Further Questions: Do You Google Job Candidates?

I seem to finally have gotten rid of it, but for a while whenever I Googled my own name I’d get Emily Weak – Who Pooped? (a “science for kids and grown-ups too” type blog I wrote for a former workplace).  I know I’m not the only person who wonders if overwhelmed hiring managers are really taking some of their precious time to investigate candidates on the internet, so this week I asked people who hire librarians:

Do you Google job candidates?  Or look for them on social media, or do any other sort of online sleuthing/informal background check/personal curiosity assuaging?

Terry Ann Lawler

I have never done that, but expect that others do.

– Terry Lawler, Assistant Manager and Children’s Librarian, Palo Verde Branch, Phoenix Public Library
Not in the past, but now that you have given us the idea :-{)}
One should never post or send anything via e-mail one does not wish known.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

I just about never Google job candidates. I like to rely on their resume, cover letter, and usually a phone interview these days. The only time I think I ever would sleuth out outside information about a candidate is if I had a nagging feeling or question about the person after examining all the above mentioned tradition sources. I think I have only done this twice ever, and I have been on many search committees.
It isn’t that I am old fashioned, and certainly we as employers have a right to know what we are getting. But it’s more that really strange things can pop up in Google, including getting a different person with the same name. Also, I think that we put a lot of ,maybe innocent, but personal things on our Facebook pages that really have nothing to do with our professional lives. Someone might “like” a particular political candidate on Facebook, or discuss a club or religious affiliation. Is this something that could be held against a candidate unfairly? I believe so. I think that would should rely on the candidate’s veracity on his/her resume, and definitely check references.
If one can Google someone completely out of curiosity and not let it affect their professional judgement about the person’s candidacy, then go for it. But I’m afraid that that isn’t always possible, so I think it is best to err on the side of sticking with the professional.

– Sharon Britton, Library Director, BGSU – Firelands

I only look at a candidate’s social media if it is an integral part of their application process, or if they mention it frequently. I will only Google a candidate if something comes up in the interview that makes me think it might be useful. I use an agency to screen applicants, so I might do more background checking if we didn’t have that safeguard in place.

– Jaye Lapachet, Manager of Library Services, Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP

Dusty Snipes GresWell, yes. I Google, look on social media, check newspapers from the area, I am a librarian. I research. And, if I find surprises, I ask for further info. Everyone has a bad day, or a bad boss sometime — just be up front. I have found that I appreciate and value the honesty and candor of the applicant much more than the questionable letter to the editor about the candidate’s habit of Friday night karaoke at the Dew Drop Inn!

– Dusty Gres, Director, Ohoopee Regional Library System

Marge Loch-WoutersI don’t investigate candidates through social media or google although I know lots of my younger colleagues – and even co-workers – do. I want candidates to sell me on their bona fides. We have a rigorous interview process that includes essay questions and a pre-skype interview that really narrows our field and reveals who has the smarts, stamina and skills and talents that best match our position.

In terms of social media, if they don’t list blogs or tumblrs, I figure it’s their business. People need a place to let their hair down.  I find that a strong social media presense or google hit list reveals far more about a person’s ability to “float to the top of attention” rather than be an awesome day-to-day co-worker and savvy librarian.

– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library

Marleah AugustineI hire part-time support staff, for the most part. I do not do any online sleuthing; however, I do typically check if the person has a library card with us. It’s not a dealbreaker by any means if they do not have a card, or if they have bills, but it gives me an idea about if the person has been to the library at least prior to applying. It sometimes helps actually if they don’t have a card with us, because then one of their first on-the-job training experiences can be making their own card!

