is it wrong to Google job candidates before interviewing them?

A reader writes:

I recently was given the responsibility of finding interns for our company. In the process of reviewing applications, I Googled one of them. The first search result was her Facebook page so I clicked on it, and saw that many of her posts and pictures were set to “public.” I did not see anything out of the ordinary or really anything that would prevent her from getting a job, but decided to mention it to my boss and coworker anyway, just to see what they thought.

To my surprise, I was met by extreme resistance to what I had done. I was told that it is not okay to look someone up before an interview because what I find might “color my opinion of them” and that my own personal judgments might get in the way. I was under the impression that it is one’s personal responsibility to curate their web presence as they see fit and that whatever is found through a simple search is fair game. I was also under the impression that this is pretty standard these days. Am I wrong? Is looking up a potential intern or employee prior to an interview unethical?

No, you’re not wrong. Your boss and coworker don’t know how to hire. Small company, I’m guessing, and your boss doesn’t have significant experience hiring? Because this is the kind of thing people say when they don’t know what they’re doing.

It’s very normal to Google candidates. The vast majority of employers do it before hiring someone (77%, according to the most recent study I saw on this).

And yeah, you might indeed find something that would “color your opinion of them.” In fact, that’s the point. For instance, you want to know if they have a Twitter account full of racist rants or posts trashing their employer, or a blog full of terrible writing that demonstrates low critical thinking skills. You want to know if there’s evidence that information in their resume is false. Or, on the positive side, you’d also take note if you found a blog full of thoughtful, well-written posts, or a track record of contributing to discussions in their field, or additional information about their experience that solidifies your impression of them as a strong candidate.

Those are all legitimate things to take into consideration as you assess a candidate.

When you’re hiring, you want the most information possible about the people who you’re seriously considering. It’s an amateur move on your boss’s part to believe that you’re somehow supposed to be confined to only information the candidate herself offers up — it’s a misunderstanding of what good hiring means. You don’t rely solely on what a candidate chooses to tell you about herself.

Now, there are ways to misuse Internet searches when hiring, of course — like allowing yourself to be influenced by information that you’re not legally allowed to take into consideration, such as that the candidate is pregnant, or what her religion is. But it’s ridiculous to say that you shouldn’t do any Googling because you might find those things out, just like you wouldn’t interview all candidates behind a screen so that you can’t see their race, and with a voice distorter so you can’t tell if they’re male or female.

Most employers Google candidates. Your boss is off-base.

{ 252 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte*

    I think sometimes people feel like hiring is supposed to operate according to jury rules–evidence is limited to what’s officially submitted. And it’s not true.

    1. Emily K*

      I wonder, would these companies enter a vendor contract without looking up the vendor’s reputation online and among colleagues in the industry? Would they buy new business equipment without reading independent reviews or asking for recommendations? Why would you show less diligence when extending an employment contract, which has a much great impact on the company and is much more difficult to sever?

    2. Recruiter*

      These bosses are ridiculous! Googling candidates is so common now. In fact, when I was interviewing for my current position, I know for a fact that my boss Googled me before the interview. He found my LinkedIn page, and viewed it. Of course, LinkedIn notifies you of who has been looking at your profile. Obviously he wanted to make sure that my LinkedIn profile was similar to my resume, which it is.

      Because Googling is so prevalent, I make sure to set my FB to private, and have asked people to un-tag me in photos. OP, Alison’s advice is exactly right. Keep Googling candidates, because there is a lot of information about candidates that you can learn in other places besides their resumes.

  2. AJ-in-Memphis*

    The whole point of interviewing is to get to what type of employee they will be. The stuff they choose to put out on the internet is part of that. Personally, I’d like to know that Jane or John spends their whole day on Twitter or Facebook – especially if they are currently in a job. Google on. It’s the REAL side of people, not just what they want you to see.

    1. Rana*

      I basically agree, but not with the last part. It’s pretty easy to game Google so that all that shows is your best foot forward, especially if you understand privacy settings on sites like Facebook and how the rankings work. What you see on Google is a pretty solid representation of my contributions to my field; what you don’t see is how I conduct my personal life outside of work. So, actually, what is on Google is more or less what I do want people to see, and I take pains to ensure that it stays that way.

      1. Revanche*

        I would argue that still says something – it tells me that you have some kind of judgment and are a responsible enough candidate to care how you look online. Totally possible that you’re hiding something terrible and are great at hiding a wildly aberrant side of your personality but the odds are lower on that one. I think it’s more likely to be the responsible and aware person thing.

        And anyway as long as you’re not a sociopath, I don’t need to know about your personal life. I’m ok with not knowing the details if it’s on the side of “Not a creepy lawbreaker.”

    2. I disagree*

      No offense, but you sound like the type to believe everything that you see or hear. It is unfair to state that what a person does online is the real them. In fact, it contradicts the usage of online. People are more likely to hide themselves and get ballsy online, but in person they can present to you their true selves, and of course vice versa. So just imagine the person you are getting that has too squeaky clean of an online background, it’s called a catfish or a rapist…your choice. Furthermore, some people’s reputations are being destroyed and they don’t know it nor have they contributed to that, is that fair they are judged because of some other a******? Just wait until you are in that same boat, don’t start crying or complaining, just accept it like you expect everyone else to. And no, you don’t get another chance since neither do those who it has already happened to because the people able to give that second chance will be cold hearted just like yourself.

  3. Mike*

    When I interviewed for my current job I could tell they did at least some research into me as they brought up some code projects I have up. This was a good thing as it was something specific they could bring up and discuss: why you do it this way, have you thought of doing it this other way, what’s your opinion of x.

    Having something real to frame questions and responses around was really nice.

  4. AnonfromGA*

    I actually agree with the boss & coworker on this one. Your advice works in a perfect world, but in reality, we all have unconcious biases that influence how we view others. It doesn’t have to be as overt as the examples you mentioned nor does it necessarily have to be intentional. It’s been proven that “Shamika” won’t get a call back for a job that “Heather” will with identical resumes, but, for many, those biases we have that we don’t think about will subside in meeting/interview if they are unconfirmed.

    For example, if I get a resume & google that person only to find that he/she uses a wheelchair, I’m going to have thoughts about them–negatively or positively–that may influence my thinking about them as a job candidate.

    1. JT*

      AnonfromGA – you raise good points about discrimination in hiring. But it seems to me that rather than trying to create rules about what info you can see, you should attack the problem at the source: attitudes used in hiring. Because you’re still going to see that person X is black, or uses a wheelchair when they get an interview. What will you do then?

      Sure, not knowing that may help them get in a “discriminatory door” but we need to work on the problem of discrimination itself.

      1. A Bug!*

        Yes, exactly! Illegal discrimination in hiring doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it’s not in and of itself the problem – the problems are the beliefs and attitudes that end up causing the discrimination.

        Those problems don’t just go away once the hiring process is concluded.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      So do you suggest then that employers bar themselves from looking at a huge source of information about candidates? And potentially hiring someone who has a site full racist and misogynistic rants, alongside photos of himself displaying weapons? (That’s a real example I once came across.) Or that they decline to search for the person’s contributions to their field, if the person mentions that they’ve played an active role in online discussions about Issue A in their industry? Or that they deny themselves the ability to see that a candidate they’re considering has a profile that contradicts much of the info on their resume? The Internet is now part of the public discourse; it doesn’t make sense to pretend it doesn’t exist, when it’s a rich source of information to help make better hiring decisions.

      If we’re supposed to block out all info that could be used to illegally discriminate, we should do all interviews over the phone only, using voice distorters. There’s a reason we don’t — it’s that isolating yourself from any possible legal issues, ever, isn’t the only concern in play.

      There’s a reason most employers Google candidates, often with the blessing of their legal counsel.

      1. Mike C.*

        It’s a tough moral question and I think there are good reasons on both sides.

        It’s easy to say, “yeah this guy is a member of Stormfront (notoriously racist online forum) and I don’t want to deal with people like that. ” I wouldn’t want to deal with that, and I don’t think my coworkers should either.

        But what if we replace that with, “Hey, this guy is a member of his local socialist party” or “hey, this gal supports legalization of marijuana” or just “hey, this guy donated money to the political cause/candidate I despise”. Is that a “good” reason not to hire someone, even if their references say that those issues were never brought up at work? Should we just advocate that political leanings be considered a protected class?

        I don’t know the answer to this, but given how the internet makes it easy for different spheres of our lives to intersect, it’s something we’re all going to have to deal with sooner or later.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m okay with people not hiring someone because they find their political views despicable. It might not be smart hiring, but I’m not going to support legislating away their ability to do it. The government doesn’t need to legislate every possible thing that might be unfair.

          1. Kelly O*

            Absolutely agree with this.

            If my being part of that bothers a potential employer, then I may be counting my lucky stars they didn’t call me in.

            Believe me, I live the “can do the job, but don’t fit in with the culture” every day. I certainly hope when I find something else, and they’re looking for my replacement, they find someone who at least enjoys the music and lifestyle that we put out there.

          2. Anonymous*

            I disagree with this. While the gov doesn’t need to regulate everything, I don’t think its ok not to hire someone just because you don’t like their political views. That’s like saying its ok for a democratic employer not to hire an excellent candidate only because they have conservative views or vice versa.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes. It is okay. It’s also okay not to hire someone because you don’t like them or you think they won’t mesh well with your current staff or you heard bad things about their last employer or they seem like a jerk, or all kinds of other reasons. Your business, your prerogative.

              1. Anonymous*

                I think it’s really a matter of perspective. For instance, in most Canadian jurisdictions, it is illegal to discriminate against “association”, “political belief”, or both, in the same way it’s illegal to discriminate against race, age, or sex. As societies, we all have to draw the line somewhere, and there really is no absolute universal right or wrong.

              2. Julie*

                But their political beliefs or the way they act online (barring oppressive beliefs and actions) don’t determine how they will mesh with the office. Political beliefs don’t determine social lubrication, personality does. There’s no point in imagining what they’ll be like when you search them online. Might as well give a show around the office if you’re that interested in a person.

