'Search Me' Button Might Help Eliminate Mistaken Identity

By Bill Leonard Mar 9, 2011
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With today’s lightning-quick search engines such as Google and Bing, it has never been easier for employers to conduct a preliminary check of a job candidate simply by running an online search of their name. So if you’re either looking for a job or trying to learn more about job candidates, Internet search technology can be a blessing and a curse.

It’s a blessing because it can offer verifiable results in an instant and a curse because the probability for mistaking someone’s identity is fairly high. When a person has a fairly common first and last name, thousands of people around the globe will share that name.

Most people have “Googled” their name, and usually those searches can turn up several thousand results—and often hundreds of thousands.

While many might find thousands of hits to be a great source of information, these same results can pose a daunting challenge to corporate recruiters and employers hoping to find information about a job candidate.

Often, with these types of searches, you can learn that a job applicant shares a name with someone famous or, even worse, infamous.

Google Me, Please

Research has found that more than 2,000 people in the United States have the same name as someone on the FBI’s most wanted list. And if you include news articles on criminal suspects plus lists of sex offenders and delinquent taxpayers posted online, the possibility of mistaking someone’s identity increases exponentially.

Many of these problems can be remedied with an advanced or more-detailed search. However, statistics from Google show that less than 5 percent of the search engine’s users use advanced search functions.

“Mistaken identity is a real and growing problem. Millions of people want to be found online for professional or personal reasons. But if there is someone like me with a common name, a hiring manager would never make it past the first or second page of the Google results to validate my background,” said James Alexander, CEO of Vizibility, a New York-based company that has developed a “Search Me” button for Google.

Even people with unique names, which are often difficult to spell, can be affected by this problem.

Vizibility’s Search Me button allows job seekers to customize Google searches that provide pertinent and up-to-date information on themselves. Demand for technology similar to Vizibility’s Search Me function and other online resources that can help hiring managers and recruiters find the best and most accurate information online will increase during 2011 and beyond, experts say.

“When sourcing candidates and finding a potential all-star, hiring managers often find resumes on job boards and online to be out of date. That’s because typical candidate behavior is to upload their resume on a job board but only stay involved for a few months,” said Anne Hunt Cheevers, general manager for 6FigureJobs.com, an executive career development and jobs website.

“The Search Me function can provide employers a one-click update of a great potential candidate, which can save a business time and money,” she said. “The function provides better visibility into a candidate’s total online presence … profiles, blogs, tweets … all things that help fill in the blanks when assessing a candidate’s professional involvement and their professional persona.”

An increasing number of individuals, whether they are searching for a job or not, are placing Search Me buttons on electronic resumes, business cards and social networking sites. The technology even allows users to print a QR bar code (or Quick Response code) on their business cards. The QR code allows interested persons or employers to scan the code and receive information similar to a Google search performed through the Search Me function.

William Arruda, founder of Reach Communications Consulting Inc., says this type of technology is a strong trend and will gain popularity among employers and corporate recruiters through 2012.

Recruiting Trends

“This whole idea of a ‘curated’ [or customized] search result is really taking off. I think of it more of a service to the people who are researching you,” Arruda said. “You don’t want recruiters to have to go through a lot of work to begin to understand who you really are. This trend is absolutely huge and has amazingly powerful implications to those who are using it and putting it on their resumes and on LinkedIn profiles.”

Arruda identified several other trends he believes will take hold during 2011, such as blended searches that offer access to multimedia content such as photos, videos and streaming audio files. These blended searches will provide potential employers a much more detailed and textured image of job candidates, he said.

“Another trend is building digital bridges,” Arruda said. “What you will see is a wide array of career marketing tools online that individuals can use to convey their specific brand. These tools will help take away the guesswork and make it easier for people and employers to get the true story about who job candidates are.”

Arruda says that the final major trend is something he calls “crowd sourcing.” Sources, work colleagues and clients will be able to make recommendations or even provide reviews of people and their work skills and experience online. Arruda compares the trend to sites like TripAdvisor that allow users to review and make recommendations on hotels and restaurants.

“The same thing is going to be happening for people; just think about TripAdvisor and how it helps us get recommendations and helps us before we take a trip. You can see how powerful this might be to employers. This type of content will offer not only what you think about yourself, but what other people are saying about you, too.”

Bill Leonard is senior writer for SHRM.

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