Can I Google Search a Potential Hire?

Shawnee Love   •   April 11, 2019

The most heated discussion I have ever witnessed between HR people was on the topic of whether to google an applicant.

The debaters had polar opposite opinions.  I have taken the liberty of summarizing their reasons:

The No Side

Privacy: It is a breach of privacy if the candidate didn’t share his or her profiles with you.

Ethics and Legal Concerns: It risks Human Rights violations if you find out information regarding the person or his/her situation (e.g., mental and physical health status, race, religion, colour, sexual identity, pregnancy, drug use, etc.) and that information despite being unrelated to job performance causes you not to hire the person

Fairness:  Mistaken identity can easily occur.  If you don’t hire someone because of what you see online and it turns out it wasn’t them, that is unfair (and potentially a loss to your organization).

The Yes  Side

Fear of Guilt by Association:  If it is online and publicly accessible and you hire the person, your company may become associated. Great if the candidate’s reputation is stellar, but terrible if the person has done or said awful stuff.

Insight into Character:  We hire the whole person, so it pays to know who all we are hiring.  Evidence of poor judgment online can be the tip of the iceberg. Do you really want to invite a problem into your organization?

Risk Reduction: Missing out on someone who could be good because of what you see online is less risky than hiring someone who could be bad because you didn’t look online.

Communication Skills: Communicating is required in almost every job.  Online communications while typically casual, show you how the person comes across in their natural state, i.e., after probation is completed.

Social Networking:  Social media posts and the volume of likes and connections demonstrate how well someone does as social networking. If that is a responsibility of the job, doing a google search is pretty much a necessity.

Although I wasn’t one of the debaters, I lean to the Yes side.  Certainly their are risks if done inappropriately, but it is my opinion that for an ethical employer, the risks are far greater of ignoring social media as a source of information.  Any questions, we are here to help!