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Googling Before the Interview

Today, many people Google each other before they meet. In the workplace, this often happens before a job interview, and it happens both ways: The interviewer Googles the candidate, and the candidate Googles the interviewer. So what can you discuss from what you have found?

If you are the interviewer, you are in the power position, so most of what you find is fair game. Discretion, manners and legal parameters would define what might be inappropriate to discuss. For example, even if you saw a photo of the candidate with her kids, it still isn’t right to ask about how she balances work and family. If you saw that same picture, and the candidate had a same-sex partner and kids, even more inappropriate to discuss your findings. Anything that could be construed as discriminatory, rude or intrusive should be off-limits.

If you are the candidate, it is a bit trickier. You are not in the power (decision-making) position, so you need to be even more careful. Suppose you saw that the interviewer ran in a 5K the past weekend for a cancer charity? Suppose you are a runner too, or you also work for cancer charities. You might say to yourself that this is great, it will be a way to bond, to establish common ground. However, the interviewer might feel that your mentioning this info is intrusive, that it crosses boundaries.

On the other hand, if you saw that the interviewer had won an award at a local business association meeting, that might be worth commenting on. It shows that you do your homework, that you know how to influence with subtlety (flattery), and that you know what is appropriate. If the interviewer were to inquire, “Wow, I’m surprised you saw that. What else do you know about me?” I would recommend that you clam up, and not go any further.

In general, I think the rule of thumb for candidates is to ask yourself: what would you be comfortable with a stranger knowing about you? Most of the time, that answer will guide you in selecting what you could discuss with an interviewer from what you have found on Google, without seeming like a stalker!