I’ve been watching the massive growth of Facebook just like everyone else. From a small idea in a Harvard dorm room to over 400 million global users, Facebook is huge. As a Facebook user for the past several years, I’ve successfully dealt with some interesting friend requests. First, people from high school that I used to be friends with but by graduation we were no longer speaking. Accepted, we’re all adults now. Then, my ex-girlfriends asked to be my friend. Declined, too hard to explain to the wife. Next, my parents asked to be my friend. Accepted, despite being awkward, family is important. However, all of these pale in comparison to a recent friend request I received.
After scheduling an in-person interview with a company I’m interested in joining, I got a friendship request from one of my interviewers. On the one hand, this might be a good sign that the company is really interested in me joining the team. On the other hand, this could be a clever way for my interviewer to gather some personal tidbits of information about me before the interview. Already weary of such intrusion, ever since Facebook changed their privacy settings, my profile has become a virtual Fort Knox to those outside of my personal network. Search engines, invisible; profile info, locked; status updates, locked; photos, locked; shared links, locked; friends list, locked. This is not because I’m a super secret person. Quite the contrary, the simple fact is that I believe the purpose of Facebook is to socialize online with my friends. These people already know me, are aware of my faults and still choose to be my friend. If I end up working at the company and I hit it off with my interviewer, then we could end up being great friends online and offline.
However, this friend request has put me in a jam. I could decline the request (First Instinct) which might place me at a disadvantage relative to other candidates. Did the other candidates accept the request? Will I appear unfriendly? I could leave the request in limbo, pretending that I did not see it. This might work, but what if I get called on it? Or, I could accept the request and open my personal network to a stranger. This would mean that I would have to go through and check all my photos, status updates, and other wall content to make sure there is nothing that might be perceived as controversial. I shouldn’t have to be thinking about this. I should be preparing to communicate the unique skills and experiences that I will bring to the position under consideration. I should be anticipating what areas of concern the company might have about my candidacy and my plans for addressing them. Instead, I’m struggling with how to respond to a friend request from one of my interviewers. What would you do?
About the Author: Omowale Casselle is the co-founder and CEO of mySenSay, a social recruiting community that connects college students and corporations.