If Its On the Internet, It Must Be True!

search_internetHow quick are we to believe what we read and find on the Internet!

Remember the State Farm Insurance commercials promoting their mobile app where the girl tells her friend “If it on the Internet, it must be true.” We laugh and roll our eyes at the stupidity of the comment…yet, so many people pass judgment or make assumptions based on what they see on the Internet.

I recently had a friend go through a personal ordeal because of information uncovered by another person on the Internet. This person, for whatever reason, had “Googled” my friend’s name and found questionable information…and then proceeded to make assumptions based on this information to degrade my friend’s character. No one further investigated the information or even asked him for an explanation to determine whether or not it was true and/or what were the circumstances. Instead, a lynch mob ensued, orchestrated by this person who played to the fears and emotions of others. Had an explanation been sought before taking action, the truth surrounding the information found on the Internet would have been revealed…and not been as bad as it was made out to be. Instead, my friend was ousted from this group because the situation had escalated beyond any chance of resolution and the person who spread this information was allowed to go home and gloat in the glory of his success.

Ridiculous, right? Upset? I was too.

And while I’m sure not many of us would have gone to the extreme that this person did, how many of us will admit that we too have jumped to conclusions based on the tidbit of information we see? Or worse – choose not to interview an applicant because they have checked that box on their application that “have been convicted of a crime.”

As a Hiring Manager, it is important to protect the integrity of the company as well as its employees. If an actual background check is not included as part of the pre-hire procedure, its not uncommon for many to resort to “Googling” a person’s name to see what public information comes up.

Should we take that information as gospel? Not unless you think like the girl in the State Farm commercial!

Just like with any other situation, we must get the full facts – from both sides if available – before we jump to conclusions, make assumptions or pass judgment whether it be verbal accusations or Internet findings. So, how to you handle it without worrying about any legal backlash? Use it as a talking point to gather information – and remember not ask in the tone of making an accusation.

For example: I had an applicant that noted that he had been arrested for armed robbery. He showed up wearing a suit to personally turn in his application so I decided to ask him if he wanted to expand on why he answered the question with a “yes.” He admitted that he had been arrested but stated that he was young and it was a case of being in the “wrong place at the wrong time” – he didn’t know at the time, but he had gotten in a car with a friend that had just committed the robbery when the police pulled him over and was considered guilty by association. Ten years later, he had kept a clean record, finished school and had different volunteer groups he had become a part of. His previous employer had gone out of business with the market, so was just looking a full-time job with a career path. I was impressed…so was the manager…so we gave him a chance. (Yes, he worked out…and eventually moved into an Assistant Manager position!)

We are bombarded with images and news of crime on a daily basis that it makes it easy for us to jump to quick conclusions without the benefit of the doubt….and this is all perpetuated by fear. Fear is the “evil you” sitting on your one shoulder always trying to drown out the “good you.” Will you let Fear win? Or will you question before making a decision?

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

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