If You Can’t Google Your Employees, Who Can You Google?

Much has been written over the last few weeks about Google searches on applicants.  In this week’s edition of the Riverfront Times, the lead story is about Kendra Holliday, author of the blog The Beautiful Kind.  (Word of caution, this blog is as NSFW as you can get.)  She has been blogging her personal stories for some time now, always anonymously.  In honor of Coming Out Day this week, she has for the first time revealed her name and face to the public.

The story is an interesting one, but the part that caught my attention is in regards to her Twitter feed.  Due to a glitch, her real name was, for a brief moment, attached to her feed.  It was quickly corrected but, as we know, the Google never forgets.  She was fired from her part time job at a non-profit in St. Louis because of it, being told:

“We simply cannot risk any possible link between our mission and the sort of photos and material that you openly share with the online public. While I know you are a good worker and an intelligent person, I hope you try to understand that our employees are held to a different standard. When it comes to private matters, such as one’s sexual explorations and preferences, our employees must keep their affairs private.” (For the complete article, click here.)

My post isn’t about her so much as it is about her employer.  They were concerned about the image their organization projects to the public.  This is the corollary of the “can I Google an applicant and not feel dirty” discussion.  In my mind, I completely understand what was done and why.  It’s unfortunate, and I would hope it was handled with grace, but I can see the issue for a non-profit.

At the same time, this is a cautionary tale to those that have worked to create an online presence.  Never forget that what you put out there can be found, and you can be called to account for it.  So be thoughtful.

So is it OK to do these searches on your team?  And is it OK to act on it?


  1. Dwane, this is going to be a discussion that goes on and on I think.

    I see both sides but I can’t help feeling that there is a certain obligation people have to their organizations to understand that personal behavior can have an impact on the company. I do not think it is acceptable to take the step of snooping (such as trying to “friend” someone with the sole purpose of trying to get extra info) but if you’ve put it out there, you have to understand that it is going to be read and viewed.

    There was some debate on another blog about this and my thought is that if I see something that the individual put up themselves, that is one thing. Anything posted or written about an individual by someone else, on the other hand, you have to assume is garbage since you don’t know the whole context, their photoshop abilities or their agenda.

    For me personally, and this is not to imply it is wrong to have a different mindset, but for me, if I have to post something anonymously, I shouldn’t be posting it at all. I think you have to assume you can never be as anonymous as you want to be and it is more important to me to protect my online reputation than it is to offer my views or pictures to masses of people I don’t even know. I would save that info for my close personal friends in real life and not use the internet.

    I feel that it is fine for people to do searches as long as the person searching understands that the only things that should have any relevance at all are the things that were put on the internet by that individual.

    As far as acting on it, I don’t think there is a correct answer. There are so many variables and I can see times when absolutely, it’s okay to act on it and others when it should be completely irrelevant. That is just one of the problems with the internet – you are relying on the people who read/view to have sound decision making abilities in what they choose to do with it. I think each situation is different and it’s impossible to make a blanket statement that yes, it’s okay to act or no, it’s not okay to act.

    Welcome to the giant gray area that is social media! Thanks for the post.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chris Miller, Jen Turi. Jen Turi said: GR8 – Commented RT @fyiscreening: RT @DwaneLay: New at Lean #HR: If U Can't Google U're Employees, Who Can U Google? http://bit.ly/95eg0J […]

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