Should You Google Candidates Before Their Interviews?

Googling candidates before an interview is a tricky subject.

On the one hand, applicants ought to be held responsible for the digital footprint they put down. If an applicant has been posting racist rants, for instance, you definitely want to know about it. Or, if a candidate has gone through the trouble of creating a pristine website and social media presence, you want to know that as well.

On the other hand, companies that screen applicants in this manner could be opening themselves up to charges of discrimination. Also, Googling applicants could lead to bias in the hiring process and a critical lack of diversity.

Research has shown that being able to determine an applicant’s gender or race can affect their chances of getting an interview and getting hired. For instance, one study showed that resumes with traditionally African-American names at the top were much less likely to get an interview than applicants with traditional white, European names.

In light of this study, and others like it, companies have been taking significant steps to eliminate bias from their process. One approach is to have names redacted from resumes before they are screened, to eliminate the possibility of a name giving away gender or race. Googling candidates would most likely expose their race, nationality, gender and other qualities.

Clearly, companies must tread carefully when using Google and social websites to screen prospective employees. The laws covering online prescreening methods are still very much in their infancy, but there has been some recent legal developments in this area, and more regulations are expected to be on the way.

Know the Laws

While it isn’t against the law to identify and screen candidates using Google and social websites, how and when you get information on them, in addition to the way you use it, can cause some difficulties.

There are resources for employers looking for a primer on what they can and cannot do regarding the googling of applicants, such as the resources at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Companies are in a particularly precarious position when they perform an online search too soon in the process, especially before determining if an applicant should be brought in for an interview. Social websites and personal websites can reveal what the EEOC calls “protected characteristics,” like gender and race. If you acquire this kind of information ahead of a face-to-face interview, you have to make certain you have a standardized interview process that is applied equally and uniformly to all interviewees.

While Google is an important and useful tool, it is essential your organization has properly trained persons committed to using it in a legal manner. It also may be a good idea to have legal counsel stay on top of the regulations and direct your organization on best practices as these laws change.

Let Us Help Your Company Find and Screen Job Candidates

At Superior Resource Group, we are committed to helping our clients find best-fit job candidates for their open positions. If you are currently looking for a talent acquisition partner, please contact us today.


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