              3. Recruiter*

                I agree with Alison. What if a Christian-ran company was hiring, and they Googled candidates and found out one was a very outspoken athiest? (I’m just using this as an example.) As the owner/hiring manager of the company, it’s in their best interests to hire the candidate(s) they feel would be the best fit, and benefit their company the most. That is the point of hiring decisions-it doesn’t matter WHY the candidate isn’t a good fit, it matters IF they are a good fit. The athiest candidate may be discarded in the hiring process just as easily as a candidate that has had five different jobs in the last six months. It’s all up to the hiring manager, and what they think is best for the company.

        2. Nichole*

          I gave your comment a lot of thought, and I still wonder if my personal approach colors how I see it. I’m very conscious of my online presence, but that doesn’t mean I never get political, liberal, nerdtastic, or any of the other things that make me ‘me.’ There are times where I do have to ask myself if I would be ok with not being hired because of it. Overall, I accept that if a hiring manager sees my support of LGBTQ rights or strange obsession with William Shatner outside of work as a problem, maybe we’re a poor match. I’m not sure it’s right, but I accept it as true. However, I can’t put my finger on why those things are more acceptable to me as dealbreakers than my being a person of color, female, or pregnant (which I’m not at this time, but I am the other two things-that one’s just an example). I guess because the legislation line has to be drawn somewhere, and how I put myself out there online is my choice. Hmm. Points to ponder.

      2. AnonfromGA*

        I’m not suggesting any such thing. I just pointed out that the boss & coworker of the OP have VERY valid points. If we are going to acknowledge that the internet, as part of public discourse, exists, so too must we acknowledge that there will be those that use what they find online with poor judgement or lack of self-awareness about their own biases.

        Those that will intentionally discriminate ARE going to do so & HAVE done so without Google. Hiring has gone on for years without Googling potential hires & must’ve worked. Just because it’s done (yep, I’ve done it), doesn’t mean it has to be and that those that do shouldn’t be mindful of the weight they place on what they find.

    3. AJ-in-Memphis*

      I disagree. If you’re looking for anything outside of the scope of the job description, the ethics of the company and what the candidate has represented on their resume, then that’s on you. If “Candidate A” is in a wheelchair in a picture online (or comes into an interview in said wheelchair), this has no bearing on the three things above and shouldn’t garner any emotional/mental response. The interviewer has to be able to separate their empathy or apathy for a candidate – at all times.

      1. Mimi*

        Yeah, except human beings are just that – human. Emotional and flawed. It’s pretty much impossible for someone to separate all empathy/apathy for a candidate at all times.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, that’s true. But you don’t refuse to use a major hiring tool because it presents the possibility of being misused. You do the best you can to minimize those possibilities, but you don’t simply not use it.

        2. Emily K*

          The key isn’t to prevent yourself from having bias, the key is to notice your biases and then consciously ensure that you aren’t letting your biases sway your decision. Ask yourself when you’re making the hiring call, “Am I really certain that Joe is more qualified for this job than Sue, or am I just wanting Joe to be more qualified because Sue’s disability makes me uncomfortable?” Research has shown that noticing and acknowledging our biases is an effective way to prevent them from influencing our decisions.

          1. Julie*

            But also we have to acknowledge that our biases are not totally conscious, and that’s what’s at the heart of the Google-searching bias. I agree completely that we need to examine our biases, but in doing so we also must admit that, even with reflection, we will not be able to understand or see all of them. So, if we know that unconscious biases exist, it may be detrimental to Google candidates even if we think we have acknowledged all of our biases.

    4. I disagree*

      You all raise good points, but reality has it that our country will never do right by those on the receiving end of discrimination. Nice speeches but it’s sad that we still need this being said today…which means nothing is really being done about it. The hiring managers I feel need to be replaced by ones who REALLY DO believe in FAIR practices. Right now they got the job just like how everybody else did…by having a “nice” profile” LMAO *profile pic showing deceivingly innocent person smiling holding a water bottle*

  5. DA*

    I just presume that it’s standard operating procedure that I will be Googled when job hunting.

    As a result, I check every so often to see what comes up, if nothing else, to make sure things are accurate and/or so I’m not blindsided by anything (not that I have anything to worry about, but just knowing what is out there is important – especially if you have a common name).

    Generally, if the first 10 items that come up are good (aka the first page of results), you should be fine, but I like to make sure that the first 50 (or five pages) are clean.

    1. Julie*

      I do something similar, but generally only check until it’s clear the results are no longer about me (generally by the end the second page or the beginning of the third, you start getting results for people with my last name but a different first name, or who share my name but are in Michigan instead of Montreal).

  6. Mike C.*

    I would just caution you about the information you find. Make sure that you are judging the candidate on issues that are directly relevant to the workplace. There are plenty of things that folks do outside of the workplace which don’t color their performance inside – maybe they build model ships in bottles or support odd political causes or maybe they blow off steam playing video games.

    So as long as you’re the type of boss that understands that people can act differently on the clock than they do off the clock you’re totally fine.

    1. Janet*

      I’ve always googled candidates. I’ve never once found anything that I considered to be a deal-breaker but it was good to get a good “feel” for the person. Although I confess that I was annoyed once during hiring because I really supported one candidate and then someone else on the hiring committee googled her and found out that she’d just gotten married and said “She’ll probably have a kid in a year or so and we’ll have to all work harder while she’s on maternity leave and then we’re stuck hiring again when she stays home.” So that was sucky.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I hope someone pointed out to that person that it’s illegal to take that into consideration (if you’re in the U.S. and large enough to be covered by the applicable law)!

        1. Janet*

          Ah yes, it was pointed out but of course the “official” reason for rejection was then found to be something else that was legal as in “The male candidate has more non-profit experience so let’s go with him.”

          1. businesslady*

            ughhhh that makes me so stabby. I got married nearly five years ago (right after starting a new job, in fact) & guess who has two thumbs & no children? this person!

          2. AnonfromGA*

            THIS! Once it’s decided that the candidate was “unsuitable”, then of course an “official” reason can be found. I’m not saying don’t do it, but let’s be completely realistic.

      2. CubeSlave*

        Was this person Don Draper? It was SO not OK for them to make assumptions about a candidates personal life like that, and as AAM pointed out, illegal!

      3. The B*

        Same thing happened at my office. The (male) executive director pointed out that candidate X had children and might be too busy dealing with family issues. However, that wasn’t an issue with a male candidate who also had two children. Funny, no?

    2. Chinook*

      I would add to that caution that you ensure that the results you find are actually for that candidate. I know for a fact that there is a woman in my town which uses the same clinic I do, has bad debts and her boyfriend recently went missing under mysterious circumstances. Googling my name would give you mixed results and a poor opinion of me.

      1. Esra*

        I was going to say, I share a name with a terrible author and someone very active in furry cosplay (sigh). There is no competing with them on a search basis as far as just name, the author is popular enough to be on amazon, chapters/indigo etc and crushes all other Esra’s. Mostly I hope that people will google ‘Esra designer’ and actually see me.

        1. Nancypie*

          Do you worry that people will think you are the other person? There is someone with my same name in my state that is very politically active (with polar opposite views from mine). I often worry that someone will google me, find her, see its the right state and assume I’m she. It’s a different part of the state, but unless you live here you might not know it.

          1. Esra*

            I’m not so worried about them thinking I’m the terrible mystery author, but I am very worried about them thinking I’m the furry cosplayer. Mostly it’s just a bit frustrating that I’m so hard to find despite my best efforts.

          2. ExceptionToTheRule*

            When I google, I try to google the person’s name and city. Unless I can match some of the information to the resume I have, I generally don’t take it into account for the very reasons you all have listed.

      2. AnonfromGA*

        I share an uncommon first name with a lady from Australia who likes to party. A LOT. And has the public FB pics to prove it. We’re also around the same age.

        1. Jessa*

          AAM – At what point does someone in that position basically acknowledge that they’re going to be Googled, and pro-actively say “If you check me out please understand I’m not Sam Smith the cosplayer, I’m Sam Smith the design artist.” Before you figure out you’re losing out on jobs because the employers are garbage at actually doing their due diligience?

      3. Rana*

        Agreed. If you Google my name with middle initial included, I dominate the results. Take it away, and a lot of other people get mixed in. Now, none of them are up to things that would be inherently problematic, but – and this is both weird and entertaining – there’s considerable overlap of interests among us. Like, I enjoy yoga and one person is a yoga teacher, or I used to teach in environmental studies and this other person with my name is an environmental scientist. It would be very easy to make a mistake and lump a couple of us together. (Even more weird? Most of us look somewhat alike as well.)

        1. fposte*

          I have one like that–it’s particularly weird on those quote sites, since we’re quoted on similar topics, but our views are rather dissimilar.

      4. Anon*

        This happened to me once. I ended up getting the job and later found out that the hiring manager had googled me and come across the Facebook page of someone else with the same name (I wasn’t even on Facebook at the time). The hiring manager was apparently put off by the low number of friends this person had and commented on it to my soon-to-be-coworkers. It obviously didn’t stop them from hiring me, but I thought it was slightly disturbing. (The whole place turned out to be a horrible fit and slightly dysfunctional but that’s another story.)

    3. I disagree*

      You’re my kinda person. This is the best advice yet, are you a hiring manager? If so, you are probably greatly valued for your ethical standards. I’m sure of this…okay sure of this in terms of hiring people lol

  7. annoninPA*

    I just thought it was standard practice that employers google perspective employees. As I’m in the process of applying for jobs right now, I regularly Google myself (and all of my associated email addresses, especially the one that is on my resume.) After reading your post today I thought…haven’t Googled myself in a while…let’s see what comes up. When I Googled first, middle, and last name, I was HORRIFIED to see mugshots and arrest records with someone with my same name plastered all over the web. This is not me at all.Completely different state. So…now what? A part of me thinks that employers will look at location and the fact that I have a very common name together and make a logical assumption that it isn’t me. But…what if they don’t?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      As you probably know if you’ve ever Googled anyone yourself, when you’re dealing with common names, it’s normal to find multiple people with that name. Employers who Google people know this from their own experience doing it.

