's not going to work
Facebook posts that work (LEON NEAL, AFP/Getty Images)