What will I find if I google you?

Feb 04 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

One of the little bits of advice I got when I was on the job market is that I should make my own website. So I put together a very rudimentary personal website. It was not fancy. There was a front page, with a neat image from my work and a short description of my research interests. Then there was a page with all my publications and another with more detailed descriptions of my research projects. It was basically my CV and research statement, but online. I put the URL on my LinkedIn page and in my contact info on my CV that I sent out to (the later) job searches. But really, it was nothing that they wouldn't find in my actual application.

Then, I put a Google Analytics tracker on the page. Now, I don't know if I would recommend this if, like Cackle of Rad, you are prone to spending hours in front of a computer hitting "refresh". But what I found was that there were hits from EVERY single place that ended up interviewing me. And also a couple of places that didn't interview me, but where I had made the short list, I found out later.What is interesting is that even places that got applications without the url for my website still found it. OK, so that is not really interesting in the era of Google. The question is: did the website help me? Probably not. There was not any new info there. But it probably didn't hurt, either.

Which brings me to my point: SEARCH COMMITTEES WILL GOOGLE YOU. Really. We are in the midst of a search right now and every single person on our short list was googled. There are basically two outcomes when someone that is thinking of hiring you hits the google. 1. they will find something that is neutral or positive and it will not really affect their decision or 2. they will find something ridiculous that will negatively affect their decision. I don't think that googling can help a job candidate, because if there is something that is awesome about you then it should be in your application already.

Clearly, it is in your best interest to KNOW what the search committee will find when they google you. And then clean up the ridiculous. Especially if your name is somewhat unique and we will be able to find everything that has ever been on the internet about you. In this case, it could be really good to make your own site that ranks high on the google. This will divert us, the busy but slightly curious search committee. Or at least make it that you get to have a say in what we see.

This may seem obvious, and perhaps I'm preaching to the choir. But, based on my experience with the search this year it had to be said.

What will the search committee find when they google you?

15 responses so far

  • Dr Becca says:

    I totally did the same thing, but for some reason, the site I made doesn't come up when you google me, completely defeating the purpose! Not pleased.

    • gerty-z says:

      My name is so common that to find me you need some other identifying information. For some reason, my name + city did the job. It may have helped that I linked to it from my LinkedIn page (if so that will be the first thing it was good for!).

  • becca says:

    Dr. Becca- there is a *method* to Google. It's not just about the frequency of particular words used, but also how well *linked* the website is. And other things... http://google.about.com/od/searchengineoptimization/qt/improverank.htm
    I have an aunt who works in marketing and she is way into this stuff.

    Also, the search committee googling for me will find that I am a hairstylist on Sex and the City *rolls eyes*. Out Google-fuing people... now that can take a lot of effort.

  • I spent a fair amount of time putting a webpage together when I was applying and tracked it using analytics, just like Gerty-Z. I think it is an important skill to have. It shows people that you care about promoting your research, and in the future, the university. That might not be high on the committees list, but deans and provosts care the most about that. Hopefully the content is also less detailed than your application package so that the general public can get some understanding of your ideas. It also saved me a lot of time when I did get the TT job, because I just switched urls, added a personel page, and was ready to go with a group webpage. I can't believe that there are faculty out there that don't have webpages. Talk about lack of information dissemination as well as limiting your trainee recruiting options. Now I'm one of the compulsive data people and can add that program managers also have been Googling me and checking out my site after I contact them.

    • gerty-z says:

      Good point, EP! The website was a useful thing when putting together my lab site. And I agree that (especially on the front page) you should make it more accessible to the non-scientists that might stumble across your site.

  • Bashir says:

    It does seem obvious, though I had a webpage back in college, so I am perhaps the choir. I've been surprised at how many students, professors even whole departments have either no page whatsoever, or something way out of date. My old labs page is still circa 2008 even though there's been almost complete turnover since then. My old department only recently started taking seriously keeping the website up to date. They apparently were surprised that graduate applicants used the webpage as their main source of information.

  • Dr. O says:

    There are basically two outcomes when someone that is thinking of hiring you hits the google. 1. they will find something that is neutral or positive and it will not really affect their decision or 2. they will find something ridiculous that will negatively affect their decision.

    I'm sordidly curious about what you've found that has negatively affected a job candidate. 🙂

    • gerty-z says:

      I was shocked - SHOCKED - at how many job candidates had not figured out how to correctly set the privacy settings of their Facebook pages. And then posted things about a) their job search or b) pics of themselves acting stupid. Just to be explicit: your ability to do a keg stand does not impress the search committee at my institution. There were also several instances where I found info/photos that OTHER people had put up about candidates. Often these finds were similarly unimpressive.

  • Heh, well, I did finally get that email, long after I quit waiting on it! 😉
    You know, I have a somewhat unique name, but there happens to be a Ms. Rad that lives in my state....and is the subject of some serious litigation! Oh noes! And it's all online. I hope our SSN's never get mixed...

  • Now that I am older, wiser, and less drunk, I have sanitized my facebook page and try hard as hell to keep my blog identity as separate as possible from the real life one.

  • postdoc says:

    any tips on a good way for a novice to design a website? where do I even start? google? is it cheezy to have a google website? how do you feel about having a few personal things on a site like this (hobbies, families... things that show you are a real person)?

    In grad school I once googled a speaker I wasn't familiar with before he came to talk and apparently there is a porn star with the same name- yikes!!! I felt guilty for just googling it in my office (blush)

    • I used Google Sites. It's free and pretty easy to use. As long as you pick a professional sounding site name, I don't think anyone will penalize you for not spending money on professional website software or domain names. Plus it has all of those fun analytics capabilities for stalking your stalkers. When choosing a template, keep it simple and clutter free. No dancing babies or music.

      I included some personal information, but not too much. One of the senior faculty in my department said he voted for me in the hiring process because he liked the hobbies I'm in to. That doesn't make me feel good about my research, but it doesn't matter how you get there right?

    • Isabel says:

      "...we will be able to find everything that has ever been on the internet about you."
      ...

      "There were also several instances where I found info/photos that OTHER people had put up about candidates."

      Something about this is a little off though, like google is being used as a way around the prohibitions on asking personal questions - I mean you generally have to follow at least one link to reach an incriminating picture of someone, why investigate obviously personal sites, like Facebook? What are you looking for? Isn't it time to get over the fact that people are imperfect and do things like drink alcohol and goof off (and why would that be a reason not to hire someone with great credentials who gave a great talk and interview?)

      Maybe it's just me - the intensifying of this cyber-stalking thanks to Fb has started creeping me out lately to the point that I am thinking of closing it. Things like going through exes' and ex-coworkers' 'friends' lists and then scanning the profiles of other mutual friends of ours that I've lost touch with feels weird to me, how I see all the pictures of their kids and learn all about their lives without so much as a hello and without them ever even knowing, unless I decide to become 'friends' with them. I have mostly stopped doing it because it is so tempting and yet leaves me feeling almost awkward.

  • Sean says:

    Have you considered doing some A/B testing with your CV? It maybe hard to get stastically meaning results, but maybe worth exploring.

  • [...] recently came upon a post titled, What will I find if I google you?, written last year by Scientopia blogger gerty-z at Balanced Instability. Although written from the [...]

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