      1. annoninPA*

        I do know as when I’ve Googled myself before I always receive multiple – and sometimes amusing – hits. However, this is the first time that something like this came up and it just made me a little nervous. :-)

      2. Jamie*

        I was just coming here to say that – but it’s not just common names. My last name is not common at all yet there is someone out there will my exact full name. Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter…there she is. Fortunately I haven’t run across anything horrible about her when googling myself – but it’s funny how you’d be hard pressed to find someone more different than me. Age, field, interests, location, and ethnicity. The only commonality is gender and that we share a pretty uncommon name.

        I really think most people hiring are smart enough to look for keyfacts to make sure they are looking at the correct information.

        1. YALM*

          I always research job candidates online. If I can’t concretely connect the information I find with the candidate I’m researching, I disregard what I find in my search. It’s unfair to the candidate and to the employer to do otherwise. Finding the best employee for the job is hard enough; I don’t want to dump a great candidate because I confused one online Mary Smith with another.

          1. Julie*

            So true. I try to keep the same profile picture on many of my online social networking sites (including LinkedIn), so that it’s clear which sites are mine and which belong to someone else. Because if I’m choosing to present information about myself online, I want to make it easy for people to find that information instead of stumbling around wondering whether THIS particular “Julie G___” is the same as THAT “Julie G___.”

          2. Elizabeth*

            Most of our applicants recently have been internal, so we’ve known them. One of them, I didn’t know other than to recognize his name, so I googled him. It turns out that he produces & stars in an independent TV show for a channel up in the 600+ range (at least, that is where it falls with DirecTV), along with a web series. One of my colleagues knew that the show existed, but nothing more. We asked a little bit about it during his interview, because we had some concerns about how the scheduling of the filming trips would affect his ability to work the scheduled hours.

            1. Anonymous*

              Did you honestly worry that somebody would sacrifice their 9-to-5 for a filming hobby? This is the kind of thing that starts these silly threads.

              Revelation: ALL of your co-workers, past and present, have hobbies and alternative obligations. Ask everyone you hire if there are potential time conflicts if you need them at work for specific hours. Don’t speculate “This particular odd hobby sounds time-consuming!” You likely don’t actually know anything about the hobby, and focusing in on one odd hobby or family obligation will make you miss the bigger picture of how a candidate approaches job attendance, punctuality, and shift obligations.

    2. Marie*

      That’s why I have a personal (and professional) website. My name is very common and there’s definitely more than one of me in my city. So my website links to my linkedin and to my twitter. I have professional picture of myself on my website, and the same picture on my linkedin and twitter. I also use that same photo on my facebook. I don’t link the website to the facebook though. But I do have my facebook settings set so that if you do search for me on facebook by name or email, i will come up in search results. I let my city and alma mater be public information on facebook. It’s THAT important that I am found, and not the other me with the rap record!

  8. Jamie*

    I was told that it is not okay to look someone up before an interview because what I find might “color my opinion of them” and that my own personal judgments might get in the way.

    This is one of those erroneous things that have taken hold, like people thinking it’s illegal to give a bad reference or that reference checkers are bound to only the names on the list they were given by the candidate. By this logic we should be barring people from considering any candidate who has worked with or knows anyone the hiring manager knows…because you could make a phone call and get some informal information.

    I was under the impression that it is one’s personal responsibility to curate their web presence as they see fit and that whatever is found through a simple search is fair game.

    I think you are correct. Assuming you didn’t google map directions to their house and park across the street with binoculars or go through their garbage to gain intel you’re within the bounds of normal.

    1. Heather*

      >Assuming you didn’t google map directions to their house and park across the street with binoculars or go through their garbage to gain intel you’re within the bounds of normal.

      You’re not supposed to do that? Whoops.

        1. Jamie*

          I hate that thing. The day they snapped the pic for my house was garbage day and the wind had knocked over the empty can. It’s just laying on the lawn and it really bothers me.

          1. Rana*

            It can produce some funny effects, though. We once lived in a house on a corner, and in Street View it was summer on one side and winter on the other!

          2. Elizabeth*

            We know which week a satellite picture was taken a couple summers ago, because only part of our pool deck was stained. We stained half of it one weekend and the other half the next.

            We were extremely pleased when the Street View camera came by in 2010, though. The house has previously been The Big Pink House On The Corner, but we re-sided it in 2009. We liked when the GSV picture updated with the new siding and the trees gone from the front yard.

  9. Marie*

    I have a personal professional website that comes up in the top 3 when my name is googled along with my industry (professional professional website that i created since I lost my job!). Anyways, I would say about 75% of employers google my name before an interview and I can see this because I look at my website statistics and it’s very easy to tell if the IP was coming from a corporation or someone’s house. I’ve never been googled where they’ve viewed my site before the phone screen, but after the phone screen and before the 1st on-site interview oh yes! I am googled and my personal website is visited! i also get to see what people type into google to find me :-) :-)

      1. Anonymous*

        How detailed is it? Can you tell which corporation and person who checked your website or googled you?

        1. A Bug!*

          Usually it’s IP information, which is exchanged with the server as part of fetching the web page’s contents. IP information is variably useful but I would say it’s highly unlikely to narrow you down to a specific person without additional information.

        2. Marie*

          Yes – I can tell if it was the employer who googled me. I interviewed at “Large Boston Tech Company,” and in my stats (i use statcounter) it shows the IP address as well as the IP host. The IP Host is “Large Boston Tech Company” – the company name. (if it’s residential it will show comcast or verizon. if it’s a corporation it shows the company name). It also shows how long they spent on my website as well as what pages they viewed. If they googled me while NOT signed into a google account, I can also see what search terms they used to find me with google analytics. Usually it is my name + my industry.

            1. Marie*

              If the employer is googling me from their google account, they will still show up as “Large Boston Tech Company” as the IP host along with their IP address. I just won’t be able to see what keywords they used to find me!

  10. Christine*

    Ack! I always forget that potential employers can Google me!! I am careful about what I post on Facebook–and my profile is pretty locked down anyway. However, I do sometimes go in spurts with my activity on LinkedIn groups. Again, nothing bashing or controversial and I work at putting together thoughtful insights; however, I do think I come across a little whiny at times whenever I discuss my career challenges. It’s also partly why I dropped my last initial in my username here on AAM.

    I agree with AAM; I think Googling a prospective job candidate is fine as long as you don’t judge the person merely because they are active in discussions relating to a legally protected topic, such as disability or religion.

  11. Jubilance*

    FYI: if you use Google services like Gmail, make sure you log out before you Google yourself. If you’re logged in, you’ll get different search results.

    I have a very unique name (only found 5 other women with my name/spelling throughout my years of Googling) so I have strict rules aobut what I post. My FB has very tight settings. I use Twitter but my screen name is in no way connected to my name & I don’t ever use my real name or allow other people who know me to use it on Twitter.

    1. Ariancita*

      Or just use the Google Sharing plug in which anonymizes your searches (does not tie your searches to your gmail/google account).

  12. Sascha*

    “I was told that it is not okay to look someone up before an interview because what I find might “color my opinion of them” and that my own personal judgments might get in the way.”

    So how does the employer prevent his opinion from being colored as soon as the candidate walks in the door? There are so many subtle ways we are influenced by people that we don’t even realize it. The candidate could be wearing a perfume I can’t stand, or her suit is a color I don’t like, and it subconsciously influences me. I think that’s a poor excuse for not Googling someone.

    1. Jamie*

      And this speaks to the bigger issue which is everyone has unconscious knee jerk biases and we need make a deliberate effort to uncover those in ourselves to make sure we’re not using them in evaluating a candidate.

      Who hasn’t seen someone and taken an immediate like or dislike to someone based on some trivial or superficial thing – or resemblance to someone. Maybe I remind you of your sister who is really smart and funny – or maybe your ex-wife who took you to the cleaners, or the mean girl in 6th grade who hurt your feelings. We can’t control what triggers these kind of emotional judgments – but by being willing to look at them we can determine whether or not they will influence our actions.

      IMO once the skills are vetting as adequate nothing is as important as a good fit on both sides. But in the interest of fairness we need to make sure that we aren’t subconsciously equating “good fit” for “demographically a lot like me.” Pretending there is no bias doesn’t help…but being aware that there may be and making sure you don’t let it influence your decisions will.

    2. class factotum*

      The candidate could be wearing a perfume I can’t stand

      That wouldn’t even be a subconscious influence. I would think – quite deliberately – “I can’t work with someone wearing perfume that I can smell.” Leave the perfume off at work, please.

  13. Sharon*

    I see both sides, but I’m leery about it because of the human nature aspect. Sure, we can say that employers SHOULDN’T let things like race, attractiveness, etc influence their candidate selection, but… well, people do. I was once chatting on another forum with executives asking them if I should include my volunteer work in my resume to show leadership skills. One guy said that he wished his subordinate had listed his softball coaching on his resume so that he’d have known not to hire him. Apparently the guy spent time on the clock doing coaching administrative work. I’ve known more than one manager who has one bad experience with one person and from then on assumes everybody is like that. Those are the people who will screen candidates out for silly stuff. And what evidence would be there? None, really.

    1. Sharon*

      Oops, forgot to mention the tie-in for my comment is the fact that although I keep both Facebook (personal) and LinkedIn (professional) very clean and upright, if you google me you will see that I volunteer a lot for animal welfare groups.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Right, but people are going to screen people out for silly stuff no matter what. Saying that a major tool is off-limits because it could be misused — when there’s plenty of legitimate and helpful uses — doesn’t make any sense.

    3. AB*


      When you say, “Sure, we can say that employers SHOULDN’T let things like race, attractiveness, etc influence their candidate selection, but… well, people do.”, like others said, this will happen with or without Google (unless, like AAM pointed out, all interviews are held behind a curtain with a voice distorter).

      Not using Google will not prevent this issue from happening, so what’s the point of avoiding a relevant tool for gathering information about skills and culture fit, only because it can also be used for influencing the choice based on race / gender / attractiveness / etc.?

