As if job interviews weren’t stressful enough, some employers are asking people that come in for job interviews to log in their email accounts or their Facebook (or other social media) accounts. Plenty has been written about why not to do this. My personal favorite is the knee-jerk reaction that typically comes from people that either run small companies or blog for a living: do you really want to work for a company that would make you do that?
Personally, I would never do it. I don’t have anything juicy or salacious in my Facebook account – I do have a video of me singing karaoke which while embarrassing, probably wouldn’t prevent someone from hiring me. But I do have a lot of private conversations that I would like to keep that way. Yes, some are sophomoric but more importantly, many involve people confiding in me or asking for advice. If I didn’t have these conversations, I probably wouldn’t care if someone wanted to see my account as I limit what I share online.
Not everyone has the luxury of being able to turn away a potential job offer over something like this. After all, the job market favors the employer so if you won’t do it, someone else even more eager may be willing to. People may desperately need a job for a number of reasons such as loss of unemployment benefits, financial challenges or a need for insurance. So if you fall into that group, what can you do?
First, create a second account:
Do you really think Facebook has over a billion users? Some people estimate that 20-60% of those accounts are duplicates so people can manage different groups of friends, give themselves power-ups in games or just make themselves look popular. So why not do the same thing for your job search?
Second, set up your new account:
There are a few things you’ll want to do to make it look like a real account:
- Invite a small number of close friends to connect with the new account. Make sure they are people you can trust.
- Add some photos and images. Make sure they aren’t anything that makes you look bad. Pictures of pets, kids, plants and motivational images are ideal.
- Add some activity. Post some status updates, like things that aren’t controversial such as local places, vacation destinations and TV shows.
- Be sure to get your friends to throw a few likes/comments your way.
Finally, clean up your existing account.
While this can be a bit of a pain, it’ll make it harder for employers to find you. Do the following:
- Change your name. Use your middle name in place of either your first or last name on your profile. Remember, employers will search for you based on the name on your resume (and Facebook will show nickname variants) so obfuscate it as best as you can.
- Replace your profile picture. Use your dog (or someone else’s dog), the beach or anything that doesn’t have you actually in it.
- Lock down your profile. Go to security settings and make sure nothing is set to “public.” You can even go to your profile page and view it as public to see what the world can see.Â Clean up anything that makes you identifiable.
This will seem like an inconvenience, but it’s only necessary throughout the duration of your job search (or your employment if your employer will continue to request access to your account). If you wonder whether or not it’s ethical to do this, one can ask the same about a potential employer requiring you to log into a personal account as part of the interview process.
Again, these steps are only necessary if you’re in a situation where you desperately need the job. Some companies monitor their employee’s social media accounts throughout their employment so be sure that this is something you can live with. If you can, the above steps will make it easier for you.
James Feudo owns the Boston Web Design Agency JVF Solutions and loves blogging about personal development and communication in his spare time.