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Don't Think Googling Candidates is Fair? A Cautionary Tale...

I know, I know.  I should be concerned about Googling candidates.  After all, as many of you have pointed out to me, there are privacy issues, and dammit, what a person does elsewhere in their life shouldn't matter if they can do the job.

So, I Google anyway, and many of you disagree.  I'm a pig - I'll own it. There's just this little thing that I can't get over.  YOU'RE RESPONSIBLE FOR KNOWING EVERYTHING YOU CAN KNOW ABOUT PEOPLE YOU BRING INTO THE COMPANY.  And if you don't know things you should, you'll suffer the consequences.  Consider this cautionary tale via a conversation I had with an executive friend at another company:

KD: Rob, what's up?

Rob: KD, you'll never believe what just happened.

KD: Educate me, brother.

Rob: We had a Controller candidate in today.  I was the last guy up to interview him, and I had a resume, but I had a couple of minutes before the interview and no time to start anything else.  So I Googled the guy...

KD: <Bracing for contact> And?...

Rob: Turns out the guy was embroiled in a Sarbanes Oxley cluster scandal at his last company. First Google entry returned when I pressed "search".  WTF?  So I march down to the guy who's running the search, and say, btw, did you bother Googling Finklestein?  The guy tells me no, and since it's a retained search, the big search firm is responsble for fully vetting, etc.  I tell my guy that he might want to Google Finklestein.  He declined, but I insisted.  So he did and within 15 seconds let out a noise like he had just been kicked in the groin by a pointy-toed country western boot.

KD: Wow.  What happened then?

Rob: The candidate was intereviewing with the CEO.  My guy calls down to see where it's at and is informed that the CEO requested another hour because it's going so well.

KD: Ouch.

Rob: The lesson my Capitalist friend?  Always Google before you buy that plane ticket for the candidate.

If I was defending the right to Google candidates in a court of law and told that story, I'd drop my microphone for dramatic effect after sharing that knowledge, like Randy Watson of the band Sexual Chocolate, leaving the stage in Coming to America.

Just Google people.  Decide how you bring it up later.


Ed Baldwin

Couldn't agree more. It isn't a substitute for reference checks, but it's a good precursor to what you might find. Quick, easy ... and sometimes dirty. Good counsel.


The legal privacy issues can be avoided if you focus on positions of trust (Controller would clearly be one) and have a consistently applied policy. We do credit check, public records check and and a media search for executive candidates and those with finanical responsiblities.

Heather Bussing

If it's online, it's not private.


This paragraph alone is why this blog is always a must-read for me. :) "If I was defending the right to Google candidates in a court of law and told that story, I'd drop my microphone for dramatic effect after sharing that knowledge, like Randy Watson of the band Sexual Chocolate, leaving the stage in Coming to America."

Chris Walker

It may be better to have a third party do the googling. You may uncover information relating to the candidate's inclusion in one protected class or another. If that happens, how can you prove that the information did not influence a negative hiring decision?

Corey Feldman

I just can't get behind Googleing candidates. Besides access to too much protected information that could lend itself to discriminatory hiring practices, it can be difficult to tell the validity of the information. I'm sure you can find anecdotal cases where there was a huge save, but that doesn't make it the best way to get what you need. Its reminiscent of torture, you make get the information you need, but it also might be a bunch of unsubstantiated and/or bogus data.

Ted Moore, CPC

Online content, unless obtained under false pretenses, is fair game. Just like the police blotter or rings/rattles/rice pages in your local print newspaper, if it's still in business. So, obviously, I'm going to provide my clients (I'm a recruiter) the service they expect and fully vet the candidates I intend to refer, using every tool available. I'll leave the ethical navel-gazing to those who can afford to indulge in it.

That said, if I find out through my research that you belong to an LGBT support group, my customers won't know it. If you're tagged in a Facebook photo throwing a brick at a cop during an Occupy rally, well, then, bye.

Robert Hatta

That boy good. He good.


It says the guy was involved in the scandal not that he caused it. He may be 100% honest/legit and the one who blew the whistle on the bad practices, not the one who was practicing them.


Excellent story and I love the comments. I read your posts everyday and LOVE them. Thanks Kris

Corey Feldman

@Ted Moore you might, but not everyone recruiter hiring manager would leave out the LGBT association. Speaking of riots, take a look at this

Pictures can be misleading.

Kimberly Mule

By no means is Googling a candidate fair. If it was fair, well then bring Google into the legal court system.

If your company conducts background checks, allow your TPA vendor to do what they do best, background checks.

Think Googling Candidates is Fair? A Cautionary Tale...:


Googling without policy opens your company up for possible discrimination charges. Let's say that Finklestein's FB page says that he goes to Mosque, so -someone(s) on your hiring committee know he's Muslim; maybe they don't give him high marks because of this during the interview. You don't hire him - you've opened your company up to a potential discrimination lawsuit. A cure: A single person is responsible for Googling a candidate. This person can then filter out any information "unrelated" to his position, such as his race, faith, etc., that HR person or whomever only forwards/shares the pertinent information. It is disastrous to think that everyone on your hiring committee would be Googling a candidate upon a whim. There is too much exposure for your organization with that lack of policy.

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