      There are other examples where you may have a point — when the hiring manager would most likely never come across the information during the interview process. Say, if a candidate was rejected because the hiring manager is an homophobic and the search results show that the person is gay. Well, even in that case, I’d say that it’s probably in the candidate’s best interest to be left out of the candidate pool under these circumstances, because in all probability the job would not be a good fit for him anyway.

      1. fposte*

        I think it’s useful to compare this to the US convention of no photographs with resumes. Photographs would convey virtually no information that it would be ethical or wise to base a hire on in most situations, so their presence would add little and offer problems. However, your online representation is, as people are saying, more like a reference–it gives a picture of how you’ve presented yourself to the world–and it’s usually examined at a similar stage to references. So there I think the gain of valuable information outweighs the risk of new bias possibilities.

  14. Chinook*

    I just Google myself and, on the first Page, found a gravestone with my name and my husband’s name. We died in 1943 in the US. Does that mean an employer thinks I stole my identity? ;)

  15. Bob*

    My name is somewhat common, but it is also the name of a celebrity who has been famous since I was a child (I’m now in my 50’s). Unless I carefully craft a search request using things that are unique to me, I won’t be listed as a search result until at least 150 of “him” have been returned. I’m almost invisible, dispite having plenty of search results using the well crafted search parameters.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It depends on the type of job. I hire for some positions where it would be pretty unusual for a candidate not to have any web footprint — for these jobs, it’s assumed that they’ll have been enough of a leader in their field to have spoken and written on issues in the field, or to have had some media presence. If a candidate for one of these positions didn’t have any presence on the web, I’d be surprised — and I’d wonder why they hadn’t left any mark in that way. But for plenty of other jobs, I’d just assume they were private and wouldn’t care at all.

        1. Anonymous*

          Glad to hear because I felt compelled to make my linkedin page ‘private’ because 1) our compliance officer is required to review and approve it if we disclose that we work there. For that reason, I don’t state that I work there and the position I hold; 2) every salesperson, both current and new, sends me an invitation to join my network, presumably to prospect new clients. I’ve rejected all invitations at the urging of one of my managers, though I come into contact with the invitees every day. For the record, I’m not on Facebook or Twitter. I’ve now been hearing rumblings that I’m super ‘secretive’ or ‘private’ which I’m suspect will now become a sort of social ‘crime’.

            1. Anonymous*

              I was referring to the ‘public profile’ feature that allows you to restrict what anyone you’re not connected to sees, or so I hope.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I might be wrong, but I think that only controls what someone sees if they themselves don’t have a LinkedIn account (or aren’t logged in). Anyone with more expertise know for sure?

                1. Anonymous*

                  I’d love to learn more too. I just checked my settings and it says my public profile is visible to no one. I assume that means anyone to whom I’m not connected????

                2. Ariancita*

                  In your public profile settings, you can make your public profile visible to no one. That way, only people you are linked to can see it. Not sure why you would do that though since it’s not Facebook–it’s made for networking.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I tried to research this on LinkedIn, and it sounds like your “public profile” settings refer only to people not logged into LinkedIn. Once they’re logged in, they can see at least some information about you, even if they’re not connected….?

                4. Ariancita*

                  Yes, but it depends on how close they are to you. If you’re not connected or in the same network, they see almost nothing (and I discovered this when trying to look at other profiles where we had no shared connections and could only see very minimal). You aren’t completely invisible like you would be on FB if you make yourself unsearchable. Here’s what LinkedIn says:

                  Your profile is visible to LinkedIn members who’ve signed in to LinkedIn members in your network can see your name and LinkedIn profile. If your contact settings allow InMail, certain Premium account holders can also see your full name and full profile.

                  Members outside your network only see a shortened profile without your name.
                  Only 1st degree connections can see your email address.
                  3rd degree connections and members you share groups with that have free accounts will only see your first name, last initial, and top section of your profile when searching by keyword. They’ll see your full profile if they search by first and last name.

                  Note: A public version of your profile is called the public profile. It appears when people search for you on Google, Yahoo!, Bing, et cetera. You can change your public profile settings to control the profile information that shows up in public search results.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Ah, that makes sense. It seems like one important takeaways is that there’s no way to hide your profile from a specific person; if they have a premium account or if they’re connected to one of your connections, they’re likely to be able to see it (and even if those things aren’t the case currently, they could become the case tomorrow without you realizing it).

          1. Mike C.*

            For the last team my wife worked with, it was an unspoken rule that you friend your managers and make sure they can see your posts. There’s no way to check for sure of course, but they would notice if you weren’t “posting enough”.

            1. Anonymous*

              I think if she decided to leave the company, they could assert proprietary rights over that account.

            2. pidgeonpenelope*

              Yeah but they put a kabosh to that a year into my time with them. Also, I still work with that team. Now, none of us are friends with management on FB. It just violates too many barriers.

              (Ps. I’m Mike C’s wife)

              1. KellyK*

                Good! Being *expected* to friend your managers just strikes me as creepy and stalker-ish. I have no problem friending coworkers because I’m not blowing off work and posting pictures from the baseball game, or similar stupid things, but I don’t have my boss friended. It just blurs the line too much for me.

  16. Traci*

    I think Googled information should be treated like any other research—verify it’s actually about the person you’re interviewing and not just someone with the same name and make sure you look for patterns. I was on the hiring committee for a writer in my department and Googled him only to discover he’d been fired for plagiarism. I verified it was him by comparing my information to his resume and then made sure I checked multiple sources to confirm it was true. We didn’t end up interviewing him, but my boss said if he had it would’ve informed his questioning of the candidate.

  17. JT*

    According to Google, I die about once a year. Also am regularly doing very impressive performances in operas, which would have to be a big win in a job search.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’m a former guest star on Lost and a Bachelorette. Apparently my online self is much more extroverted, and blonde.

        1. Esra*

          I write those terrible mystery novels where the cat solves the mystery with the aid of other pets and a neighbourhood animal network of informants. While drawing amorous, anthropomorphic foxes in my spare time.

          1. Jamie*

            :::small voice::: I have a deep and abiding love for The Cat Who series which is about a man named Qwilleran who solves crimes with the help of his two Siamese cats.

            For the first part of that sentence I thought you were faux Lilian Jackson Brown and I have a shelf full of books waiting for an autograph.

            On another note – I’m confused – are the foxes part of the books or is that another sideline?

            1. Esra*

              That, unfortunately, is another my-name-clone. But she’s pretty active on online forums and popular in her community, so like the author, it’s hard to beat on google rankings.

              1. Jessa*

                I also have a deep abiding love for Qwilleran and his cats, but I also have a love for a certain cat and dog combo and since you mentioned foxes, I think it’s the OTHER author (who usually says the cat wrote the book with her,) that you’re talking about.

            2. ThursdaysGeek*

              Urg. I love cats and I love mysteries, but I can’t stand “The Cat Who…” series. Is it too much to ask for a plot, or is the missing plot the mystery? (I’ve only read about 5 of them, so perhaps all the other ones are well written mysteries with plots. Perhaps.)

        2. KellyK*

          I’m an army medic who lost his (yay for gender-neutral names) leg in Afghanistan. I’m also a mom and substitute teacher who tweets with lots of exclamation points.

          The one hit that is for me, down at the bottom of the page, is a picture of my dogs…though my foot is visible.

        1. Jamie*

          Am I the only one who would love an AAM costume party where we all comes dressed as one of our online dopplegangers?

          And not only because poor Esra would be hysterical having to come in furry cosplay. :)

          1. Lore*

            I don’t seem to have any online doppelgangers–two very unusual spellings. The closest I’ve found is a dermatologist whose first name matches my middle and last matches my first.

          2. AnotherAlison*

            Since I’m not the one who would dress as a furry, I’m in. My famous name sharer just looks like an older version of me. : )

              1. Rana*


                Urban Dictionary will help you out if you want to get a sense of it before exposing yourself to surprise pictures on the internet.

      2. Elizabeth*

        I’m a professor at a university in Michigan (who doesn’t know her email address & keeps using mine for her department store charge cards) , a paralegal in Los Angeles who specializes in medical power of attorney documents (who everyone assumes has my email address, given what I get on her behalf) or an attorney in LA who specializes in mediation of contract disputes for the entertainment industry.

        Other options are a self-employed jewelry designer, a day spa owner, a corporate partner in an international law firm, a furniture designer, or a character in a popular series of books aimed at pre-teen girls.

      3. Diane*

        I’m an ob/gyn, a goat farmer, a writer, a realtor, and a fundraiser. I’m really hoping one of us becomes an astronaut!

    1. Rana*

      It’s a little freaky how much my name dopplegangers and I have in common, personally and professionally. Also, if I do image search, it turns out that most of us look somewhat alike, too.

      Maybe we’re part of some secret clone army?

    2. Jesicka309*

      I’m a German transgender model, a screenwriter for Buffy, an Olympic athlete, and I have my own range of chocolates.

      I’m also clearly far too busy to be looking for jobs, as any google search would show. :)

        1. jesicka309*

          Alas, I am far too young to try and claim the Buffy gig (and in the wrong country too).

          I always get given the chocolates as gifts though…it was hilarious the first time, with my name scrawled across them and a matching teddy with my name, but the chocolates aren’t particularly nice, so now I have about 5 boxes at home unopened. :S I’ve given them as gifts too, claiming “I made them myself” :)

    3. FreeThinkerTX*

      I have solved the mystery of the space-time continuum, as I am multiple people in various states of being: I am an artist and musician in Milan, Italy; I am a paranoid Paris fashion designer who was given a suspended sentence for bugging her press secretary; I died in 1945 in Kansas City; and I play online football/soccer for team Karatepojkarna FC.

    4. Laura L*

      You all have such interesting doppelgangers!

      The only person in the US who shares my name (and only first and last, not middle) is a 50-something woman who lives in Michigan. And I only know this because she shows up on those directory websites that will give you someone’s personal information if you pay them.

      She appears to have no other online presence.

  18. clobbered*

    “But it’s ridiculous to say that you shouldn’t do any Googling because you might find those things out, just like you wouldn’t interview all candidates behind a screen so that you can’t see their race, and with a voice distorter so you can’t tell if they’re male or female.”

