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Does Coercion Merit compliance?

“Oh brave new world! That has such people in’t!” In context, this line by Miranda in Shakespeare’s The Tempest (Act V, scene 1), was ironic. Huxley’s title Brave New World, also ironic. Let’s visit another literary work: A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Not only conceivable from where we stand now, but very frightening.

AP recently reported that Justin Basset was asked for his FaceBook log in information during an interview so that the company could examine his page because his profile was set to private. Basset withdrew his application.

This egregious request – and expectation that it will be met – isn’t a stand-alone act. It happens to be blatant enough that there’s action moving against it. But the principle is condoned within the parameters of other invasive acts, some of which we willingly participate in. So allow me to digress a bit and follow along outside of the job search world for a minute.

Hiring companies have always conducted references. Government-related entities have always done their checking a little more arduously. But then private companies began background checks and fingerprinting. Then drug tests – even if you weren’t operating machinery. Next, credit checks were added to the mix.

As a career coach, I teach job seekers how to take back control of their career by not doing everything they’re told, showing them why they don’t have to follow rules such as submitting their resume online. They learn more effective ways to be noticed, and then how to separate the wheat from the chaff. I’ve long maintained the reason the companies take all the power is because job seekers give it to them.

But this Facebook issue is different. There’s no way around it. You either give it up or go home. Obviously not everyone is going to be able to go home, like Basset was. So what do you do if that’s you? You still go home.

Don’t be cowed into submission or rationalize it by telling yourself you’ve nothing to hide. A company who asks you to hand over that information has no respect for boundaries and that will show up elsewhere after they’ve employed you. Signing yourself in so they can nose around isn’t any more acceptable.

Acquiescing is the same as condoning. Letting a company blur your boundaries is no different than allowing your partner to. Both are invasive and abusive.

Nothing is black and white, especially to a private company who wants to rationalize their screening process for hiring. Their reason is to check for unacceptable behaviour. That’s a nebulous term, especially when companies are looking to screen out, not screen in, and relatively innocuous things may be considered “unacceptable.” It’s the principle we’re talking about here, and the principle is controlling others. It’s coercion.

The Department of Justice regards it as a federal crime to enter a social networking site in violation of the TOS, although they’re not prosecuting for it. IL has proposed legislation making it illegal, and MD passed it in a landslide. It’s waiting for the governor’s signature.

Have enough respect for yourself to leave, just as Bassett did. Because if too many people don’t, then bit by bit, it becomes acceptable, simply because there are too many complying.

- Judi Perkins

Judi was a very successful recruiter for 22 years (15 contingency, 4 agency, 3 retained) and has now been a career coach for 3. The recruiter background, especially having been all three types, gives her deep insight into both sides of the hiring process. Now she teaches job seekers both the skill and psychological aspects of job hunting and why the usual methods don't work.