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Do You Feel Dirty When You Google Candidates?....

Talking to a VP of HR I know and respect last week.  Topic of googling candidates to find out more about them came up.  Guess what?  My friend told me that he has instructed his recruiters not to google candidates as he feels it's an intrusion of privacy and a potential legal risk.

Guess what my response was?

Right - "You are C.R.A.Z.Y.!  Have you lost your mind?"

After diving a layer deeper in the conversation, it turns out my friend had attended a conference whereGoogleearth17 someone talked about legal risks of making rejection decisions based on what you find online.  Additoinally, you wouldn't define my friend as a member of the digital revolution.  He waxes poetic about the dangers of the blackberry.  His VCR, bought in the 80's at "SoundsGreat", undoubtedly is blinking 12:00 AM as I write this.

But enough about him.  Do you google candidates?  Do you feel bad about doing it?  If you aren't doing it (time investment - 60 seconds), why not?  If you feel bad, why?

Here are my cliff notes on why you should be googling candidates:

1.  You are an agent of your company - it's your job to get the inside scoop on candidates.  The world's not always a happy place.  Put your helmet on and get in the game.

2.  The legal risk of not doing it will ultimately outweigh the risk of doing it.   Let's say you hire a stalker, who ultimately starts stalking one of your employees.  Turns out you could have seen an article with the employee's name in it by googling.  Didn't show up in your background check because it was too fresh.  Think the liability is stronger by googling or not googling?  If you said not googling, go back to the start of the article and read it again.

3.  You've got cover, my friend.  There are hundreds of reasons you might reject a candidate, and you don't tell the candidate any of them.  Does "We love your background, but we have elected to make an offer to a candidate who is a more direct match to our needs.." ring a bell?

If you aren't googling, get in the game, skippy.  Jump over to Secrets of the Job Hunt for the latest stats on googling candidates.


jen_chan, writer

I don't think it's too much an intrusion of privacy to google someone. At the very least, he or she should know that the Internet is a vast universe and that people from all sides of the world more or less have access to it and information posted on Web sites. When it comes to making decisions, the employer has a right to know just what kind of people he or she is hiring. And I agree that you don't necessarily have to say you reject the applicant based on what you found online. There are many creative ways to go about it.

Dan Schwartz

Nice piece. And the idea that there is significant "legal risk" associated with Googling candidates, is overrated. There are two key facts an employer has going for it: 1) The employee voluntarily applied to the employer for a job; that opens himself/herself to scrutiny; 2) Seeking Information that is publicly available -- including Myspace or Facebook pages -- cannot, in my view, be seen as invading someone's privacy.

That being said -- the same old rules apply. You can't use information in an improper way. If, for example, you discover that the candidate is Jewish and you decide not to hire that person because of their religion, that's still prohibited.

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