    I have a DVD of a Berlin Philharmonic concert from the 70s. There isn’t a single woman in the orchestra. Today, there are orchestras where the ratio is 50-50. The overwhelming consensus is that things changed when orchestras moved to auditioning players behind a screen so their gender would not be apparent.

    I can see that a workplace that is super-sensitive about discrimination issues could have legitimate concerns about a hiring manager being influenced by protected-clause issues. I have also seen HR departments get very excitable about what are really minor issues (eg, tatoos) to the point where they are bringing these to the table as if they have equal weight to substantive issues (qualifiations).

    Personally I tend to only google the top candidate or if it is close, the top two. I would like to thing that this counts as due dilligence rather than snooping and by that point I have screened candidates so I am aware if they fall in protected classes anyway.

    In other words, I treat Googling as a reference, not a resume.

        1. Mike C.*

          They hopefully are publicly outed and mocked by the masses to prevent such practices from becoming mainstream.

        2. YALM*

          Unless those employers have very high security requirements (I can think of a few legit organizations that might), those employers are probably idiots. Let that be your first clue that you don’t want to work for them.

          1. KellyK*

            But if they have high security requirements, the *last* thing they should want you to do is violate an agreement (e.g., FB terms of service) and give your password for something to someone else.

    1. Zahra*

      Since I’m finishing my master’s thesis regarding social media and its importance while job searching… I’d like to recommend a firm such as Social Intelligence ( if your employer has the means and the inclination to do so. As far as I can tell, they do the research about the online presence of a candidate and present you with a report that excludes any protected category information. Of course, they may not be able to evaluate fit, but I think it’s an avenue worth exploring.

      I have no link with Social Intelligence whatsoever, I just came across them in the course of my research.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The drawback of that is that you probably (and maybe I’m wrong) don’t get to see things like, say, “how smart does this person sound in their writings, if they have a blog?” Which is stuff I’m interested in for a lot of the positions I hire for. I’m assuming you’d just get the very black and white stuff but not the more nuanced stuff.

        1. Zahra*

          Yes, that would be my worry too. However, it’s still an avenue worth exploring. Another one, if the company is large enough for it, would be to ask someone not involved in the hiring process to conduct the Google search and report the findings (including webpage addresses for blogs and such, but not for Facebook or any other results that indicate protected category information).

          1. Joey*

            This is sort of the way i do it except I get someone to essentially give me their opinion on what they found as it relates to the job. Kind of like a reference.

    2. Jessa*

      The behind a screen works for the Philharmonic because the hiring criteria are all about the sound. Not what the people look like. I can’t really figure out how you’d do that for other types of jobs.

  19. Joey*

    I think its wrong to say its okay just because everyone else is doing it. I could say the same about drug screens and credit checks and I’d bet you agree that those are generally too invasive.

    I’m saying this because I’m still not sure where I stand on googling candidates. I see the value but I really would prefer not to even see things like family issues, medical issues, political views, and other things that are non job related. I just don’t want to chance that it would subconsciously affect my hiring decision. And I’m not talking about the obvious ones like race, sex, etc- to me those are unavoidable.

    1. AB*

      “I’m saying this because I’m still not sure where I stand on googling candidates. I see the value but I really would prefer not to even see things like family issues, medical issues, political views, and other things that are non job related.

      But if you make these things public, don’t you expect people to come across the information? It could even happen accidentally–say, someone looking for an article you wrote, or your profile in LinkedIn to send you an invitation to connect after getting your business card during a conference, googling you and coming across this information.

      I’m pretty easy to find on a google search, but all results are about my work.

      1. Joey*

        That’s sort of like saying if you’re gay and out of the closet you should be okay with an employer knowing that since its public info. What I’m saying is I only want a hiring manager to know stuff about me that’s job related and they shouldn’t be looking at things (even when theyre public) that are likely to divulge non job related stuff. I’m mean do you really expect that you’ll see nothing personal on a Facebook page.

        1. AB*

          ¨That’s sort of like saying if you’re gay and out of the closet you should be okay with an employer knowing that since its public info.

          No, I’m not saying “it’s OK” or “not OK”, just that if it’s publicly available, there is no way for the candidate or the hiring manager doing a search to prevent this information from being revealed.

          All hiring managers I know who do a Google search wouldn’t care or even open a search result unrelated to skills / general profile of a candidate. But even the Google results page itself may reveal personal information if it’s posted to a public site . I suppose if you don’t want certain things to be found in search results, Facebook would be a good place to start. I doubt a donation to a cause or less well known website would appear on the first pages of a Google search, while Facebook, LinkedIn and other popular sites will.

      2. Mike C.*

        You can’t keep everything private. Political donations are subject to public record, as is the signing of an initiative petition.

  20. Angela S.*

    I think everyone should be expected to be googled if they are looking for a job. While job seekers are told to google the companies to learn everything about their possible future employers, why can’t the companies google to learn something their possible future employees? It is just a fair game.

    And that is why it is very important that we render our facebook profile to unsearchable, and we post as little personal information as possible on Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

    I do agree some of the responses here, however, that employers shouldn’t let all information they can find online to colour their judgement. But it does not mean that an employer would not try to get the same information out during the actual interview. It is very common for employers to try finding out from their female candidates if they have young children, although by law the question cannot be asked directly. During the recent hiring exercise that I am doing at work, we are also trying to guess how old the candidates are. Again, it is a question we cannot ask directly.

    I would just say that if the employers are not trying to find out the answers by googling, they will try to find out in some other means. There is no way to stop it.

    1. Jamie*

      although by law the question cannot be asked directly.

      I agree with you that some employers try to ferret out this info – but the above is a common misconception.

      It’s not illegal to ask the question, it’s illegal to use the information in hiring or other employment decisions. However, asking the question in the interview makes clear the possibility that it’s being used as a factor …so most workplaces wisely treat the questions themselves as if they are illegal. But technically they aren’t.

      IOW you need more than the fact that the question was asked in order to pursue anything legally.

  21. Claire*

    I definitely expect to be Googled as part of the hiring process…I have a common first name and a last name that is both an adjective and celebrity name, so most of the results from googling me are celeb gossip sites. But my LinkedIn shows up too! My twitter/facebook are both locked down, and I do include my blog on my resume even though I write under a pseudonym (and I’ve looked up from my cube to see my boss reading my blog, so I definitely assume that a potential employer will actually look at it!).

  22. Calibrachoa*

    One thing people should remember when googling themselves: Google image search. It is surprising what ends up showing up in there!

    1. -X-*

      I had an intern for whom there are a bunch of naked pictures (in some sort of political activity) online.

  23. Anonymous*

    It’s abundantly clear that we might as well just affix a picture to your CV, stating your age, race, ethnicity, family tree, skin tone, gender, weight, height, nationality, religious, social and political affiliations, any and every contact with law enforcement, names and contact information for anyone you’ve worked with who might have a beef with you for any reason, etc, etc because it’s all going to come out in the wash, and to avoid a ‘negligent hiring suit’, it will be used against you. I might seem OTT, but this sentiment is palpable and real for more than a few. We appear to do more digging and judging just to hire someone to do a crap job even on a temporary basis than we do to sleep with or even marry them.

    1. fposte*

      It sounds like you’re not writing from the U.S.–we don’t have a tort of negligent hiring here, so that’s not an issue.

  24. Lynn*

    I have a really unusual name. As far as I can tell, there are three people in the world who share it:

    1. me
    2. my husband’s cousin, who is career Navy and therefore has basically no online presence
    3. the porn queen of the Internet

    Imagine my horror when I googled my name and all this crazy “granny and young lesbian” stuff came up mixed in with my 5k times and donations to the symphony and so forth. What to do? I could ask her to take her stuff down, but it’s her name as much as mine. She could say “no, you take YOUR stuff down. You’re making me look like a complete square.”

    My solution was to get VERY BUSY on software engineering forums (which is my field), answering people’s questions, so that you get about ten pages of me showing off my expertise helping people before you get to the weird stuff.

    1. fposte*

      I once talked to a local name doppelganger whose client had apparently sent a check for her to my address. And at first I thought “Well, it’s not like I could cash it anyway”–and it was really weird to realize that of course I could.

      I don’t know if it’s her or not, but I have a local name doppelganger who has my same birth month and date and a very similar-looking year who goes to the same health facility. This is not helpful.

      1. JT*

        A sister of a friend is a US Air Force officer (it’s her career) and has an apparently normal online presence. Does the Navy stop its people from using social media?

        1. Lynn*

          I think it has more to do with the long deployments on the ship, and the limited bandwidth from ship to shore.

  25. Lynn*

    When I was trying to hire a nanny, I found Google to be very helpful in narrowing down the candidate pool. It is really astonishing what people put out there. Anyone posting “going to work completely BAKED!!!! LOLOLOL!!!” was crossed off the list as fast as I could move my pen.

  26. BCW*

    I’m kind of against the googling people as well. I understand that you could find things of value to the job they do. But sometimes, as has been brought up, you may find things that really have no bearing on the job they would do, but people thing negatively anyway.

    Take me for example. My stuff on Facebook is private where only friends and friends of friends can see things. But in reality I always wonder how easy it would be for someone to get around that. Or maybe they know someone who knows me. Well if you only looked at my facebook pictures, you’d see me drinking A LOT. Now I have never had a situation where my weekend (or weekday) activities have impacted my performance at work which my references could easily attest to. However if someone decides to snoop and find that stuff, they may assume just because of those things that I’m a drunk who comes to work hungover and not even get to the reference checking point. That I find to be a big problem.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm. I do think that if you choose to display “a lot” of photos of you drinking online, you’ve got to do it with the knowledge that people may draw conclusions about you from it. Even if your profile is set to maximize privacy, since as you point out, there are times when those settings fail. You might decide that you care so much about your ability to post those photos that you’re willing to deal with potential consequences, and that’s your prerogative … but I think you’ve got to recognize that indeed there could be ramifications.

      1. BCW*

        Fair enough. I understand that, I’m just saying thats is an example where what I do on my weekends really has no bearing on how good of an employee I might be. Again, if that information came up some how naturally, thats one thing. But when you go looking for that stuff, and then use it to possibly make a judgment about me, I just don’t see that as a great way to do hiring.

