Did You Google Yourself Today?

Honest, what did I ever do before Google? I must use it 100 times a day. The amount of time it saves, and the depth of information I get that I never could have found before… Google is indispensable. Research about companies, industries, technology, business trends, candidates, it’s all right at my fingertips with Google.

Google has revolutionized how recruiters and employers can check out candidates. Googling someone has become one of the steps in my screening process in my executive search work. Google searches help me verify people’s backgrounds through press releases announcing a new hire, or with quotes from them representing the company. I can see if they are active contributors in their field when I come up with schedules of speaking engagements and books or articles they’ve written. Rosters of trade associations and business events are often posted online. LinkedIn profiles come up, and I can read what other people say about them.

Sometimes I learn more about their personal values and priorities: I’ve found listings about donations to political parties, roles in religious groups, letters to the editor, and participation in fantasy football leagues and extreme sports… all through a simple Google search. Once, I found someone who instigated a flame war on a website; what I read there told me more about them than an interview would.

Nowadays, you should expect that a potential employer is going to Google you at some point.

That’s why I suggest you Google yourself today so you know what they’ll find. Not that you can do anything about what’s online, but it’s good to know what it is. Kind of like checking your credit report, except you probably won’t be able to argue about it.

If you have a common name, it may take you longer, but be patient and go through the pages. My name is fairly rare, but there are a few other people who share it and have a good amount of Google-able activity themselves. There’s an industrial ecologist, an up-and-coming lawyer in Atlanta, a mathematician, and I think there’s an editor for Apple, too, because a friend asked if I’d written a review about the new iPhone because she saw my name in the byline.

You’ll probably want to narrow your search by excluding certain words once you know the other people who come up. For instance, I exclude the word “ecologist” to avoid getting the listings of one of my name twins.

When I Googled myself recently, I found my web page and blog, of course, and my LinkedIn profile, but the Facebook profile that came up was someone else. There was an announcement about one of my workshops, a 2001 article in the San Francisco Chronicle about job-searching after the dotcom crash, a bio from a conference I was invited to, and a posting about a cable TV show I was a guest on. The best find was a forgotten online article from 2006 BizTech Magazine with quotes by me and a good list of interview questions.

On the personal side, I found a review I wrote on Amazon about Rivers and Tides, the film about the work of artist Andy Goldsworthy, and it reminded me it’s time to watch it again. There was also a forgotten Friendster account, a review on a travel site I wrote about a gorgeous hotel in Chiang Mai Thailand, and some pages of speeches I gave years back when I was the spokesperson for a group fighting to keep clubs and late-night venues open in San Francisco. See? You really can get a bigger picture of what someone is like from what you learn about them on Google.

My favorite find was a reminder of my passion for baseball. It was from 1999, when I wrote a question to a fan website dedicated to Barry Bonds called “Absolute Bonds:”

From Leslie Ayres: Do you think it’s fair to expect sports heroes to be regarded as role models outside the ballpark?

Barry Bonds: “I think everyone needs to be a role model, period. I don’t think it should just be an athlete or a movie star. Everyone in society should be a role model, not only for their own self-respect, but for respect from others.”

(That’s a great answer. Ironic, or not? You decide.)

While you’re at it, Google your email address, phone number, and nicknames or misspellings as well. You may have posted your phone number on a site somewhere and now it’s indexed and findable by anyone. Look your name up on Peoplefinder.com, Zabasearch.com or check out your home’s property value at Zillow.com.

Few things are really secrets any more. Having these archives of what used to be private information out there is really just a fact of life now. Using Google is easy and people will do it, so you should know what someone who is checking up about you is going to find. Sometimes what they’ll find will be right, sometimes it will be wrong, sometimes it will reflect on you, and sometimes it will be about someone else entirely.

Always expect that someone who is considering hiring you is going to take the time to Google your name, and you do it first so you know what’s there.

Maybe you’ll get lucky like me, and find an old movie review or a letter to a favorite athlete that will make you smile and remember that it’s still baseball season and not too late to go see a game.

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