Hiring managers have a lot of homework to do. Background and reference checks have become absolutely necessary steps in hiring today for a variety of reasons, which we’ve previously discussed. One way many employers are getting the access they need to uncensored information on candidates is with the internet. Especially where the job pool is largely college graduates, the internet can be a great tool for applicant screening.
But the information superhighway doesn’t come with a road map and employers may not know exactly how to navigate the internet when it’s being used as a hiring tool. When William W. Bowser and I spoke about this issue last week in an audioconference, there was a significant amount of interest in a tutorial on the ins and outs of performing background checks online. We’re happy to oblige.
Here is a run-down of the two of the way you can use Google for doing your own, online investigation of potential candidates.
What: Google is the most popular search engine in town. It’s actually quite a bit more than that, but you can check out our video tutorials on the other ways to use Google. But, for this purpose, Google is just about as self-explanatory as they come.
How: The quintessential websearch tool, just about everyone knows how to search via Google.com. In short form, all you need to do is direct your web browser to www.google.com. In the search box, type the name of your candidate. Run a search for every iteration of the candidate’s name. For example, if you were going to search Bill Bowser, you’d use that version of his name, but also, “William Bowser”, “William W. Bowser”, and even “Bowser, Esq.” Be sure to use quotation marks to ensure you don’t return search results for all websites that include the word “William.”
What You’ll Find: Of course, it all depends on the candidate, but Google is likely to turn up more favorable results than unfavorable ones. Sports achievements commonly show up in a Google search, for example. For younger candidates, the results are likely to be limited in number and will most often be directly from a local newspaper or school publication.
When to Use It: If you use it at all, Google is an excellent place to start when searching for public information on candidates. It’s also a good tool for gathering data that the candidate would proudly tell you if given the opportunity.
What: Well, since you’re reading this via our blog, I’ll assume you have a basic understanding of the concept. But for the sake of equality with Nos. 1 and 3, I’ll give a little summary. “Blog” is a combination of the words “Web” and “Log.” Blogs began mostly as personal journals (or logs) maintained by individuals and used as a way to communicate their daily adventures to friends and family. But, as the phenomenon has caught on, blogs are maintained by an enormous spectrum of individuals and entities for an even larger variety of purposes. There are enough blogs that your candidates may be bloggers themselves, providing you with direct access to their uncensored opinions and commentary.
How: The easiest way to search for blogs online is to use Google’s blogsearch tool. Basically, you’re just doing a Google search but limiting the results to blog posts. This can be done either direct from the Google home page by selecting “more” from the list at the top left side of the window, and then by selecting “Blogs” from the drop-down list that appears. Alternatively, just go directly to http://blogsearch.google.com.
What You’ll Find: You may find a blog hosted by the candidate, a blog post written by the candidate for someone else’s blog, or a blog post about the candidate. Any of these three are likely to give you meaningful insight into the candidate’s personality, opinions, and, if nothing else, their communication skills. For example, if hiring for a customer-service representative, an employer may have concerns about a candidate who uses an extraordinary amount of profanity throughout his posts. Another serious red flag is an applicant who uses derogatory terms or expresses anger or hate towards any group. This behavior should be major concerns to employers who want to avoid liability for discrimination and harassment. It can also be indicative of violent tendencies. And, given the fact that nearly $2 million American workers are victims of workplace violence every year, this must be a concern for employers, as well.