        1. Jessa*

          Yes, what you do on the weekend might not impact your job, but in the case of weekend drinkers who post a lot of pictures of this: YOU may be a responsible person, I’d say well over 75% or more of such people are not. It will cause people to think twice because of legitimate past experience.

          Also I think it has to do with what the pictures are. Me personally I’d see a bunch of “out with friends happen to be at bar with beer in hand,” pictures differently to “person looks crazy, acting drunk, lampshade on head,” and this happens a lot.

          One I’d take as okay “adult having fun who goes out with friends to places adults go.” The other “person does not know how to behave appropriately in public, I dunno if they’re a drunkard, but I don’t want that representing my company.”

          It doesn’t matter if someone is behaving legally, to me “really, really drunk,” on a regular basis (not “one happy 21st birthday Sam, and then a bunch of people being out”) is jut not a responsible person.

          And maybe it’s me but I’d take it differently if it’s a 9-5 job and it’s Friday night, Saturday night, than if it’s Sunday. Mostly because I’d think “okay they don’t drink right before they’re going to report to work, that’s different than getting sloshed on the day before work.”

          Judgemental? Yep. But if all things are equal and the candidate isn’t a real standout. I’m going to mark down the one I think might be an issue, even if they won’t.

          1. BCW*

            Well, that your right, but its a bit ridiculous to me. Do you consider smokers irresponsible and would not hire them because of it? Would you not hire someone if you found out they have a bunch of moving violations if their job didn’t require it? Would you consider someone who overeats and may be overweight to be irresponsible too? Once you start picking and choosing what adult behaviors you find acceptable and which ones you deem irresponsible, you are being hypocritical and possibly missing out on some good employees

              1. BCW*

                But thats kind of my point. Its all about perception. I’d argue that if you lead an extremely unhealthy life (bad eating habits and not exercising) thats far worse than going out and getting completely wasted on occasion. (And I’m not arguing that all obese people are necessarily unhealthy in these ways). But if you were to not hire someone because of that perception you have, it would be extremely frowned upon. So why are some “unhealthy” and legal behaviors acceptable and others aren’t?

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  You’re asking a broader question about society here, one that’s above my pay grade. But my guess is that we believe glorifying heavy drinking (more so than heavy drinking in and of itself) speaks to a certain immature set of values.

            1. Jessa*

              Smoking or overeating while bad for the person in question usually does not subject them to an inability to work properly like overuse of alcohol does. I’m of the opinion that if it hurts the person I don’t care, but if the potential for hurting the business – alcohol can lead to poor judgement, people when not sober are not thinking clearly. Most people who smoke or eat do not have that issue. IF something about their smoking or eating caused them to be a problem at work, that’d be different. But I can pretty much say someone who overdrinks will potentially cause problems. All things being equal I don’t want a drinker.

            2. Anonymous*

              I think you’re over-thinking things. Or maybe you have so much experience on one far side of the drinking spectrum that you aren’t aware there’s another side to consider.

              I’m the other far end of the spectrum. I don’t drink, ever, for personal reasons. There are lots of jobs that I would get turned down for over this. I’ve had people tell me very plainly that they won’t hire me if I won’t drink with them, and many others strongly imply it. I got in trouble at work once for complaining about my co-workers getting drunk at work while on-duty in a building that is supposed to be, legally (not just company policy), alcohol-free.

              There are no protections for me, just as there are no protections for you. And you know what? You don’t want to work with people who hold very strict and opposite opinions on the subject and hold hiring/firing power over you. I’d be miserable at work if I had been hired by one of those guys who thinks that I’m a fun-less square for not drinking. You’d be miserable if you were hired by someone who thought your weekend drinking made you a delinquent and ne’er-do-well. This is where freedom of choice is a good thing long-term, even if it’s frustrating during a job search.

              1. BCW*

                Understand though that I don’t think what is happening to you is right either. I don’t think that it should be a consideration. If I was doing the hiring, yeah, I would probably decide you wouldn’t be someone I’d want to hang out with on weekends, but if you could do the job, I wouldn’t take you out of the running because or weekend plans are so different. But thats why I think you shouldn’t be looking that stuff up, because it truly has no bearing on the type of employee you would be

          1. Mike C.*

            Now you can, that didn’t used to be the case. Furthermore, I don’t like the idea of having to rely on Facebook settings to make sure things work.

            *Also, for you folks who are judgmental of people in “drinking pictures”, consider this: I did a whole lot of crazy things in college with drunk people, but that’s because my friends drove expensive cars and I was their designated driver. A good root beer looks like Guinness and you can’t tell the difference between a coke and a rum and coke.

        1. Min*

          I have mine set so that I have to approve any photos that I’m tagged in. I don’t know for certain if that will stop them from coming up in an image search, but I know that a friend tagged me in a photo which I didn’t approve and I don’t see it when I google image search myself.

          I’m not certain what her privacy settings are, though, so it could be that it has nothing to do with my own actions. Does anyone out there know if the “approval” option will stop those images from coming up in a search?

          1. JT*

            But another question to ask is is a few or “normal” amount of photos of someone drinking really a bad thing? If someone is underage and has photos drinking, or seems to be revelling in getting wasted, perhaps also driving, that looks bad.

            But many people drink (I don’t, but I’m aware people do….). So it is horrible to be seen drinking? And I know the old argument “Well, it’s not the drinking but it’s the poor judgement in letting photos get out of drinking, which could reflect poor judgement in general.” which I think is BS.

            People do normal things in reality which are not all perfect, and online communications is such a part of our lives that a small amount of not good stuff should not be disqualifying, or even viewed as evidence of bad judgement at all. I hope we get to the point in society where this is understood.

            1. BCW*

              Thanks. You explained my point better than I did. There are many pictures of me with a drink, but its not like I’m wasted in them. So should that really make people think I have bad judgment? I’d say no. And thats where my problems come in with googling/snooping/whatever you want to call it. If it really has no bearing on the actual job performance, why do people feel they need to get that information

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It depends on the pictures. If it’s you looking sober with a glass of wine in your hand, not an issue. (Unless there are dozens of them, in which case, yes, I do think people will wonder how heavily/often you drink.) If it’s you with eight empty shot glasses in front of you, or you doing keg stands, or you looking wasted, those things are going to give a different impression.

              1. Ariancita*

                Well most of my actual photos of me on FB (most photos of “me” as in tagged me are of books, passages of poetry, various coffees, cupcake stands, etc) have me either with a treat or a glass of champagne (usually with a flower floating on top). But if you look at the post times (and FB separates your photos by year), you’ll see they are about a year apart, so I don’t think it says “Beware: heavy champagne tippler!” (plus my privacy is super restricted, but I’m not really worried about anyone seeing these photos.)

  27. Jenny R*

    You can avoid some of the problems with biasing your decisions by only doing online research on people you’ve already decided to interview based on the merits of their application materials. You’re going to meet them and see what they look like anyway. It’s true you might find details of their family plans or religion or other things that you wouldn’t learn in the interview.

    For some kinds of positions, Googling really provides another kind of reference and I think it’s a valid tool. But not for every position – if I’m interviewing cashiers, I don’t care what your writing is like.

  28. PuppyKat*

    I wonder if the OP works at a university. Having fairly recently moved from the not-for-profit world to a university position, I was surprised to find out that I’m not allowed to speak to anyone not listed as one of the candidate’s formal references unless I receive permission from them (the candidate).

    I work in a small-ish industry, so it’s pretty much a given that a candidate and I will have mutual connections—or that I’ll know someone who’s worked at the same company as the candidate. At my previous jobs, it was understood that I could (and would) contact anyone who might be able to give me insight into their work ethic and abilities.

    Of course, I’m also now in a position where you have to ask every candidate the exact same questions and can’t ask them to demonstrate job functions. Arrgh!

    1. Jamie*

      I work in a small-ish industry, so it’s pretty much a given that a candidate and I will have mutual connections—or that I’ll know someone who’s worked at the same company as the candidate.

      It’s the same for my industry – locally – and it would be so bizarre not to be able to make a couple of inquiries on the front end.

      That’s why reputation is so important in small niche industries – because I assume that before my resume hits the YES pile there are phone calls being made as we have about 4 degrees of separation, at best.

      As has been mentioned before – academia really does have different rules for this kind of thing.

      1. fposte*

        And academia is incredibly varied–I’m in academia, and I can talk to anybody I please when I’m hiring.

    2. PuppyKat*

      What I had also meant to include was: After finding out about the other strange ways my university restricts itself during the hiring process in the name of a contorted sense of fairness, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to learn that I’m prohibited from Googling candidates as well.

    3. Anonymous*

      Question: What are the consequences for ignoring this directive? Who actually issued the rule? Is it written down somewhere? Rules with no consequences for breaking them are not actual rules; they are suggestions. Most rules at a university are suggestions.

      Academia is a place where people will occasionally claim authority that they don’t have and start issuing any rules they feel like. Most don’t, but you only need one person like this in a department to muddy the hierarchical waters for years.

      We had a guy who did this in the physics department I just left. I knew he had no actual authority, so I ignored his random directives and arbitrary rules. Most people who hadn’t been around for 5+ years assumed that he was in a position of authority BECAUSE he made up so many rules. He’ d gladly make up rules that violated University policy, local laws, and all common sense if you let him walk all over you; push back and he’d promptly shrug and wander off to a different victim.

  29. Vicki*

    My resume includes, at the end (after “Education”) links to my professional website, Wiki, weblogs, Twitter, FB, and GooglePlus accounts.

    1) I’m looking for content management / writing jobs. All of the above showcase my content manage,ment and writing skills.

    2) I work in the Tech sphere. In that area, one is expected to have a presence on the web and in social media. I expect the manager to look me up. I might as well make it easier.

  30. Anonymous*

    If the employer’s application asks, “May we contact this employer?” and you say ‘No’, what are the restrictions placed on this prospective employer in the reference/employment checking/verification? Does this ‘no’ raise the proverbial red flag?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s the honor system. There’s no law that would prevent them from contacting that employer (or anyone else who might know you).

