The truth is unnerving
What I’m going to share with you is an actual scenario that recently came to my attention that I found to be quite disturbing. At the same time, I wasn’t that surprised, given the nature of things nowadays.
It’s a hiring practice that is unsettling, bordering on being unethical, and possibly illegal. It could create a huge hiring bias which is what I thought companies (at least progressive ones) are trying to avoid.
This practice is an indication of how far some hiring authorities will go in an effort to identify the “perfect” candidate based on information that is clearly NOT required.
This scenario is disturbing
I’ve altered some of the facts just to maintain the privacy of the individual
Mary started a new job with a company in a senior-level management position and during the first couple of weeks, participated in a series of leadership meetings.
During one of those meetings, the VP singled her out (in front of everybody) and announced:
“I expect everyone to take care of this office like it was Mary’s house”.
Mary didn’t understand what the VP was referring to and asked for clarification.
The VP continued:
“I Googled Earthed your home address and was very impressed with how well you maintain your property. I did the same before I hired Rob who incidentally has a lovely landscaped front yard. I really like the window shutters.”
The VP actually admitted in front of EVERYBODY that she conducts Google Earth searches on employee’s addresses to “see” where they live. She justifies it because, in her opinion, the findings are a “reflection on how well the employees will take care of their place of business.”
Well, that was a shocker for a couple of reasons
First off, it’s shocking that this kind of hiring practice actually goes on for real. I’ve heard about it, but never actually know anyone who experienced it.
Secondly, it says a lot about the VP. I mean, it’s bad enough to actually use this as a hiring tool much less to actually admit to the world that you actually do this. What was she thinking?
In my opinion, using Google Earth to make some kind of judgement about a candidate ranks right up there with “creeping” somebody.
It’s just gross.
This questionable hiring practice is so wrong on so many levels
Did it ever occur to the VP that maybe what she saw isn’t an indication of anything? I mean, it could mean something, but not what the VP thinks it means. There’s always more than what meets the eye.
Let’s explore that for a second….
The candidate doesn’t live there
The candidate doesn’t actually live at the location and is using the address of a friend or relative for whatever reason.
There are cases where someone has relocated and the address on their resume is temporary while they find permanent accommodation. Or there could be another reason.
At the end of the day, it’s really no one’s business, particularly when it’s early in the hiring process.
The candidate is renting
The candidate doesn’t actually own the residence. They likely don’t have any control or influence on how good or bad the property presents.
Either way, they will be unfairly and inaccurately judged due to how well or poorly the landlord takes care of the property which clearly has nothing to do with the candidate.
The candidate is making improvements
If you’ve ever done home renovations or landscaping, you know that things look really bad and only get worse until they get better.
If the employer spies on a candidate in the midst of home improvements, the irony is they could be judged unfairly. It was bad timing that prevented them from getting the interview and not because they’re a sloth.
It’s a case of mistaken identity
The reason the property looks amazing isn’t because the candidate is doing anything.
In fact, they don’t care how their property looks – they drop their socks and underwear on the floor, leave cupboard doors open, and don’t tidy up after themselves.
In reality, it is the candidate’s “significant other”, or roommate who cares enough to do the work themselves or takes the initiative to hire a service to do it for them.
If that’s the case, then the VP should have given the job to Mary’s spouse. Lol ?
The candidate is busy
Maybe the candidate genuinely wants to keep a well-maintained home but just doesn’t have enough time for it because they’re too busy with trying to perform well in their current job.
Here’s the irony – the fact that the candidate is focusing on their JOB (go figure!) could get them disqualified from a future opportunity if the hiring company uses Google Earth to scrutinize their residence.
Or, maybe they’ve been meaning to hire a service to do this for them, but they just never got around to it because they’re too busy working for a living.
It’s not that they’re a slob. In fact, the inside of their home might be really neat and tidy.
Which begs the question……Perhaps the hiring company should also do a thorough check of the inside of the residence because that might be a better indicator of the candidate’s cleanliness and organization? (BTW…..My tongue is planted firmly in my cheek)
The candidate didn’t budget for it
Just because the candidate is a senior-level professional doesn’t mean that they have thousands of dollars in their budget to spend on home maintenance and improvement.
Or maybe they have the money but spending thousands on landscaping or whatever is not a priority.
It’s no one’s business if you have the money and how you chose to spend it OR if you don’t have the money.
The candidate really is a slob. So what?
Well, there’s always the possibility that the candidate just doesn’t care about the state of their home. Maybe their focus is their job or hobbies and not weed-whacking the garden.
In any event, this isn’t necessarily an indication of how well they would perform in their job.
I personally know some people whose living quarters were less than desirable and yet this miraculously has no bearing on how pulled together they look and how well they perform in their demanding job.
