Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Do You Know Who's Googling You?

Update 4/21/09 at ReadWriteWeb, Marshall Kirkpatrick reports on Google Profile
a service whereby people can go in and alter their google results. But, as Kirkpatrick points out, do we really want to give Google more information about us then they already have?? and it's not going to help us track who's searching our identities online anyway. So, we just have to get used to the fact that we're really not going to know exactly who's searching our names daily. And, even if we could find that info out, how much of our privacy might we be willing to give up for that info? IMO, I'm fine with paradoxes and mysteries in life.

Update 4/30/08If you want to know what kinds of stuff you've put online can be found by Google or any other search engine, go to this most recent post

Most of us don't think about who might be searching us online. Most of us don't even bother to Google our own names to find out what might come up in search. The thing is, most employers, most people who meet us at networking events, and lots of folks who get wind of us one place or another are certainly searching our names and finding out all sorts of stuff online. Some of it might be right, some of it wrong, and some of it they shouldn't be seeing at all. So, tonight at 7pm, I'll be doing a talk on e-Networking and online profile at Bay Path College out here in Longmeadow, MA. This talk is free and open to the public...

I'm very pleased that Bay Path is giving me this opportunity and that they recognize that their students, if not prepared, might end up losing opportunities with never knowing the reason why. I was more convinced of this after hearing John Bell from Ogilvy mention during a panel at We Media Miami that Ogilvy routinely looks at Facebook profiles--for both headhunting and applicant screening.

Yet it's one of those factors that's not mentioned--and I'm sure no human resources person is going to tell you that you weren't the ideal candidate because of that drunken puking picture on Facebook....

That's not the way human resources does things.

Actually, I'm pretty horrified that a routine legal background check is no longer the only means an employer might use to find out information about an applicant. I'm sickened that they feel a need to go rummaging around in the underwear drawers of our social media profiles--something most of us are under the impression are private. But, if we allow those profiles (as well as our blogs, etc.) into search, then we're putting them out there as public info. It all seems like a nasty game of Gotcha!: when it comes to search and the Internet, many employers know how to exploit the ignorance of potential employees.

Many of my Silicon Valley insider friends feel that, if there's a critical mass of personal information out there, eventually employers won't care about the degree of personal information they find. Well, thing is, Internet life moves faster out in the Silicon Valley, and there are pockets, like where I live in Western Mass, that aren't going to change their conservative ways any time in the near future (when you might need a job.)

Better to know what's going on--know what employers are doing, and how to leverage social media to help you get a job, not disqualify you from it.

See you tonight in Longmeadow!

Update Mike Ho's article Should you research job candidates at social networking sites? notes that of a recent survey by the Society for Human Resources Mgt, rought 20 percent of those companies answering the survye admitted that "they had disqualified at least one candidate based on information that was found" on social networking sites. And while there may not currently be any suits against companies for not hiring someone due to their soc. networking profile, the chances are this is because H.R. departments either outsource the research or simply won't tell you that they were indeed poking around in there. How can someone sue if they're never told the truth??


Anonymous said...

Hi Tish, this isn't uncommon at all. I did a little piece on it here.

People really do need to be conscientious about what they put out there.

Tish Grier said...

Thanks for the link to your article, Mike! It's really great--and I'm moving it out to the main blog post. It's bad enough that we have to deal with interviews that sometimes are more like personal life fishing expeditions--now we have this to worry about as well. And you know what? none of it's a guarantee that they're going to get the *best* candidate because they'll often hire someone who's "referred" to them by a "friend."

Wendell Dryden said...

It's kindda like living in a small town again - LOL.

I'm thinking we need some kind of statute of limitations or "young offenders" act that will prevent grown-ups from being punished for their teenage years.

As you noted earlier, the internet is a "sticky" place.

Tish Grier said...

oh, I totally agree! but how weird is it when your "small town" extends all over the globe? gives whole new meaning to the term "global village"...

and yes, we really shouldn't hold what young people do against them--esp. if what they're doing isn't illegal, just stupid. We *all* have done stupid stuff--just that most of the time we never run into people who are going to tell our employers about our stupid stuff. In many ways, all this "openness" is turning us into proto-Victorians who have to cultivate strong boundaries between our public and private personnas. Sheesh!

Anonymous said...

This is indeed an important subject. Especially for today's 20-somethings who grew up with Facebook being a safe environment ONLY for their eyes. The fact that now it's open to the world changes things dramatically. And because the electrons can move at a zillion miles per hour, one has to expect that anything that is put on the internet, no matter how remote a corner, has the potential to be propagated beyond the original spot.

On the plus side, I know that as an employer, I'm in the minority, but I accept that people are human beings and like to have fun. I totally "get" that people cut loose, and like to display their fun side on Facebook and would not discriminate based on anything that happens there. What is done on personal time is none of my business, even if I find out about it. And I believe that the trends are going this direction, even though it might be decades before this attitude becomes the norm. Small businesses run by human beings are where it's happening. Faceless corporate intolerant behemoths are so twentieth-century.

For the future, I think we're going to see more blurring, and hopefully more controls, between personal and business personas. Some people (nutcases like myself) don't mind having little or no separation between personal and business online identities, while others want to maintain privacy and distinct personas. One of my online friends recently created a second twitter account for only personal tweets.

I also just took a photo of an online friend who I met in person, who showed off his tattoos. I asked him if he didn't mind that I provide links to the photo. He didn't mind having it out there on Facebook, and having people know about it since he doesn't hide the fact, but he also didn't want it broadcast to the masses on the well-read blogs in his field. I totally get and respect that. That's an extremely important part of this equation: asking permission before putting it "out there".

Thanks for bringing up this topic Tish, and I'm sorry I missed your talk on this important subject!

Tish Grier said...

Hi Morriss! and thanks for your very thoughtful comments...

I totally agree that employers should look at the stuff and if there's no discussion of illegal activity, not worry about it--consider a lot of that kind of stuff just a "letting off steam" so to say.

We *all do crazy things--it's just that young people will talk about them more than us older folks. We should always listen to what others have to say about the person, and realize that the young person has things to learn about the world of business (as school life and business life are two different worlds.)

Something I've noticed is that among entrepreneurs there's more of a blurring--and I'd certainly put you in the entrepreneur category!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I saw this coming and nothing I do online is tied back to my real name or location. Being a privacy freak back cypherpunk and the like were popular I probably saved myself a lot of grief.