Career Watch: Should you surrender your Facebook password?

Q&A: Roy Cohen

The career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide talks about handling a request for your Facebook password in a job interview.

Can a person simply refuse a request to hand over his Facebook password? Yes. No one is required by law to provide a Facebook password. But there is always a consequence for any decision we make. In this case, if you refuse, you may be eliminated as a candidate.

It is possible that the company is testing you and your good judgment. If the position you are interviewing for requires the ability to negotiate unreasonable terms and conditions, then not providing the information requested may be the desired response. In that case, saying no with grace and tact may be viewed as an asset rather than a liability. Before you jump to any conclusion, ask about the request. Although the question may initially appear to be unreasonable, it may be that there is a legitimate reason to ask it.

Some people who have been out of work for several months might not feel that just walking away is an option. What can they do? Saying no is not the only option. Offering partial information and an explanation may satisfy the interviewer. The real question is how much the interviewer needs to know.

If you really believe that a line may have been crossed but you don't want to jeopardize your candidacy, the "Yes, but . . ." response is an option. In this case, you express a willingness to provide access, but at the same time you request an explanation. Sometimes the interviewer's intentions are harmless. It may be that the interviewer is uninformed -- it could be cultural -- and doesn't know any better. You may have to explain that he's welcome to have access to your public information but that there are sections of the site restricted to friends and family for obvious reasons.

Are such requests getting more common, or have there been only isolated incidents? In this market where a lot is riding on making a perfect hiring decision -- i.e., one where virtually all candidate risk has been eliminated -- it is easy to understand why a company would make every effort to learn as much as possible about a potential candidate before making a commitment. Questions that are commonly viewed as illegal -- those involving age, race, religion, political affiliation, etc. -- are considered inappropriate, but they do get asked occasionally. When they are raised, it is usually by uninformed interviewers or those from cultures where requesting this sort of information is standard practice. The rest of us have been socialized to know to never ask them.

So it is easy to understand why and how an interviewer might request confidential information like a password that should have no bearing on a candidate's potential to be successful. The precedent for asking has already been set by illegal questions. Fortunately, just like illegal questions, the negative publicity has been so immediate and so strong that these sorts of requests will be the exception rather than the rule.

What Is Working Remotely Worth to You?

Respondents to a survey were asked what they would give up for the opportunity to work remotely.

78% would forgo free meals in the workplace.

54% would give up their employer-paid cellphone plan.

31% would accept a reduction in paid vacation.

25% would take a salary reduction.

Note: Multiple responses allowed.

Source: Online survey (1,074 respondents) conducted by project management and collaboration vendor Wrike, December 2011.

Silicon Valley Tops in Tech Pay

Here are the top-paying U.S. cities for tech jobs.

1. San Jose: $119,412

2. San Francisco: $112,739

3. New York: $105,192

4. Washington: $99,618

5. Boston: $99,099

6. Los Angeles: $96,705

7. Brooklyn: $96,696

8. Philadelphia: $95,929

9. Chicago: $94,899

10. Dallas: $94,799

Source: CyberCoders survey of 3,000 tech jobs and salaries, 2012.

Read more about data center in Computerworld's Data Center Topic Center.

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