Facebook password: can an employer ask for yours?

How far would you go to secure your dream job? Or in this economy, any job? What if your potential employer asked for your Facebook password in order for you to advance in the interview process? It seems ridiculous, but unfortunately an alarming number of cases like this are surfacing.

Facebook seems to have finally caught wind of the situation, and has threatened to sue employers who ask job applicants for passwords to their accounts. On Friday, March 23, Facebook’s chief privacy officer released a statement saying, “We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action. Sharing a Facebook password or asking for someone else’s password violates Facebook’s user agreement. An employer who requests such information may face unanticipated legal liability.”

Facebook warned that if personal information gathered from a Facebook page negatively affects an employer’s decision, the company might be liable for discrimination. Facebook didn’t, however, state any specific legal actions it would take.

And that’s probably because asking for a job applicant’s Facebook password is not actually illegal. Typically, interviewers are only prohibited from asking questions that are discriminatory in nature.

So what can and can’t employers ask in interviews? And what are you supposed to do if you are caught being pressured to answer an illegal question? Weidert’s PR team did its own investigation into Wisconsin’s Fair Hiring laws—for all of you who are just entering or re-entering the job market.

Arrest Records

It is illegal for an employer in Wisconsin to inquire about past arrest records, but it allows for consideration of a current arrest. This basically means that employers can ask about any arrest that is unresolved, but if it is in the past, they should leave it there.

Children

It is unlawful for an employer to ask about the number of children you have, their ages, your childcare situation or your pregnancy status. These questions are considered to be discriminatory against women and are usually only asked to gauge potential tardiness and absenteeism.

Credit Records

It is illegal for an employer to seek credit reports or a history of credit. Inquiries of this nature are irrelevant to job performance and are considered to be discriminatory to minorities.

Family Members at the Company

It is illegal for an employer to ask if you have friends or family working for their company. Although they may have policies against it that are legal, they can not make these inquiries during the interview, as they usually have a negative impact on women more than men.

Honesty Tests

It is never legal to require an applicant to take a polygraph test as a condition of employment. Any test taken must be voluntary and have no impact on the hiring decision.

Salary

While it’s lawful to ask a person what their lowest acceptable salary is, it is illegal to pay a woman less than a man performing the same job functions.

So, although it may be legal as of right now for an employer to ask for your Facebook password, remember that they can’t base their decision on what they see. Either way, remember that you have the right to say no.

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Social media is changing the way journalists work

According to Managing Media Work by Mark Deuze, social media is changing the way that reporters do their work. In chapter 22, “Life is a pitch”, the author makes it evident that journalists must do everything in their power to stay ahead of the competition. Nick Penzenstadler of the Appleton Post Crescent agrees, and he leverages all types of social media–and the web– to uncover stories that no one else is covering. In his session, Get the Dirt: Harnessing Search Functions in the Web to Get the Story, at UW Oshkosh’s NEWSPA conference, Penzenstadler showed students how to get information from sites that they may have never heard of.

Although one of the key features of new media lives, according to the chapter mentioned above is “long hours”, Penznstadler showed the audience how he can answer 20 in depth, personal questions about basically anybody in under 30 minutes– just by using what’s readily available on he Internet. I’m not going to lie, the amount of information that he discovered about Dr. Ann Schultz, Oshkosh West principal, was slightly creepy.

Mashable recently wrote about the trend of journalists using social media during their average work days. The article revealed that the top three reasons why they do this is to find leads, notice trends and find sources. Penzenstadler said that he mainly uses social media to find sources. He said that Facebook is one of his greatest tools when doing this, since most people list their family members right on their profile, and many list their phone numbers.

Another interesting thing that social media does for journalists is that it helps them bypass government regulations when writing an article. Penzenstadler talked about this when he wrote an article about deer hunting and he needed sources who had gotten injured while hunting. He said that the DNR told him about a minor who had shot himself in the leg while hunting, but they would not give him his name or contact information because he was under 18 years old. Penzenstadler showed that he simply used sites like Facebook and Twitter to quickly find the teen’s contact information and address.

There is no doubt that social media is changing the way that things work. Penzenstadler reminded everyone at the session to monitor what they put online, as everything can be accessible with the right tools.

Is a citizen journalist really a journalist?

