We’ve all done it, right? Out of curiosity, you Google someone’s name, or even your own, just to see what pops up? Results might be anything from a link to a Facebook page, a reported marathon time, or maybe even an old blog entry about sushi that’s been long since forgotten.
Those things aside, some personal searches return a ton of information that could be considered private and personal. More important, that information may or may not be accurate. That’s why we don’t rely on Google searches when doing background screening for our clients, and if you’re searching Google before making a hiring decision, we recommend you don’t either. Here’s just a few reasons why search engines in general are not background screening options.
- Seeing Seeing Double Double If a person’s search results appear on the first few pages, it’s likely their name isn’t too common. But search John Smith, and it’s very doubtful anything you find will be relevant to your particular John Smith. Even names that seem pretty unique are more popular than you might think. Got a minute? Visit HowManyOfMe.com to get an idea of just how common some uncommon sounding names are. We found there are 100+ people named Frank Franks in the US. Who knew?
- “Yep, it’s an Internet Ad” If you’re using a search engine for background screening you’ll probably add a modifier, like “Criminal Records.” While initial results may seem innocent enough, you may also see a link to something like “Your Candidate Arrested.” It may appear to be a search result, but this could be a company trying to subtly convince you that your candidate has a criminal background (that may not event exist) . . . and encourage you to pay for a background screen then and there. Without further exploration, you may be misled and your poor candidate could be impacted by that assumption during your hiring process.
- “How did that story go?” Search engines scour the web with algorithms designed to find exactly what you’re looking for. Problem is, results could be old, outdated, or worse yet, inaccurate. For example, you may search poor Frank again and find an old article mentioning him as part of a criminal investigation, only to then miss another article that exonerated him as a case of mistaken identity.
- “Don’t believe everything you read online” – Albert Einstein Sure, we can pretty safely say that Albert Einstein didn’t really say that. But this is exactly what happens on the Internet. Search engines may find and report hundreds of relevant search results, but it’s not always easy for them to verify information as true or false.
- It’s illegal! Simply said, it’s illegal to solely use search engine results to make a hiring decision. Using an internet search as the basis to hire someone could violate not one or two, but THREE sections of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Section 605 says there is a limit to the time you can use something negative against someone, so if you’re finding old dismissed cases through a Google search and using them to make a hiring decision, you’ve violated the FCRA. Section 607 says the information used in the decision has to be accurate. So relying on an inaccurate story is a violation too. Finally, Section 613 says that records have to be up-to-date. So, finding and using an old Facebook status would quite easily be another violation.
While Googling names might be fun while you’re at home and bored, let’s all agree that it has no place in the hiring decision process. In addition to potential FCRA violations, an argument can be made that doing so violates the EEOC as well. Searches can easily reveal personal information like marital status, age, race, and nationality.
To make sure you get a background screen that uses accurate, up-to-date sources, and is in compliance with federal, state and local laws, skip Google and work with A-Check Global instead to set up a background screening program.
And, to the 100+ Frank Franks out there, we’re sorry that this blog post may now be a new addition to your own search results. We happen to really like your name!
Give us a call today at 877-345-2021, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.