People can go to great lengths to land the perfect job. Whether the company demands endless paperwork, incessant follow-up interviews or too many photographs to count, job hunters almost always comply.
But when Dubai resident Mohammad Zubair was requested for his Facebook username and password, the alarm bells started to ring.
The incident took place in March this year, when the social media executive received a response from a company he had applied to a few months ago.
In a public post on Facebook, he wrote: “Normally, I would have replied saying, ‘Thank you for your interest, but I have got myself a job.’ However, this company had the audacity to ask me for my Facebook login details.”
The reason? The company did not want “party animals” to represent the company brand with their clients.
Zubair went on to post screenshots of his conversation with the company on his Facebook account and the post received a strong response from his social network.
Speaking to Gulf News, Zubair said: “Yes, people are desperate for jobs, but it gives no one the right to invade privacy. Everybody should know that.”
The request was so bizarre that the 24-year-old began to wonder if he had been approached by a con artist. On doing some research, he realised that the company was legitimate and so was the recruiting officer. The company, too, was insistent that this was part of “standard screening procedure”.
This got Zubair worried, so he decided to raise awareness about such practices by sharing posting on his university’s social media pages as well.
“I’m really active on social media so if someone asks me for my social media information, I would never give it to them. But if someone hardly uses their Facebook account, they might consider sharing their details if it gets them the job. I received many responses from my friends as well as my professor, who said that the request was completely unethical.”
While this isn’t the first instance where a company has made dubious requests of job seekers, social media has made it easier for people to highlight such cases.
On March 13, Canadian Taylor Byrnes tweeted about her experience applying for a job at a startup in Winnipeg, Canada, where an innocuous question about salary led to the interview process being cancelled altogether.
Byrnes applied to a food delivery service – SkipTheDishes – for a menu development role and had successfully completed a telephone interview when she sent an email asking about the hourly pay for the job. The company’s response? “Your questions reveal that your priorities are not in sync with those of SkipTheDishes. At this time we will not be following through with our meeting …”
Her tweet, screenshots included, went viral as well. The media attention led to one of the co-founders reaching out to Byrnes on Twitter, clarifying that the email did not represent the company’s team values.
While this might seem like a win for the desperate job seeker, not everyone is as lucky as Byrnes.
Omar Abu Omar
Gulf News reader Omar Abu Omar returned to the UAE after spending some time studying in Spain. While applying to companies for a suitable job, he came across a curious request from some companies.
“Several hiring managers or HR people would ask for a project that you would need to complete. May be they genuinely want a small project to find out how you work, but another possibility that is far more sinister is that actually have clients who need work done, but the companies don’t have the resources to complete their projects. So, they create a fake position and ask potential candidates to do the work. What is even worse is that I can’t say for sure whether it was genuinely part of the recruitment process or whether they were using me and other candidates to get work done for free,” the digital marketer told Gulf News.
One red flag for Omar was the fact that after submitting the complete social media strategy for a client, when he followed up with the company, he received no response.
“They wouldn’t even respond to my follow up emails. I found out later that some marketing agencies have a reputation for getting work done this way to save money and resources,” he added.
His fears are not unfounded, according to a recruitment executive, Jerry Selayro.
“I know a friend who specialises in social media. She had a similar experience where the company didn’t get back to her after she submitted her project. She found out later that her social media plan was used by this company and, may I add, it is not a small company,” Selayro, who works for a telecom and digital media company, said.
However, asking for sample work is not a new or suspicious hiring practice.
“These are legitimate assignments. We, too, ask applicants to do a sales pitch for us. But as the recruiters, we are not going to use their sales pitch. We just want to know about their skills and creativity and find out what kind of marketing materials they can come up with. With marketing, we always ask candidates for a sales pitch. But I always clarify that their work will not be used by us,” Selayro said.
Tracking social media
Another common, and completely legitimate, hiring practice is looking up the social media accounts of candidates. According to a 2016 survey by careerbuilder.com, a recruitment website, sixty per cent of employers in the US used social networking sites to research job candidates, up from 52 per cent in 2015 and just 11 per cent in 2006. More worryingly, though, more than 25 per cent of employers had found information about existing employees that caused them to reprimand or fire the person.
This is why Selayro warned job seekers to not just keep their social media profiles clean but also stay alert to make sure they do not end up getting scammed or land up with a company that is not a suitable fit.
“Do your research. Find out if the company is really legitimate. If the person asks you for your social media login details or any other suspicious questions, start asking your own questions. You are entitled to answers and a proper HR officer would give you all the information up front.”