There is no doubt that the field of journalism is evolving. Some are more reluctant to adapt to the change than others in the field, but the truth is that, soon, adapting will be necessary for survival.

In previous years, the word journalist was clearly defined. It was someone who worked for a news outlet, either a newspaper or broadcast station, and earned a salary for reporting news to the community. These people usually worked long hours and had a knack for developing concise and informative stories that were relevant for society. Their role in the community was vital, as they were responsible for keeping citizens informed.

Unfortunately, there were often stories that were missed because there were only so many reporters to go around. This was most noticed when breaking news would arise. Coverage of critical moments in history were missed when a reporter wasn’t present.

That is drastically different today. With the development of new technology such as advanced digital cameras, smart phones and social media networks, any person has the power to report news as they witness it. This is what is now called a “citizen journalist”, but there has been a lot of controversy lately about whether these people are considered real journalists or not.

An incident in 2010 with a Seattle teacher outlined the issue. Teacher Melissa Westbrook was a blogger about the Seattle School District for over a decade and had gained a strong readership in the community. So, when the school called a press conference, she wanted to be admitted. However, the school denied her access and said that it was open to “traditional media only”. Melissa argued that she was a citizen journalist. After a heavy argument, the school reversed their decision and started to admit bloggers.

This decision, of course, didn’t sit well with the traditional media. Whether the industry is ready for it or not, this is an issue that is becoming more and more relevant. In fact, most of the video/picture coverage that traditional media use now comes from citizen journalists who were at the scene when the incident occurred. Some media outlets today even have a section dedicated to coverage from citizen journalists. Many would argue that the added perspective makes the news better, but some say the opposite.

What do you think? Do you think that citizen journalists enhance or weaken our news coverage?

140-Character Tributes to Steve Jobs

Without a doubt, Steve Jobs was one of the most inspirational people that I was able to watch from afar. I have always dreamed of doing something big in this world, and Steve Jobs did something that changed everything. He changed the way that we communicate and connect with each other. Obviously, I realize that Apple is the work of hundreds of thousands of people, but Steve Jobs undoubtedly was the glue that kept the organization together and the passionate force that made the rest of the world fall in love with it. Being on Twitter tonight is definitely not easy if you were a fan of Steve or just Apple in general.

I thought it would be an appropriate tribute to the Steve Jobs legacy to gather the thoughts (in 140 characters or less) of the fans who loved him. Below are some of the tweets that moved me:

@WritingSpirit: “Wow. Steve Jobs’ death hit me hard. Sweet dreams, Steve. Thank you for the passion, creativity & technology that so enriched our lives.”

@KevinSmith_: “Steve Jobs: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

@UWOrat: “RIP Steve Jobs. Your drive & passion was an inspiration to us all. You were an absolute visionary prodigy that changed the world forever.”

@mtvnews: “Obama: “There may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that … the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”

@CNBC: “Warren Buffett on passing of Steve Jobs: “He was one of the most remarkable business managers and innovators in american business history.”

@JessDennis: “I am in shock & deeply saddened by the death of Steve Jobs. He will forever be missed, remembered & appreciated#wewillmissyou #ripstevejobs

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

@DianeSawyer: “Some of the fire in the universe dimmed tonight. Steve Jobs, thank you for reminding us all what ambition+imagination can do#ThankYouSteve

@aplusk: “I never thought I could be so busted up about the loss of someone I never met.#stevejobs

@denisefulton: “J school prof said in 1984, “this new computer, the Macintosh, is going to change our whole profession.”#stevejobslegacy

@RamKasi: “#stevejobs is the Edison of this century”

I’m sure there are many more, but this was just my quick selection. Post your remarks in the comment box below.

Want a job? Don’t do this on Facebook!

I came across this at work today and thought it was interesting!

Think that your Facebook is “yours” and that the information on it shouldn’t be used against you? Think again! Kashmir Hill, Forbes’ privacy blogger posted this chart, which was drawn from a survey of employers.

In the survey, 95% of employers said they have used social media to get additional information on job candidates. 95%! In PR, it’s probably more like 99.999999999999%, especially since social media is now expanding to include people like our grandparents. If my grandpa is on Facebook, you can guarantee your potential employer is.

