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Hand ‘Em Over! Should Employers Require Passwords from job Seekers?

Hand ‘Em Over! Should Employers Require Passwords from job Seekers?

The Social Networking phenomenon continues to take us by storm. Online Social Networking is thought to have begun around 2005 or 2006. Today there are over 200 million Twitter registered users, over 650 million active users on Facebook, and over 100 million users on Linkedin.  My guess is social networking is here to stay until some other form of technology takes it over.

But usually when technology surges among the population, most rules of what is considered acceptable fall far behind.  It is not long before people begin to push the envelope. It is then that we begin to understand what is acceptable use and what is not. The newest of those activities "pushing the envelope" is whether or not employers should require passwords from job seekers.

The Associated Press recently reported that there are growing accounts of companies and government agencies requiring Facebook user I.D.s and passwords from prospective job seekers. At this point, it is hard to determine how wide spread this activity is or if it is only a few.

In this economy most job seekers may simply comply with the request for information. Otherwise putting their chances of getting the job in jeopardy certainly is a concern.   In some cases, third party applications, such as Beknown, have the ability to scour social network profiles if the job seeker allows it. There are other accounts of applicants being asked to “friend” HR and/or background investigators so they can go in and look through the candidate’s online profile.

Like most things, there more than one factor to consider.  Here are pros and cons of requiring job seekers to “hand ‘em over.”


  1. This will enable police, correctional and military agencies to tell if prospective candidates are engaged in unlawful activity, not yet caught.
  2. It allows employers to see if a candidate has the propensity to bad mouth customers and/or workplaces.
  3. It is easier to keep up to date records when people automatically up date their social network profiles.



  1. Social Networking profiles may include information that is unlawful to ask about during an employment screening process, such as gender, age, nation origin, and so on.
  2. It is no different then asking for someone’s house keys. It violates and individual’s privacy.
  3. A good and legal screening process such as, background and reference checks, already in place, are meant to uncover unsavory activity and most importantly convictions.


You be the judge: Should employers be allowed to require social network user I.D. and passwords from job seekers?


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Tresha D. Moreland, MBA, MS, FACHE, SPHR, SSBBP, founder of HR C-Suite, is an HR thought leader in Human Resource Strategic Management. She has held key human resource leadership roles for over 20 years in multiple industries most recently a senior vice president in the healthcare industry. Tresha is the founder and publisher of HR C-Suite ( HR C-Suite is a game changer results-based HR strategy website. It is a first-of-it's-kind site that organizes HR strategy based on desired business result. She has developed a business philosophy of integrating human resources with business strategy, thus creating a hybrid HR leadership approach. This approach enables the leveraging human resources to achieve business results.

Latest posts by Tresha Moreland (see all)


  1. I really struggle to find anyting positive about requesting, let alone requiring, access to an applicant’s personal social networks. It flies in the face of the proverbial work-life balance.

    Would we consider it acceptable that a potential employer be given a set of keys to an applicant’s home? Access to their personal e-mails? Transcripts of phone conversations (OK, text streams)?
    I have to be in the camp of advocating against this trend.

  2. When I’ve consulted HR departments about implementing a similar policy in their own organizations, I ask them this: “Do the positions in your company require employees to act as mindless sheep, or are they required to engage and use discretion?” If you want drones, hire those who won’t mind having their privacy invaded. And even if they do, they’ll to spineless to stand up to you. But if you want employees who use their brains, think and act with discretion, and possess real integrity, do NOT implement such BIG BROTHER means to screen employees.


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