According to a recent survey, 48% of employers have a policy of Googling candidates before making a hiring decision.
But what is it they’re looking for exactly? Are they only concerned with bad online behavior, or are there proactive things a job seeker can do to make themselves stand out in search?
I wanted real talk on this issue, so I interviewed actual HR professionals about their experiences.
Googling for Negative Nellies
We all know that Googling candidates has a bit to do with weeding out the “crazies,” but according to this professional, dealbreakers found on Google are often more subtle than a criminal record.
She also describes a time that a candidate’s search results positioned them above the competition.
“When I find a potential candidate on a job board, the next place I look to find more information about them is on LinkedIn. After I can verify what they look like and their information, I will then do a Google search. Some of the jobs I work require me to check the candidate’s social media sites before submitting them.
If I come across something inappropriate, I won’t submit you for the job, even if you’re a good candidate otherwise. Speaking negatively about other people or about your current or previous company, for example, is an automatic red flag.
One example of a positive search that stands out to me was when I Googled an HR candidate and saw that they had made a video detailing the job description and requirements of a current opening for their company. This is not something the HR manager was required to do, but it showed initiative and helped the company find and reach more qualified candidates.”
— Tracey Russell, National Recruiter at Naviga Recruiting & Executive Search
Googling to Get a Feel for the Person
An HR professional who works for a television network talks about the importance of a job candidate’s online photos to give HR a vibe about who they are.
“I work in Human Resources for a television network. Here’s what I’ll say: I’d be more alarmed if I didn’t find any photos about someone in this digital age.
At a minimum a LinkedIn or other social network should have a photo of some kind. To be honest, authenticity is an important and even a photo that you wish wasn’t available online may help convey an aspect of your personality that a recruiter would like to see.
My advice? Make sure there are images of yourself available when that inevitable Internet search happens.”
— Glen Loveland, HR Manager at CCTV
Googling for a Technical Hire
A recruiter who hires software developers explains her process Googling candidates.
“If I’m lucky, the candidate will showcase his or her work on a personal website or an open source platform like GitHub.
I’m also curious and want to see who they follow on Twitter in the tech community and it is an excellent conversation starter in our initial interview. I’m looking for software developers who have a passion for learning and take the initiative to learn a new skill.
When I bring in a candidate for an in-person interview, 90% of the time, I already know if an individual is the right fit for our organization and it absolutely impacts our final decision.”
— Sarah Longwell, Technical Hiring Manager at Solution Street
Googling for a Marketing Hire
A recruiter who finds candidates for marketing/sales roles explains why candidates must have a strong, positive social media presence.
“We only look to hire folks in [marketing/sales] roles once or twice a year.
When I’m Googling someone, I look to see if they have made themselves searchable. If they have, they likely know a thing or two about marketing and selling themselves, which is one of the indicators I look for when recruiting candidates.
I require each of my intern candidates to have a social media profile. If they don’t have one, they don’t have skills I’m looking to help shape, and I assume they’re hiding something.
If I can’t find any social media profiles for my candidates, I throw out their resumes, especially because I state up front that they must have at least one to be considered for the role. Then, once I find the account, if they are conducting themselves in a positive light, I’d consider them for an interview.”
— Adam Bockler, Communications Manager at Float
So there you have it. If you’re a job seeker, you need to be prepared to have your name Googled.
According to the professionals we interviewed, the best you can do is avoid negative speak on your social media accounts and make photos of yourself available that give a positive vibe.
No matter what your profession, take a tip from the recruiters for technical or marketing roles, and be sure to have solid proof of your expertise available online to position yourself above the competition.