I used to be really against the whole idea of employers using Facebook as a channel to weed out candidates. I thought that it was an unnecessary mix of my personal and professional life, considering that my pictures out at Molly Maguire’s last Saturday night have nothing to do with my behavior at work. My education in PR has changed this viewpoint.

Whether we like it or not, our social media sites are fair game for critiquing when we are applying for jobs. There is really nothing that we can do to change this. Making your page private may help, but keep in mind that you may know someone at the organization who has access to your page and would be willing to share it with a hiring manager. You just never know.

Consider cleaning up your page– and review the survey above to avoid making these mistakes!

I <3 Foursquare

View from the Bottom: Crucial Skills the Classroom Won’t Provide You With

Originally posted on Weidert Group’s blog.

The other day one of my best friends, who attends a UW university that shall remain unnamed, called me to give me an update on her newly declared major, public relations/ web presence. I always love to hear what she’s doing because I think there is a lot that can be learned from the perspectives other colleges are taking on the industry.

Our conversation was going great until we started talking about internships. I asked her what she was planning on doing for the summer, hoping to hear about an awesome opportunity she got in her college town. Instead, she replied with, “Internship? Where the heck do you expect me to get one of those? We don’t have to get internships here.”

It took all I had in me not to scream at her. But, that would not really help anything.

The sad thing is that there are a lot of students, across the state and our country, who are graduating with degrees in the public relations/communications field and feel the same way. It doesn’t matter where you go to school, internship experience will be required at almost any place you apply. After working at my internship at Weidert Group for seven months, I can’t stress enough how important it is for college students to secure internships before they graduate.

Because if you don’t, you will be stuck interning after you graduate, in order to obtain the necessary experience for entry-level jobs in this industry!

Here is my list of the top five things (that employers see as necessary skills) that you won’t learn in the classroom:

1.) How to pitch the media. This is something that many of us will be doing everyday after we graduate, and it is one of the main skills that prospective employers look for when they are hiring. Have you had success pitching the media? Do you know what goes into a proper press release or media alert? What’s the difference? My internship has provided me with the ability to pitch print and digital media, as well as form relationships with local media professionals. Now, I can go into an interview and show them my media placements, display my media contacts and discuss their preferences in press release layout.

2.) How to network. Networking is one of the most important skills that a PR professional can possess. After all, one of the biggest parts of our job is managing relationships, right? My internship had provided me with the opportunity to attend countless networking opportunities ranging from client/ corporate events to fundraisers and Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) meetings. At these events, I have met PR professionals in our community that have big influences at their companies (something that will be nice when I am a professional myself).

3.) How to plan implement and measure a PR campaign. Yes, our classes give us a lot of theoretical practice when it comes to PR campaigns. But, what they don’t give us is the experience owning a campaign, approaching a business with a plan and making countless adjustments to the plan when the business says, “Sections B, D, F and G don’t work for us.” While interning, I have had the chance to work on PR campaigns from beginning to end. Unlike in the classroom, I get to go to client meetings, see their reactions and make changes to the document as they happen. You tell me what class allows you to do that.

4.) How to track social media and campaign results. This goes way beyond Hootsuite analytics, people. One of the things that I was most overwhelmed by during my first few weeks on the job was the outrageous number of analytic, measuring and marketing platforms that different companies use. Being that I work at an agency, we have to know them all, because our clients all use different ones. During my time at Weidert, I have used Vertical Response, Google Analytics, Survey Monkey, MyMediaInfo, WordPress stats, Pitchengine and, yes, even Hootsuite analytics. One platform that I need to learn in Radian 6, and you should consider learning it, and the others mentioned, too! The more you know, the more attractive you are to employers.

5.) How to be professional. Yes, there is a certain way that you have to act around your company’s executives and CEO’s. There’s also a way that you have to act around clients. These personas differentiate quite a bit and it is really something that you have to learn as you go. Thankfully, I have been able to make mistakes at my internship, an extended learning environment, versus my first professional job. Mistakes in the real world tend to me more embarrassing and come with heavier consequences.

So, I encourage you to look for an internship if you were previously opposed to one. In fact, Weidert Group is currently hiring a marketing intern and a graphic design intern; consider applying! They are so important and are vital to your success after graduation. If you have questions, or don’t know where to begin, contact me at jbedore@weidert.com or Weidert’s internship coordinator, Abby Gutowski, at agutowski@weidert.com.