      Saying no does often raise a red flag, unless it’s your current employer (in which case it’s understood that you don’t want them to know that you’re looking).

  31. Liz T*

    My first job interview out of college was with the (60-something) dean of a prestigious school. When we met, he expressed a little disappointment that I didn’t have pink hair–he’d found an old MySpace photo from the 3-month window when I did. It was funny and sweet, and I got the job, but it was an important early lesson: you will be Googled!

  32. donbab*

    It leaves too much room for unintentional discrimination. I think it should be forbidden. The only things that are relevant are whether the candidate can perfirm the job and how selected candidate does perfirm the job. If it must be used then its needs to be done so only after the imterview.
    It is human nature to judge by appearances and this hiring tactic will in many cases cause bias to candidates of certain races, weights, disabilities, marital statuses, socioeconomic backgrounds, etc.
    The candudate needs to be allowed to interview and present themselves in that light.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s just not how hiring works. Employers quite rightly take into account a candidate’s maturity level, ability to get along with others, intelligence, communication abilities, judgment, culture fit, ability to be managed, and much more.

      1. Liz T*

        Besides: Anything an employer can find online, a customer/client can find online. We all, in a basic way, represent our employers.

    2. JT*

      Maybe we should just do all the interviews by phone. That’d be fairer. Perhaps with some sort of filter to distort voices so we can’t judge people that way. Or maybe by IM. Really, that’d be fairer than even your in-person interviews.

      1. JT*

        Oh, and I’ll add that where I work we have people of a wide range of races, varying religious beliefs from none to very religious, Christian, Muslim, Jewish and at least one other religion, some very fit people and some people who, by appearance, are quite obese. (No physical handicaps that I’m aware of though.). New staff that are older (came out of retirement) and recently out of school. Married and single and divorced. At least two sexual orientations that I can think of.

        Being good at hiring in fair ways seems far more important in the long-run than attempting to be fair by avoiding online information. It results in a workplace that is consciously fair and owns that.

    3. Joey*

      Forbidden, no. There’s some really useful info that you can find online. I know we’re assuming most employers are making sure there’s nothing negative out there, but that’s not always the case. Would you do business with anyone without doing your own research on them? it just has to be done in a responsible way.

  33. SarahJ*

    Thanks to this thread, I Googled myself. If I just put my name in, I see that there are a few women with the same name and nothing particularly salacious. If I put my name and city in, I get my LinkedIn profile, twitter account and a bunch of my GoodReads reviews. I pride myself in keeping a pretty clean internet presence so I’m glad to see that it’s about what I expected.

    In my previous job, members of the search committee would look up applicants on Facebook. The positions they were hiring for were usually recent college graduates who would interact with high school students and were expected to use social media as part of their job and I think it made total sense to look them up.

    In this internet age, do people truly think this isn’t a possibility?

  34. A Teacher*

    I just had a talk with my students in a careers class on this very topic. I’m secure in my job and don’t worry too much, but when I google name as a teacher and an adjunct professor, two of the items that pop up in a google search are rate my professor and rate my teacher. As a healthcare provider, which I also do part time, healthgrades pops up. My healthgrades reviews are awesome but my rate my teacher and rate my professor are mixed. The rate my professor has several really positive and two negative. Sadly, I know who the negative ones come from based on what they said in comments and one is from a student that failed the class from not studying and not turning in work.

    My students and I have talked about how you can control much of what is out there, but at the same time people can rate you or post annonymously and there’s not much you can do to have those ratings taken down. I have to live with the negative (and positive) reviews, regardless of how fair they are. I would hope that most employers would take them with a grain of salt–wouldn’t want to work for someone that would take them completely seriously–but the ratings and posts are out there and I’m pretty much stuck with what is there. Fair or not.

    1. Another teacher*


      Perhaps because I don’t generate much of my own content, those teacher rating sites come up on the first page of a search for my name. Most comments are moderate or transparent (e.g., “She expects us to read” with a frowny face). In one case, I know who posted a bad rating: a problem student whom my department chair said I could (but I didn’t) kick out of class. The rating is mean-spirited of course, but more troublesome is that it’s factually inaccurate. There’s also a rating from a student who didn’t take a course with me. I know her from other campus activities, and she posted a nice rating and told me about it. (I didn’t ask her to post it.) Since I don’t have that many ratings, with these two, about 1/5 of my ratings are based on false information (to some extent).

      While I try not to be bothered and hope that prospective employers will acknowledge those sites for what they are, I still worry. The good stuff — positive FTF or email feedback from students, decent “official” evaluations — isn’t searchable :/

    2. Rana*

      I have to say, I’ve never known anyone who’s taught who took those anonymous rating sites seriously. It’s too easy to make stuff up there, or to be silly, and the people who comment there are going to skew towards the angry or the obsessed or the overwhelmingly positive, because students who liked the class aren’t going to bother with them. Also, everyone who’s taught and received student evals has had the experience of getting an awful student evaluation that can be directly attributed – as you both note – to the student being a bad student. (“The professor assigned way too many books and actually expected us to read them!” “Instructor kept talking about women and black people, as if anyone cares about that stuff.” etc.) Most people I know either ignore those sites entirely, or only read them for entertainment.

  35. pidgeonpenelope*

    I expect to be Googled by employers and I have an online presence that I’m comfortable sharing. I keep a lot of stuff on Facebook locked to friends only however, some stuff, is public and done so on purpose. There are things that I’m ok sharing with everyone looking, including future employers and they’re very neutral. A lot of it can be matched up with my LinkedIn profile.

  36. Heather*

    1. I nearly started grad school on academic probation b/c my name twin had applied and had attended a school with a similar name to the one I took summer school classes at.

    2. How about the other side of the coin-I always Google my interviewers. Is it ok to mention that, say, I see we share an alma mater or hobby on Linked in?

    1. Rana*

      I Google them too. I’ve found it’s helpful to have their pictures up on my screen to look at during phone interviews, too. :)

  37. Evvie*

    We just went through this when hiring someone. We googled and a DUI report and photo came up. We didn’t care about that, but cared when we asked if she had a drivers license she said yes then spoke for 5 minutes about her totally clean record without ever being stopped even. I understand the embarrassment, but if she had just said “yes” to having a license we would have been good.

    1. Anonymous*

      Wait, so was she actually the person with the DUI who was trying to conceal it, or just someone who was aware her ‘name twin’ had a DUI?

      1. Evvie*

        Since there was a photo we knew it was her.

        As an aside there we many reasons we didn’t hire her besides that.

    2. BCW*

      But was she convicted or just arrested for the DUI. I have a friend who was arrested, but for varioius reasons got off. so that friend does have a totally clean driving record. But there is probably still an arrest record and a mug shot to go with it.

  38. Steve G*

    Listen – I work in an industry that sounds glamorous (emerging energy markets in the USA), but is really not and is very stressful and dealing with not so glamorous people (contractors, facilities managers, engineers, repairmen, etc.).

    I ALWAYS screen FB etc to see the person. If they look normal, we are good to go. If they are posing in aviator glasses and look like they tan too much, they will not fit in in this industry.

    1. Anonymous*

      That seems like a broad and baseless way to screen people – exactly the opposite of how it should be handled. You might as well screen based on resume font choice. Just use a random number generator at that point.

      Why not use a sensible, career-related metric as opposed to one that will strongly, purposely bias you toward other people exactly like you? You know the “tan” thing alone could get you racial discrimination headaches, right?

    2. BCW*

      Not trying to attack you, but “if they look normal”? I get where you are trying to go with it, in that you have experienced that certain types of people don’t fit very well in your business. But judging it off of a few FB pictures isn’t good either. Maybe they were dressed that way for a reason. I’ve had plenty of ridiculous, or even just not normal for me, outfits that I have made my facebook picture because it was funny.

    3. Liz T*

      You know you’re looking for an employee, not a date, right? How does tanning predict one’s ability to interact with contractors and repairmen?

    4. Sissa*

      “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” is a saying that pops to mind…

      In my experience the perfectly dressed people are the ones who you want to avoid like the plague (this doesn’t mean I want to work with people who dress like hobos) but if you spend that much time filing your long nails to perfection when you’re supposed to type an e-mail efficiently, you’re instantly disliked by me. See how it goes both ways? :)

  39. Steve G*

    I hadn’t thought of it your way. My way of thinking comes from interviewing too many people who don’t seem to really grasp that regardless of how glamorous (for lack of better word) this is, not every position is about dramatic powerpoints and corporate events. While most of us spend the majority of the day in Excel, we have to days wearing hard hats and living on the subway, or making 75 outbound calls/day, or coordinating 20 engineering visits, etc. Someone who likes to tan, and pose in designer clothes on girls night out with pucked lips will, from experience, hate the work and realize too late that I didn’t make up all of the non-sit-in-the-office-making-spreadsheet tasks, which make up the majority of the work.
    I also think that the recession eliminated alot of the jobs where you get paid alot to sit at a computer and key in and process data and are considered advanced in Excel if you can make a pivot table, and aren’t really expected to make difficult decisions. Maybe we r expecting too much, IDK.

    1. Rana*

      I have to say I find your assumptions rather strange and uncharitable, though I get the basic idea that you can perhaps discern “fit” from how one presents oneself online. I mean, if you’re looking for someone to represent the local PETA chapter, the guy who shares pictures of himself posing with his latest trophy deer probably won’t be your ideal candidate.

      But I guess I just don’t see what those particular and very shallow traits you’re describing – having a tan, dressing up for a night out with your friends, making silly flirty faces because you’re young and having fun – have to do with being able to work hard and take your not-so-glamorous job seriously. My sister-in-law, for example, looks like a fashionista sorority girl in her FB photos, but she is whip-smart, incredibly hard-working, generous and friendly, and everyone she’s worked for raves about her.

      It seems to me that the problem lies with the other aspects of your screening process, if you’re attracting candidates who think your position is glamorous in the first place (what’s the job title, for example? “Data entry processor” is no one’s idea of an exciting jet-setting career), and not identifying them as a skills-mismatch during the interview process. If their background isn’t in the sorts of practical, un-glamorous skills you need for the job, why are they even being hired?

