Google Eyes for Applicants

The following article appeared in Small Business Online in April.
By Brandy Bishop
As the owner of a background screening company, I often hear a pattern of questions or statements from other small business owners. One of the most common questions I hear is why pay for a background check on an applicant if I can just Google the person? The problem with Googling a person is you are relying on information that is not validated. I could create a Facebook account in your name and say whatever I want. I could Google you right now and find information your ex posted about you that isn’t true.  By doing so, I could land myself in some hot water if I decide not to hire you based on this false information. Does that mean you should pretend Google doesn’t exist and turn a blind eye to what you may find? Not necessarily. Instead, research a person using all the avenues available to you-Google, social media and official records/background checks. Social media is important because it can show how a person behaves in his/her life outside of work.  If your applicant posts drunken brawl photos every weekend, this may raise a red flag whether the applicant will come to work bright eyed and bushy tailed on Monday. However, it’s important you do not use that information as the sole reason for denying employment.  For starters, you have to have a policy and procedure in place documenting your hiring and firing rules. If your policy and procedure states due to the nature of the position, under no circumstances can the applicant be seen in a pub or bar outside of work, then you may have a case. An example of this would be policies and procedures for government officials and/or police officers.
The official background checks are key because that information is validated. I cannot create a fake conviction on you because I’m mad you didn’t return my calls five years ago.  You may use validated (official) background check data in your hiring decisions. For example, if your applicant is applying for a job as a home health nurse and has a theft conviction, you are not required by law to hire the applicant. On the other hand, if you see someone post an online comment about the same applicant saying, “I heard Suzi was arrested for stealing underwear at Dillards” you cannot use that information against Suzi because it is not validated.
Small business owners are so busy wearing so many hats, many times they do not look into the state laws on hiring and firing, nor do they think to write official policies and procedures to protect themselves against future lawsuits. Many do not consider paying $35-40 up front for a background check rather than paying thousands in legal fees on the back end of an applicant suing for various reasons.   Clients call me every week who wish they had done their due diligence because they are paying the price after the fact. Unfortunately, they learn a hard lesson, and many of them do not recover. The up- front cost of a background check is minimal when you compare it to the monetary and mental price you may pay later.
For more information on background checks, you can check out my website at: