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Reflecting on a poll: A hiring manager asks a woman to show him her Facebook page in an interview. What should she do?

August 30th, 2009 · 14 Comments · Entrepreneurs

“We invest in people…” is a phrase that entrepreneurs hear often from VCs and employees from corporations. What does it mean? Hard to know – or maybe, the actual content of the sentence depends on who is speaking.

OK, LinkedIn isn’t the whole spielFor most people, you are your “background” and this “background” boils down to your résumé on LinkedIn. But a résumé is, by definition, limited: it is a summary. If Sergey Brin or Larry Page had sent a résumé to MSN, they would not have been asked to create the search engine of the future right away. Although they both had enrolled in the Stanford Ph.D. program, they were not “proven” yet. Who would have hired Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, or Bill Gates in key positions? The history of these iconic figures reminds us that what most people call “background” is only the foreground, a few degrees and a work experience that jump out to hiring managers and most investors. The end result is what we know: multitudes with “relevant” degrees and tons of “great” recommendations populate companies — small or big – and more often than not, these perfect recruits can’t make much happen beside ensuring business as usual and maintaining the status quo.

We all know that a great employee (or great entrepreneur) is more than a résumé. It’s a human being with a real background, whether you understand the word “background” as the software that is not displayed but is silently operating in the head and the heart of that person, or as the overall implicit or explicit setting or scenery in which a person places himself/herself and the vibes he/she transmits. This part is the fuzzy aspect of interviews — for better or worse, for both the interviewees and the interviewers, no matter how streamlined the interview process in a company may be or how well the interviewee has prepared. But how can people convey who they really are? And how can people know more about you? This takes me to a poll that I recently offered mostly via Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. 

What do you do if you are asked to bring up your Facebook page during an interview? After fumbling for a few minutes with the wording of my poll, here is what I finally offered: “A male hiring manager asks a woman to show him her Facebook page in an interview. What should she do: Agree; Refuse and see what he says; Ask why and then decide; Walk out of the interview?”

The idea of that poll came from a comment to a post by Renee Weisman, Keeping Your Online Identity Professional ( “A friend just told me that at the interview, her hiring manager asked her to bring up her facebook page. He wanted to see the types of things she was posting as a way to judge whether she would fit in his organization!” 

Over 95% of the responses came through Twitter and the majority from the United States. After the first 100 votes, I noticed that percentages changed very little. Only a little under 12% of the respondents would immediately agree to bring up their Facebook page. I received multiple personal comments ranging from the right of having a privacy to the fact that our life is so much all over the Internet already that bringing up a Facebook doesn’t make that much of a difference. The poll was anonymous, but based on direct remarks, it is clear that people in their early twenties are the most open. One said: “Anyway, what 99% of people have on their Facebook is what 99% of the rest of the population also has. We have tons of pictures. It’s well known that other folks’ pictures are downright boring. So any hiring manager may be quickly bored as he/she goes through our galleries.” Another said. “My response would be ‘sure.’ Can you bring your page too? You want to know whom you will hire, and I want to know more about who is hiring me and for whom I’ll work.”

The fact that over 50% say that they would “ask why and then decide” (they may end up agreeing for fear of losing a job opportunity in a tight job market), that over 25% would refuse and see what the hiring manager says, and that almost 8% would walk out of the interview is all the more striking as employers increasingly screen employees’ Facebook and MySpace pages: Forty-five percent of employers reported in a recent CareerBuilder survey that they use social networking sites to research job candidates, a big jump from 22 percent last year. Another 11 percent plan to start using social networking sites for screening. More than 2,600 hiring managers participated in the survey, which was completed in June 2009.[1]”

My poll may not be “scientific, but if it is relevant, it’s clear that there could be a real discrepancy between the workforce’s state of mind and the companies’ hiring practices. If people feel forced to comply with corporate practices they do not like from the get-go, they might join companies only because they need a salary, not because they are sincerely motivated by the job – and strengthen a dangerous trend identified a few years ago showing that “less than half of Americans (47%) are satisfied with their jobs, according to a 2006 survey of 5,000 households (2006 survey of 5,000 households released by the Conference Board.[2] ” Economic recoveries are not simply a financial story: employees’ enthusiasm also counts.

Additional information in the CareerBuilder survey may add to people’s reluctance about bringing up their Facebook page: While “Thirty-five percent of employers indicated that they did find information that caused them not to hire the candidate,” only eighteen percent of employers reported they have found content on social networking sites that caused them to hire the candidate.” So, screening Facebook and MySpace pages appears to be primarily a way to exclude people. While it’s obvious that an employer will not want to hire people whose Facecebook and MySpace profiles  display inappropriate pictures, drinking, drug use, or badmouthing a previous employer, personal profiles do not seem to have a huge positive influence.

The advice of many career specialists is to encourage people to maintain a squeaky clean “professional” identity. Great, but this raises other questions, such as:

– Should your Facebook profile be a copy of your Linkedin profile with just a very slight personal touch? What is a “professional” family picture? How do you tell your friends to always make sure that they only take “professional” pictures of you?

– What is “unprofessional” besides a few obvious no-nos? Could the word “unprofessional” become a tote bag for all the things that a hiring manager doesn’t like about a candidate – and may say more about a hiring manager’s potential blinkers, culture, personal tastes,or ideology than about the candidate himself/herself? 

A few people asked me why my question was gender specific (A male hiring manager asks a woman to show him her Facebook page). In the poll, I did not ask respondents to indicate if they were men or women (maybe I should have). My response was that it was a real case. So think of this for example: A hiring manager cannot ask a woman if she has children, but can see it on her Facebook and can apply a still very common prejudice that this woman may not be entirely dedicated to her work. While it has become harder to openly discriminate, is it getting easier to do so tacitly?

Social media give a voice to a lot of new people – that’s obvious. Being in the Silicon Valley, I would have responded “Yes” with no hesitation to my own poll. Looking at the results, I had to think of the fact that the virtual world may also become a reproduction of the real world – eventually strengthen its shortcomings, its prejudice, but this time, under cover.

Marylene Delbourg-Delphis


Note on the poll: To create the poll, I used ObjectiveMarketer ( The platform enables you to create as well as analyze the exact impact of your tweets. It’s not enough to “listen to” people. You must also learn how to talk to them and understand what gets to their minds or their hearts. These tweets can also be polls!  I wrote a post about the founder, Amita Paul:


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14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Reflecting on a poll: A hiring manager asks a woman to show him … – The Facebook News // Aug 31, 2009 at 3:49 am

    […] marylened wrote an interesting post today onReflecting on a poll: A hiring manager asks a woman to show him <b>…</b>Here’s a quick excerpt […]

  • 2 Support You. » Reflecting on a poll: A hiring manager asks a woman to show him … // Aug 31, 2009 at 8:34 am

    […] the original here: Reflecting on a poll: A hiring manager asks a woman to show him … This entry is filed under Entrepreneurs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the […]

  • 3 Andrea // Aug 31, 2009 at 10:21 am

    As a woman, the very first thing I thought of when I read this is that the hiring manager wanted to know the interviewee’s marital/relationship status and/or whether or not she had kids. This just highlights the hiring prejudices that still exist for women and the additional scrutiny we face when looking for work.

    Facebook is personal space for most. Asking to view someone’s page is akin to asking to look through their personal emails and photo albums. It’s wrong, period.

  • 4 Laura // Aug 31, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Odds are if he’s asking, he’s already seen it and has questions, but is challenging or testing the openness that seems apparent on the page.

  • 5 Davina K. Brewer // Aug 31, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I read your question, quickly went to legal issues you mention: Facebook is may be the most personal social network; your profile can show everything from marital status and children to religious and political affiliations, all of which are no-no for job interviews.

    I’d really want to know why the person wanted to see my FB profile, and then professionally and respectfully decline.

  • 6 Ed Elliott // Aug 31, 2009 at 11:28 am

    [disclaimer: I am male, and past the midline of the age-curve…] I am a professional working for a large corporation. Asking for access to FB would violate our HR policies, for the very reasons DK Brewer mentions in comment. I strongly suspect however that HR does in fact Google, FB, MS, LI and every other thing they can think of, just not openly. Can’t stop human nature…

    I don’t maintain FB under my own name. I do lock it down for only invited friends. I do share personal opinions, tastes/recommends for music, books, food, etc. – bottom line is I maintain LI for professional perusal, FB for personal known friends. I think one must carefully moderate where you post what.

