Candidate Q&A - Can I refuse to share my personal information?

Question: We are a small company. The owners want us to include personal information on their social media pages and be part of a monthly newsletter to clients. For example, information about what we’ve been doing with our families or favorite recipes. This makes me uncomfortable, as I want to keep my personal and professional lives separate. The owners are making this mandatory. Can I say no? — Michele L.

A: Yes, you can say no. But let me suggest another approach that involves conversation and compromise.  How about asking the owners to talk more about what they hope to accomplish by sharing such information?

Many businesses are eager to take advantage of the personal engagement that can be developed through social media or newsletters. However, sometimes they haven’t thought about the risks associated with putting such information out there.  Listen to their thoughts about why and how they want to use the information. Then share your concerns.

You might mention that publishing employee photographs or personal family information could potentially expose an employee or her family to security risks. Remind them that once photos and info are public, the company has little control over where they may end up.

You could suggest your company prepare an employee authorization/release to help owners understand they really should get your permission before sharing any personal information.
Now comes the compromise part. If your employer insists all employees participate, consider a middle ground. You could agree to post a favorite recipe, a photo of the family pet or other information that has less risk of revealing personal information than your picture.This could help your company meet its digital engagement goals and still keep most of your personal business offline.

Q: A recruiter requested that we FaceTime or Google Hangout as part of the interview process. This request made me uncomfortable. I pushed to meet in person, but the recruiter opted for a phone call. It didn’t go well. I feel the use of video is a way to potentially discriminate. (I’m in my 50s and African-American.) When I declined the video chat, it seemed as if the recruiter felt I was hiding something. What do you think about video interviews? Should I have said yes? — David L.

A: If you are unfamiliar with a new technology, it is understandable that it may feel uncomfortable, especially in the high-stakes context of a job search. But inevitably, the hiring process will reveal the candidate’s gender, race and age, so video interviewing doesn’t really present a significant additional risk.

Video interviewing is a growing technology used by employers in recruiting and hiring, and it is not going away. Not only can video help job seekers make a connection with a company earlier in the process without the added expense and disruption of an on-site interview, it allows recruiters to interview more candidates face to face earlier in the process.

Don’t let your discomfort with the technology be a barrier to using it. The secret to successful video interviewing is practice.  Try out different systems and setups. Watch how-to videos on YouTube for guidance on lighting and camera angle. Get comfortable chatting with friends on free video platforms such as Zoom and Skype.

Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human-resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management.