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The Hiring Manager’s Best Friend : Google Your Way to the Best Executive

By: Katy Caudle, Director of Research

 “Always be, never appear to be”. Sage advice from my mother that elicited groans as a teenager, but that I can now appreciate fully in the executive search world, where it is particularly applicable. How you presentGoogle Watching yourself should always be the best – but still factually accurate – version of yourself, and as fact-checkers go, there is none better than Google. As a hiring manager, Google can be your best friend. It’s an extremely useful tool to gain a broad picture of a candidate, often beyond the office.

Though we provide detailed appraisals of candidates, we assume that the internet will prove too enticing to our clients, and that they will not be able to resist a brief internet search on any potential executive. A recent survey shows that 89% of hiring managers Google candidates and 86% admit that a positive online reputation influences their hiring decision.

You can assume too that at some point, every executive has “ego-surfed”, so they know what the internet says about them and what a hiring manager will find.  As an employer, here’s how to use those search results to separate the ordinary candidate from the extraordinary:

• The candidate’s online persona matches their resume: Congratulations on finding a candidate who has nothing to hide and is paying attention to their reputation from all angles. This executive says they personally won that marketing award, and a quick search doesn’t pull up someone else’s name. This candidate has likely taken the time to ensure that their online presentation is a clear and honest representation and that if anything, it enhances what they have to offer (perhaps they didn’t list that Top 40 under 40 award on their CV).  This will soon be even easier to do as Google changes their algorithms to promote editable personal page results like Google+.

• There are multiple people with their name: This is often the case with more common names, but a savvy executive should have found a way to take ownership of their name and build their “brand” so they are findable in a Google search. I will be the first to admit that this can be an uphill battle for an individual, especially when your name twin is, like mine, a Miss America pageant title holder. (Go ahead, Google “Katy Caudle”, I’ll wait.) An extraordinary candidate has done interviews on his or her areas of expertise, held leadership positions in volunteer organizations, or used social media to their advantage to make them stand out among all the other guys named John Schmidt. If all else fails, did they include a middle name, initial, or maiden name on their CV? Maybe John Schmidt knew his name was forgettable, but he threw that “Jacob Jingleheimer” into the mix and suddenly everyone knew his name…

• Something doesn’t quite add up: Occasionally, an executive will tell us one thing while a basic internet search reveals another. It doesn’t happen often, but be wary of the candidate who said he or she was a banking executive in 2007 if a local news video from that year pops up about them owning a retail store. Check their resume against their LinkedIn profile; it seems obvious that they would match, having been created by the same person, but it is not always so. I once interviewed a candidate who told me her last position was a three month internship, but her LinkedIn profile showed she was a short-tenured but very full-time employee of that company. And occasionally, you might come across a candidate who bends the truth on basic, easily Google-able facts, like whether they actually completed that MBA or the weather. A candidate in North Texas told me he hadn’t been responsive because a nasty storm had flooded his house. A quick search proved that as I (a fellow Texan) suspected, Amarillo was just as bone-dry as Houston during the worst drought in decades. As ahiring manager, an internet search can help fill in the gaps when something just doesn’t feel right. If nothing else, it provides great fodder for interview questions.

• You discover something less than savory: An extraordinary candidate will know it is best to bring the situation to light before he or she gets too far into the process with you. In the early 2000s, we had a candidate come highly recommended for a finance position. Upon calling him, he said he was interested in the role, but asked that we Google him before taking any further steps. If the client wasn’t interested after that, he understood. As it turned out, he had been indicted in the wake of the recent Enron scandal. Our client couldn’t take on that risk at the time. However, the executive’s poise and candor up front gave him greater credibility. We’ve contacted him about other opportunities or referrals in the decade since, knowing that he will be honest with us and we can speak positively of his character, despite what it says on the internet. Within reason and the law, it is okay to ask about something you saw online if it would affect their work or your organization.

Even if you suspect that your findings may preclude you from hiring the candidate, if you have any smidge of doubt, it’s worth asking about in an interview. Perhaps the local news captured their title incorrectly, or while that court record online does list your potential executive’s name, a deeper dive shows they were only called to testify and not under investigation themselves. Unlike most search results that can be edited with a change of privacy settings, things like those are much more difficult to control.  And as they say, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet.