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Don’t give prospective employers your Facebook password

I’ve read multiple stories this week about potential employers demanding that interviewees hand over their Facebook passwords during the job interview so they can snoop around.

There’s no good reason for this.

Presumably they’re snooping around on Facebook pages to look for lapses in judgment or patterns of behavior that could be undesirable. The problem is that it’s not possible to see the whole story in 30 minutes of snooping around in a Facebook profile.

My profile is pretty clean, but if you poke around in mine, you’ll see a handful of people who, for instance, post the occasional photograph clearly taken in a bar and in which they appear to be intoxicated. That tells you very little about them and absolutely nothing about me–I haven’t had a drink since sometime in 2003 and can count on one hand the number of times I’ve even wanted a drink since 2003.

You’ll also see that some people I know hold some very strong political views. I’ll refrain from calling them extreme. That doesn’t mean I agree with any of them; it certainly doesn’t mean I agree with all of them because that would be impossible. I have an acquaintance who once worked for Planned Parenthood, and another acquaintance who has logged considerable time protesting Planned Parenthood. I’ve done neither, not that it matters much. I’m a computer security professional; what I need to know is that groups with strong views on either side of that issue are potential targets for attack by activist hackers and that I might be asked to protect those assets.

I’ve had to protect assets belonging to people I don’t completely agree with before, and probably will have to again. You’ll find that out by looking at my resume, not my Facebook page.

The resume and job interview are the right place to get that kind of information, not a Facebook page.

I’ll pick on myself some more. I worked for a particular company from 1998 to 2005. From looking at my resume, it’s clear that I had administrative rights on the whole show there, and at one time or another did almost everything there. My subsequent job had substantially less responsibility and lasted about six months.

I get some questions about that. And that’s legitimate. I also have some perfectly good answers for that. Layoffs were an annual event at that place for several years, and 2005 happened to be my year. And the subsequent job had less responsibility, but paid $500 a month more. I wasn’t completely happy at either place, but only a fool would turn down less responsibility for more money.

Sometimes people ask why I was only at that job for a few months, while others don’t care. There’s a good explanation for that too; it was a troubled company in a competitive industry at the time and they even said so during my job interview. It’s still a troubled company now. In late 2005 they did some reorganization, my department was downsized, and I was the least-tenured guy there.

I then landed someplace doing work that looks a lot like what I was doing in early 2005, paying a little better than what I was doing in mid-2005, and my career has progressed at a reasonable, healthy pace since then.

I’ve had to answer a lot of questions about 2005 in the years since, but I can only think of one time that it may have hurt me, and even then, it’s questionable. I interviewed for a job as a Linux sysadmin in 2009 over the phone and never received a callback, so there was something they didn’t like. But if they’d even offered me a job, it wouldn’t have been my first choice, because they wanted to put me on second or third shift, and maybe move me up after a year.

Since an option involving normal work hours materialized within a week or two, this is the first time I’ve even thought about that since.

If the person responsible for the job interview is doing their job, they can find out everything they need to know–probably and then some–without having to pry into your social networking accounts.

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