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library


Nicola FranklinAs a recruiter I often search for prospective candidates online – most often on LinkedIn, Twitter and also on the library listserves and other library-specific forums.  I only rarely do a general Google search on someone.  My reasons for looking are twofold:

1) to see whether the person has been professionally active (starting LinkedIn discussions, membership of library groups on LInkedIn, contribution to library-related conversations on Twitter or on the discussion lists, etc)

2) to see how the person communicates and puts their views forward in their profesional life and outside of an interview situation (in a reasoned, professional way or with evidence of bitterness or unprofessional behaviour (such as personal attacks))

Employers have to be careful about how they carry out online searches of potential candidates and how they use the information they find out.  It is very easy to get led into making hiring decisions based on unverified, biased or discriminatory information.

Having said that, people also have to be careful of what they post online.  I recently interviewed someone who had been fired from her position for posting on Facebook that she didn’t like her boss and wanted to change jobs – one of her ‘friends’ told her boss about the posting.

These days what you say about yourself, your profession and your ideas, in all of the online fora taken together, creates a major part of your reputation.  This is very important in how (or whether) you get hired.  Even deciding not to participate makes a certain kind of statement and could lead some employers to be less keen to interview you (or visa versa, of course).

Whether each individual wants to be a part of the digital communication world is of course up to them, but I believe it’s important to be aware of the impression that decision makes on others, so that you can make an informed choice of whether, and how, to participate.

– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Thank YOU for reading!  As always, your comments are amber waves of grain.

*edited 3/4/2013 to add in Nicola Franklin’s answer


Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public

12 responses to “Further Questions: Do You Google Job Candidates?

  1. I Need A Job

    I’m curious, Ms. Augustine mentioned looking to see if the applicant had a library card with them. I’ve wondered about that, and whether they look at what you’ve checked out and take that into consideration…


    • We don’t keep any checkout history of patrons, so there is no way for us to see what they’ve checked out in the past, unless they had a bill on it in that case. I may glance through bills just to see if I’m going to be interviewing someone who has cost us several hundreds of dollars in replacement fees, but I don’t think that’s ever been the case. 🙂 I rarely look at titles; I honestly am pretty indifferent about what people check out, as the job requires. So in our case, no, I don’t look at checkout history. I simply use library card information as evidence that the person has in fact been in the library previously.


      • I Need A Job

        Good to know I can keep reading my silly romance novels 😉 I see you are more involved in the hiring of part-time paraprofessionals; that is exactly the job I am looking for, but have had no luck. I meet the requirments, but still no interviews for the page & circulation clerk jobs I have applied for. Can you give some insight to what they are *really* looking for?? I have a college degree (biology & education) and worked in research before staying home to raise my kids (during which time I volunteered in the elementary school). I now want to be in a different field that allows me to work part-time. I have tried to show how my previous work & volunteering has given me tranferrable skills, but it doesn’t seem to be working. What can I do to improve my chances?


      • One of my colleagues sometimes expresses a concern that folks might be overqualified and won’t be happy in a part-time job over the long term. That is not my personal opinion, but it is something that you may run into. Also, it may be a matter of numbers – the last time we had a couple of job openings, we received over 100 applications and it was very tough to narrow them down. It may come down to scheduling availability and if you are not available during the hours that they need staff. It sounds like you are doing all the right things; I do think it’s a very tough market right now. Best of luck to you!


  2. anonymous

    I’m “fascinated* by the fact that so many answered no!


  3. not_a_robot

    I would like to hear from hiring managers about if they check out an applicants web portfolio, and why or why not. I always include the url to my portfolio, but my analytics say that they are not checking it.


  4. If I were given a web portfolio address, I’d check it, but I have yet to see one — but we don’t get much of that here in our public library. I don’t check social networking sites or search candidates on Google, although I probably should…


  5. In a funny turn of events, I recently learned that a job candidate googled *me* before their interview, and actually found me on this blog! So, they got some insight as to how I interview and the process, and it gave them a bit of an edge. It works both ways!


  6. Christina George

    Reblogged this on The Treasure Trove and commented:
    How many times must we be cautioned about our social (media) lives…? And how often we forget…


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