Are You Googling Job Candidates? When You Do, Everyone Loses

Years ago, I asked HR professionals to stop Googling candidates.

In short, it is dumb and lazy.

It is an unreliable and invalid way of discerning a candidate’s knowledge, skills and abilities. And I believe it might be an illegal hiring practice, although there is no legal decision or class action lawsuit against an employer in America to test that theory.

What if you have a iffy Internet history?

Mashable just published an article that gives you advice on how to protect yourself when an employer Googles you. It is a good article. Check it out.

But I wonder: In a society where we all wear veils, should anyone assume that anything they experience online — for good or worse — is real? And what about evolution?

Lynn Hershman Leeson, a noted artist and filmmaker, once asked how long a second life needs to be lived in order to be as real as the first. What about online data? How long does a new profile have to exist in order to be as real as the original profile? And what happens to data and images from our lives that is no longer true?

So I can’t say this enough: When HR Googles a candidate, everyone loses.

If you want to know who you are hiring, ask that person. Then hire a third-party background check organization to verify what you have been told. That’s called recruiting.

But what if you are a candidate with a dodgy history on the Internet?

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“You are more than your social footprint”

Well, there is hope.

There are progressive Human Resources professionals and hiring managers who know that the Internet is nothing more than a veil itself. When we view your digital life on our browser, we understand that our own voyeuristic behavior is shallow and transactional. We know you are more than your social footprint. And we accept that you are flawed because we are deeply flawed, too.

But we want to hire you. You have mad skills.

So please trust me. We will find you.

You can find more from Laurie Ruettimann at her blog, The Cynical Girl.


Laurie Ruettimann (LFR) is a former Human Resources leader turned influential speaker, writer and strategist. She owns a human resources consultancy that offers a wide array of HR services to human resources leaders and executives. Check out her LinkedIn profile here. You may know Ruettimann as the creator of The Cynical Girl and Punk Rock HR (retired), which Forbes named as a top 100 website for women. You may have also read her book, I AM HR: 5 Strategic Ways to Break Stereotypes and Reclaim HR. (RepCap Press, 2014.) 


4 Comments on “Are You Googling Job Candidates? When You Do, Everyone Loses

  1. Sorry, could not disagree with you more.

    It’s easy to fool someone after two or three meetings that you’re someone you’re not. It’s also easy to protect your social media accounts from those you do not wish to have access.

    If people are consciously expressing views that are entirely against your company (and general moral) values then doing a simple seach on social media platforms should be part and parcel of every screening process. Would you want to hire a ‘troll’ cyber-bully? A failure for HR to complete this exercise, along with a rigourous recruiting process, is laziness.

    If someone is lacking in common sense to the degree that they expose their radical, immoral views on social media platforms, then that’s just not the kind of person we want taking responsibility in our company.

  2. Googling candidates can be one element of a comprehensive assessment process. To not do it could expose some employers to charges that they didn’t take due care in hiring. To rely only on a Google search as a background check wouldn’t make sense either.

  3. I agree that Googling a candidate is a sub-par move. In my opinion, it’s the same as asking a crowd what you would think of a candidate on stage. Yes you might get some opinions, but they are singular to that point in the time and from that individual. Similarly, with Google search you get a snap shot.

    Recruiting is critically important, but it doesn’t need to be massively time consuming. Instead of using Google, why wouldn’t you (as Laurie points outs) just ask them. At Kira Talent (@kiratalent), we specialize in this. Adding video interview screening questions is a fantastic way to see beyond paper and truly assess the personality and potential of your candidates.

  4. So to extrapolate from this argument, you would say that I shouldn’t bother to check references because the references the candidate gives you could be their sister-in-law or maybe someone they paid to give you a good reference for them. .
    Why wouldn’t you, as a recruiter, use all available forms of information to help you make a decision? Do you think that recruiters are not able to sort the crap from the real data?
    Sorry I don’t think I can agree with you on this topic but I agree that you have a right to your opinion.

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