Thursday, 11 November 2010

Most of what you read about HR isn't true.

Right, dear readers. You have the chance to participate in a social experiment to either establish or disprove the truth of a much-quoted item of HR-related gossip.

In a racey (which is code for "low on evidence") little article entitled "10 Things the HR Department Won’t Tell You", it's claimed that, as a matter of routine, HR departments regularly perform unofficial background checks by trawling through the internet to look for warning signs relating to potential employees.

10 Things the HR Department Won’t Tell You

After apparently "checking in with human resources experts to see what your current employer is keeping tabs on—and how your next employer could be judging you based on a whole lot more than the résumé you submitted," the author claims:
Before calling in applicants for a job interview, HR will snoop around online to make sure there are no virtual red flags. “Social media ‘stalking’ has become the norm—especially at larger companies. Beyond typing names into a search engine, companies will also employ sophisticated online monitoring platforms that dig even deeper. If there’s something on the internet you wouldn’t want your boss to see, it’s probably in your best interest to take it down.
Personally, I suspect that this is utter nonsense (at least in the UK) particularly as many HR departments are stretched to breaking point in even arranging interviews and issuing offer letters. The idea that they have time to act as cyber-sleuths looking for evidence of online dodginess is simply a fantasy.

Or is it?

Well, here's your chance to establish the truth once and for all.

I'd like to hear from any organisation (anonymity guaranteed!) that is prepared to admit to using such methods as a formal part of their selection process. I don't mean the occasional googling of an applicant, or a swift glance at Facebook to check up on the candidate's drunken antics in Ibiza. I mean a deliberate and regular investigation using "sophisticated online monitoring platforms" to delve into the background of individuals that the organisation is considering employing.

I'm also interested in hearing from any company that markets any form of "sophisticated online monitoring platform" so that the HR community can learn of what technology is available to assist in the challenge to sort out the wheat from the chaff in the search for talent

My theory is that this belief  is about as reliable as an urban myth. I would love to be proved wrong, but I doubt that I will be.

Over to you, super-sleuths!


  1. What i have done routinely is more like googling a candidate before i meet them....but if you use something like KGB People rather than google then the articles accusation of using sophisticated platforms may be evidenced

    I have to say that these have been senior , six figure base hires.

    Also - particularly in transactions - it's not uncommon to use investigative agencies (e.g. Kroll) to do not just the online bit but a real world investigation into the key players. Sensible when there's tens or hundreds of millions flowing around to buy an asset that revolves around one or two people.

  2. Blimey! I suspect I will be one of the silent(ish!) majority who can't prove you wrong and would have no wish to do so. Never done any of the above, despite being in large corporates for over 10 years.

  3. I always take a peek at LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc, usually via a simple Google search, before I meet a candidate for the first time. Silly not to!