      (I don’t mean to come off so harshly; it just strikes me personally as odd that what someone looks like on Facebook – just their looks, not even their activities – seems to count more in your hiring process than other more relevant factors. Surely there are more effective ways to solve this problem?)

  40. Anonymous*

    I’ve been looking up anyone who submits a viable resume on the Internet since Amazon was a text-based site and Altavista was the hot new search engine, and I assume that people are looking me up. Anyone who thinks it doesn’t happen is deluding themselves. I do it partly because it helps me get to know a little bit about somone beforehand and partly because I was born with the curiosity gene. If I’m being interviewed and know the interviewer’s name, I’ll look them up ahead of time. Hiring and job hunting is hard, and I’d be a fool not to use all the resources at my disposal.

  41. BCW*

    For me, I’ve realized that I think it depends on what you are looking at to get this information. If you are looking at their LinkedIn to find out all sorts of professional things that can relate to the job, I have no problem with that. Even if you google them and find that they have a blog and you check it out, thats fine since it could very well have to do with their level of knowledge on certain topics which again could impact their job performance. But once you start with Facebook, I think that is crossing the line to snooping on their personal life. That to me isn’t right. Unless the person brings their personal life into work, I don’t think work should go looking into it because they are 2 very separate things.

  42. AG*

    Alison, I agree with your response to the OP. Any suggestions on how s/he could respond to the boss and possibly sway boss’s opinion about the subject? Or better to let it go?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d say it totally depends on her role, her relationship with the boss, and what the boss is like. If she has a role where it makes sense for her to have input into this kind of thing and a decent relationship with her boss (and the boss is fairly reasonable), she could say something like, “It’s actually a really common thing to do — I read a survey that said 77% of employers do it, and there aren’t legal issues with it unless we’re judging people based on race, religion, etc.”

      1. Orig Poster*

        First I would like to thank everyone for commenting! I have really enjoyed reading them and think the issue is interesting. And thank you Alison for all of your advice, ideas, and comments. I surely feel vindicated.

        As for discrimination, I agree that it does not happen in a vacuum, and if a potential employer is going to discriminate, they are going to discriminate. Period. At what point in the hiring or not-hiring process that occurs is kind of irrelevant. The fact that people discriminate based on race, religion, etc. is a far bigger issue.

        I do not think that employers should self-censor and ignore the vast amount of information on the internet for the sake of preserving someone’s privacy (yes, this was also brought up in the original conversation). You can’t make something public and then demand privacy, that is ludicrous. It’s the nature of the times to look people up online, and for the better, as Alison pointed out. I want prospective employers to Google me so they can find my website and Linkedin page! The whole thing really seems like a no-brainer to me, but since this is my first time “hiring” (I actually do not have the final say-I am just the “internship mgr.”), I started doubting myself especially when greeted with such resistance from everyone else.

        Yes it is a tiny company. And my role is lowest on the totem pole of a whopping 5 employees. I did argue my point-that I thought it was standard practice to do this. But was shut down completely- “not okay to do it.”

        It’s the internet people, it’s fair game!

        Also wanted to mention that my boss referred to “her friend in HR” who “only Googles people after the first interview.” My response to this was that if the company is large enough to have an entire HR dept. (as opposed to our tiny office), then it’s probably a matter of practicality rather than ethics there. Anyone have thoughts or ideas on WHEN in the hiring process is “standard” to look people up?

  43. bluefish*

    Question for hiring managers / recruiters out there….. Do you ever wonder if you know for sure that you have the correct person when you suspect you have found the candidate on the internet? Or is this easy to know (I don’t have FB)? I ask because I have a super popular name, and live in a big city; if you google my name and city there will be pages and pages of potential me’s (but I’m not one of them ). Does a situation like this come across as obvious? When I’ve applied for jobs in the past I was always curious as to how many of these pages were being looked at by hiring managers thinking that it was me when it wasn’t…….

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You can often tell because of context — it mentions their job or their city or other cues that tell you it’s the same person. When you don’t have any of those cues, you generally can’t be sure.

  44. donbab*

    Just wanted to point out that I have seen a qualified candidate not called for an interview because of an online photo depicting the person as obese. I have heard HR staff make generalizations based on online search information that were not at all relevant to the candidate’s ability to perform the job. Anyhow, the viewer of the candidate’s information, by human nature, may not be able to be 100% objective (not sure anyone can be). Judgements are made, whether relevant to the person’s job skills or not.
    A young recruiter I worked with preferred to pass through the resumes of the male college grads who appeared to be single vs those who were viewed in photo posing with a female.
    There are not controls in place in many small companies to prevent this type of ridiculous behavior.
    Oh, my last manager at previous job pulled me aside one day to show me a photo on what he believed was my Facebook page. It wasn’t me nor was it my page – this person just happened to have the same name. I don’t even know why I was questioned about the way too revealing photo/inappropriate photo. It clearly was not me – physical appearance, education, etc.

  45. Cassie*

    I don’t have a problem with googling a potential candidate. If it’s out there on the internet, what’s to stop them?

    As for potential discrimination issues, if a hiring manager or HR person wants to discriminate, they’ll find ways to do it. It doesn’t have to be a photo of the applicant or finding out what religion the person ascribes to. You could be rejected simply because your first name begins with an M and the hiring manager has an irrational fear of people whose name begins with an M.

    If you come across a hiring manager that rejects you for some trivial matter (e.g. he/she is a cat person and your facebook photo shows you with your dog), you’re probably better off not working there in the first place.

  46. LoveMyCat*

    A hiring agency gave my resume to a potential employer. The potential employer “Googled” my name. A picture of a convicted felon pops up with my same first and last name. The middle name was different but my middle name does not appear on my resume. The potential employer didn’t believe the hiring agency even though there is a 15 year difference between me and the felon. No one should consider “Googling” a potential candidate unless they are absolutely sure they have the correct person. Background checks should be done by a reputable agency. Everything you see on the internet is not necessarily true!

  47. Jacqueline*

    There is someone in my city with the same name as me (at least first and last, not sure about the first). When you google my First Name + Last Name + City, her mugshot pops up! It doesn’t help that we are extremely close in age. Is there anything I can do about this? I have no idea if this has affected my job search at all. Obviously when I show up I prove that I am not the same person, but what if they’re not calling me because they find this person’s mugshot?

    1. Jacqueline*

      *Sorry, that second “first” in the parentheses is supposed to say middle, not first!

  48. I disagree*

    I feel it was wrong of the person to google a person before an interview or before hiring and I agree with her boss that it is unethical and colors the perception of good candidates. I think it is unethical to follow a practice just because it is a trend and everybody else is doing it. If you see a person jumping off the bridge, would you do it too? I would first ask all the questions before committing to any act following another person to make sure it is the right choice for me.

    I also disagree what you said about her bosses not knowing what they are doing as to pass judgement; I mean really, what does that say about you? You are no better than the bosses having and upholding to certain standards, I mean at least they have standards. It also makes me wonder what type of people are willing to pass up good candidates just because of the color of their skin or they don’t like the way a person looks all because of a picture that shows up on a google search. Do you expect us to believe that because you are hiring managers that you do right and are ethical when taking certain measures into hiring? I really do think since your first articles you think you really have it down on how life really is, and therefore I bet you are just the type of hiring manager people would like to avoid; very unfair and unjust. In fact, I will take it a step further and judge you in saying you are probably a person I would never like to associate with because of your unjust practices. I know one thing is for sure, the people that hiring managers hire are the ones hiding the most about themselves…which usually turns out to be not so good. Can you say hiring a murder or molester? Can you say hiring a non dependable person? That’s really why you continue to have a job as hiring managers because it seems you just never get it right due to your unjust and insane hiring tactics. You think google and private invasion is safe practice, just like many people thought the internet and their emails were safe, and then you soon realize you followed stupidly behind a group just because “everybody else is doing it”. You will learn later, just like the people buying solely electronic cars; you will get jacked full blown and looking silly with no way to recover.

    1. I disagree*

      Also wanted to add, yes an employer can discriminate once the interview comes about, but get this, some people are very good at what they do and are persuasive and can wow they pants off of the most unpersuaded. That means, when you do a google search and you automatically pass judgement on some stupid pictures or some information that doesn’t examining the whole picture of truth, you automatically take away a person’s right to “WOW” you before they even get to the interview point, and giving their opportunity to somebody else you “think” is a better candidate. So yes I highly agree with the employee’s bosses and coworkers that a google search does ultimately color the perception of a person and yes discrimination is there, but given the opportunity can be changed with a sincerely great candidate. So ultimately it’s not right to take their chances away through something as mundane as a google search or pre- screening through the internet.

  49. I disagree*

    ALSO, yes I have something else to say, like it or not. I know a guy who is as… how do you say, average looking as any guy I know, and probably has a decent profile in regards to online search. Needless to say, this guy has hit up EVERY dating site you could imagine and does so as soooon as he gets hired to any company and stays on them all day during work hours, enough to warrant many complaints (law firm my father works at). My gripe? He gets hired just with the snap of my finger to ANY company and he gets let go because of his addiction to online dating and pervin women’s pics. He passes google inspection with flying colors lol and I assume hiring managers pat themselves on the back until they connect with him on one of the dating sites he tends to smoooze all over lmao.

    My thing is this, if google is such a hot way of screening candidates before hire, how they hell and why the hell do they hire perverts like this dude? I know of him through my father, but upon meeting him he even says himself that hiring managers are a bunch of …I’ll just say he makes it seem like you guys don’t know how to do your job regardless if you have pre-screens on your side because he thinks he’s so slick at getting away with it. He gets fired though and then he gets a job just like *SNAP* again, so I guess he is slick because he sure does fool a lot of you guys. And before you start, no his work isn’t that good, but I think his one attraction might be that he is willing to stay late to produce mediocre work lol and that’s about it. I say replace all hiring managers…

  50. Fable*

    I share the same name of someone that is a drug trafficker and it shows up on the first page. Horrible. My background check is clean.

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