It’s so easy, so tempting, to "Google" candidates as part of the hiring process. But, as Tamara Russell (an attorney with Barran Lebman LLP) told the RIMS conference this week in Vancouver, they could be violating employment and privacy laws.
She told conference attendants that performing an Internet search is akin to interviewing them. “You cannot ask certain questions online that you wouldn’t and shouldn’t ask during an interview.”
For example, during an Internet search, you might come across posts by the candidate about their sexual orientation or religious beliefs. Under U.S. laws, those are topics you may not ask about.
Certainly, employers should not base hiring decisions on information found during a Google search, even if legal, without verifying its accuracy. For example, how do you know that the Norman Marks you searched on is the same one you are considering for a position? Even if you look for Norman Marks who plays bridge in the San Francisco area, you might find the wrong person (there are three of us). I am also not the one who ran a health club and won multiple body building competitions!
Some of the risks involved in an Internet search might be avoided if candidates agree, in writing, to the company doing it. But, I suggest this be an area that is carefully reviewed with legal counsel first.
I welcome your views.