In fact, I would argue that because they’re slobs (for lack of a better term), they have much more time and energy to devote to their personal appearance and their careers. I think they should be applauded for this and not judged.
It’s a misguided practice
So, for the reasons I’ve already pointed out, using Google Earth to judge people based on whether their dwelling, neighbourhood, or street they live on meet some individual’s standard is not an accurate representation of the quality of someone’s candidacy for a position.
It’s clear that the information gleaned from this can be completely misinterpreted and the candidate would be misjudged as a result.
Are hiring companies going too far?
Using Google Earth as a candidate screening tool is a highly invasive hiring practice that should not be allowed in any company. There needs to be some kind of legal and ethical limits as to how far employers can go in terms of collecting and analyzing information about people.
It was bad enough that some candidates had to undergo credit checks for roles that had absolutely NOTHING to do with finances. Now they’re being scrutinized on how weed-free their lawn is or if they live on the “right” side of the tracks.
It doesn’t take an HR professional to know that this invasive hiring practice is way out of line. While it’s common for employers to conduct a certain amount of social media screening, checking out the state and location of someone’s dwelling is going too far.
It not a level playing field
It demonstrates a huge hiring bias because it’s the kind of information that is not required. Plus, as I’ve already pointed out, the information can be misconstrued.
The only time when it might be reasonable to assess someone’s dwelling is if the candidate is applying for a home maintenance position, but I still find it creepy.
You need to do some soul searching
If you are conducting a job search and come across this hiring practice, the first question you should ask yourself is, “Do I want to work for someone who would judge me based on what my home looks like or what neighbourhood I live in?”
If you experience this kind of hiring bias, you could let the HR department know. It’s possible they have no idea this is going on in their company and might take measures to eliminate it.
Or, they do know it’s going on and chose to do nothing, in which case, you might want to reconsider working for an organization that judges people so harshly.
You can’t control everything
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of information out there that is free and accessible to anyone which means if someone wants to use Google Earth to check out your digs, they’re going to do that and there’s nothing you can do about it.
What you can do is be proactive
What I recommend is that if you can’t beat them, join them.
Cut your grass, water your lawn, and paint your house, move to a better neighbourhood. Do whatever you need to do.
The easiest (and cheapest) thing to start with is to exclude your street address on your career marketing documents.
However, you should show the city/town and maybe your postal/zip code provide that the latter doesn’t narrow down your exact location too much.
(Please read this article about whether you should include your location on your resume before you go and exclude your location entirely)
If a potential employer wants to know “where you live”, the only legitimate reason would be to confirm that you won’t have a problem commuting to work. In that case, you could assume this is the reason and say something like this:
“I live about a 20 minute bus ride from the office, so the commute is not a problem at all”
That should address the location concern.
However, if the employer presses you for an exact location, there’s a strong possibility they will Google Earth your location and use the information they glean to judge you.
If the employer demands your street address, here’s what you can do:
#1: You can tell them that you would be happy to give them your details when you are hired for the job because you don’t feel at this point in the process that this personal information is required.
If they keep pressing you for an exact location, you could:
#2: … ask them exactly why they need this information since it’s been determined that the commute is not a problem.
#3: … narrow down where you live without giving the exact location away. For instance, you could say you live in the “west end of town” or “near the intersection of Main Street and Highway 100” or “a stone’s throw from the train station” (provided the train station is close to the job location), or something else.
#4:…. simply tell them that you want to avoid having your personal residence “Google Earthed” because it has no bearing on the value you could offer them as an employee. That should shut them up.
Pushing back can do two things:
The well-intentioned, progressive employer will think:
“Wow. Erica has a lot of self confidence. She displayed tact and diplomacy when pushing back. That’s what we need in this role.”
Or, it could be something more along these lines:
“Well, Erica definitely has an attitude. She’s was extremely uncooperative. We need someone who will do everything they’re told. She’s not a good fit.”
What do you do???
I personally like to do what aligns with my VALUES in any given situation.
If it feels more authentic and empowering to stand up to the hiring company and let them know that their question is out of line, then that’s what I’d do. Politely.
If I don’t want to risk losing out on an opportunity because I really need the job which is totally understandable, then I might be more inclined to give them what they want, knowing that they might not like what they see.
I have a choice – I just need to make sure that I can live with it.
The same goes for you.
Remember the VP at the beginning of the article who publicly admitted during a general meeting that she uses Google Earth to assess people before she hires them???
The next day after that jaw-dropping announcement, when she walked into the meeting room, her employees had Google Earthed her dwelling and projected it on the very large screen for all to behold.
Her house and yard were apparently “not becoming of a VP”. I think she should get fired for that. Lol.
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