    I would refuse (politely) any request for access to social sites other than LI.

  • 7 Emily // Sep 1, 2009 at 10:46 am

    My concern with this request: I take advantage of Facebook’s privacy settings. To those who I have not added, my profile is simply a bland default photo, a location, and a sampling of people I’m friends with. Even for people I have added, 90% of them can’t see photos I’ve been tagged in, comments other people write on my wall, or albums containing photos from bar crawls, for example. But for the 20 or so people on my list who are long-distance friends and family, and who know that even hard-working professionals go on the occasional bar crawl, it’s a good way to share these photos and thoughts.

    If the employer is asking me to bring up my page right there in the interview instead of searching on my name on their own time, I assume they’re asking me to login and let them see the full monty, and then it seems to count for nothing that I had the presence of mind to utilize privacy settings to maintain a professional image.

  • 8 marylened // Sep 1, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Emily, you do have an excellent point there. Yes, all the privacy settings that we may select are useless of we are asked to bring up a page as an admin!

  • 9 Heidi // Sep 2, 2009 at 11:07 am

    I am friends with upper executives at my job, by choice. I maintain a very personal facebook presence, but a clean one that I think shows my personality – something upper executives and managers rarely get a glimpse at!

    However, I think that asking someone to show their personal Facebook page in an interview actually opens an employer up to potential trouble. It’s a little bit like asking a candidate, “How old are you? Do you have kids? Are you married?” – but less directly! You wouldn’t ask a candidate if you could take a peek in their purse, just to get a feel for how prepared they are for any circumstance… Would you?

    I’d answer with a direct but confident “Oh, I’m sorry – I only use Facebook to communicate with friends and family, not for business,” and then direct them to my profile on a business-centric site, such as or LinkedIn.

  • 10 Stephen // Sep 9, 2009 at 3:24 am

    I never thought about this question before, and upon reflection I don’t know what I would do. I am 20, so I have pics on Facebook of me being 18, 19 and 20. I am in college so obviously have pics of nights out and stupid pics. I also have normal pics – travelling, weddings, formal occasions.

    I ONLY have people I know added on Facebook and it is on private in every way. (I show up in search listings – so I make a note to make sure my picture is normal, I can only be seen by friends – not networks). It would definitely be an invasion of my privacy for someone to force* me to show them my profile.

    *Forcing is exactly what this is. If you refuse, it will look like you have something to hide, which lessens your chance of getting a job. Since you are there for the sole purpose of getting that job it means you are backed into a corner.

    I have a Twitter account that I rarely use, but I have set it on private too (recently).

  • 11 Defining Your Personal Brand Online (Part 1) « The Creative Communicator // Sep 9, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    […] would you do if an interviewer asked you to show them your Facebook profile?” In an informal poll, he discovered that only 12% of respondents would feel comfortable showing their profile to a […]

  • 12 Valerie Curl // Sep 11, 2009 at 8:15 am

    This is a most interesting article. What I like most about it is that it opens up a conversation, unlike so many business blog posts. Thank you for starting a conversation.

    A few years ago, I read that HR indeed does google potential candidates. As a result, I regularly google myself to see what is out there.

    Like so many others, my FB page is just for family and close friends. To open that information up to a stranger would be an invasion of privacy for these people. While there is nothing on my page that is one would call objectionable, I still don’t like the idea of opening up other people’s personal lives to an unknown person. People’s privacy rights require respect.

  • 13 Queercents » Blog Archive » Is the Way You Use Social Media Hurting Your Career? // Sep 17, 2009 at 10:07 am

    […] awkward social media meets hiring manager moments aren’t limited to the online space.  “A hiring manager asks a woman to show him her Facebook page in an interview. What should she … presents a host of uncomfortable issues.  The poll results are really worth a read.  Only 11% […]

  • 14 How to Go on the Offensive with Facebook | // Sep 30, 2009 at 3:52 am

    […] you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed for updates on this topic.A friend of mine conducted this informal poll about what a person should do if she were asked to show a male interviewer her Facebook page. Only […]

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