Google as the Public Record

One hundred and thirty years ago, 4 little words changed the world. Sixteen letters have become synonymous with the man who spoke them. It was in 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell said, “Mr. Watson, come here!”

All these years later, the telephone seems to have always been here. Dick Tracy and Maxwell Smart, while both fictional, let us all dream of the day of portable communication. While shoe phones perhaps proved to be impractical, the fictional technology they employed has since become reality.

Whether on the phone of 100 years ago or today’s tiny portable devices, the ability to communicate is quite powerful. Never before has it been so easy to exchange information. The Internet has made this exchange virtually instantaneous.

In a blink, your message can be seen around the world. Whether it’s just sixteen or even a million letters long, anyone can put just about anything on the Internet.

This conversation may be recorded.

Unlike a private conversation on a telephone (loud public conversations on cells withstanding), messages on the Internet become part of the public record. This public record will often be accessible even after the website is long gone.

Public Statements can come back to haunt you.

Employers are now using Google to screen applicants. They research an applicant’s public statements, personal websites and blogs. This is far from a new idea. I know a lot of people, myself included, who research companies and potential clients this way.

Two examples of my own:

  • A webhost I was considering had spammed several webmaster forums. They did not get my business.
  • A company interested in hiring me had numerous complaints for shady business practices in a number of different forums. I withdrew my application based on my research. The employer tried to convince me they were an honest business, but the state’s attorney general office website told a far different tale.

What you say or do from what you assumed was the privacy of a webpage for your family, your MySpace blog, or in a favorite forum instantly becomes part of you and/or your company’s history.

This is important, let me state it another way. Anything you wouldn’t want a potential employee or customer to know about you or your company should not be openly discussed on the Internet, period!

Hiding behind a clever user id might not protect you. Say enough and people will figure out who you are. I’ve seen it happen many times on a variety of forums and blogs. People are not stupid; they will figure it out.

Google used to screen job applicants

A hiring official told me about a particularly stupid job applicant. A search of the name of the applicant only pulled up a professional looking resume and portfolio website. A search for the clever email address used by the applicant led to a job hunter’s forum. On the forum, the applicant had frequently given the advice to others to lie on their resume and admitted that he had been doing so for years. The applicant had gone so far as to say that HR folks were dumb and didn’t know the difference. Needless to say, the applicant was not hired.

This may seem an extreme example, but don’t think it can’t happen. I know of at least one time it did. Past statements and deeds can and will impact your future job possibilities.

Google is listening

Who’da thunk it? Maxwell Smart and Dick Tracy were advocates for a then non-existent technology we all now take for granted; Mr. Alexander Graham Bell’s words to Mr. Watson would still be known all these generations later; and people still need to be warned, watch what you say, you don’t know who may be listening.