No Google hits? No job.

One of the hackers/company owners at the conference I attended in California said something that interested me:  “When I get a resume, the first thing I do is type the person’s name into Google.  If nothing comes up, I trash the resume without reading it.”

This employer assumes that any competent programmer has left some trace of him or herself in version control trees of open-source software, question and answer forums, and other repositories accessible to Web search crawlers.

7 thoughts on “No Google hits? No job.

  1. That’s great if your name is “Ermanid Grastonali”, but what if your name is “Eric Smith” or “John Peterson”? No unique identifier == no job? Or do I get to share the accomplishments of my college officemate who happened to have the same name? (For the record, I don’t know much about Haskell, but he does.)

  2. A few people I work with (corpish IT) tell me that they go out of their way to keep their name off the Internet.

    How I understand it is that they work in IT rather than it being a lifestyle so their interests don’t involve the Internet. Thus they see someone showing up with lots of google hits as a combination of:

    1. Somebody with no life who spends all their time on computers
    2. Somebody who discusses work on the Internet and might give away company secrets
    3, Somebody who is not controlling information about themselves. Their resume and references show provide all the information an employer needs to know.
    4. Somebody who allows employers to look at random bits of the personal life.

    Most of these people are pretty good and get jobs easily enough. I would suspect that being big online is important for some but is it worth the trouble for say a senior JAVA or C++ programmer or DBA when they are not in the top 1000 in the world?

  3. Many of the best hackers prefer to stay anonymous on the internet by using aliases on mailing lists, etc. By the same token, they are not all prolific bloggers either.
    The “Google Search Test” is probably good for weeding out dead beats (true negatives), but your friend mistakes the false negatives to mean true negatives.

  4. For years I had, as part of my .sig file, the biblical quote “‘She was infatuated with their male prostitutes, whose members were like those of donkeys and whose seed came in floods like that of stallions.’ — Ezekiel 23:20”. Since my user names rarely match my real name, sometimes the only place in a posting on Usenet or in a mailing list my real name would appear is in the .sig file. As such, in multiple places that quote pops up in the snippits Google shows when doing a search on my real name, even on the first page. (The link on the first page with that quote is from a Linux mailing list, so it counts as a sign of FOSS participation).

    I certainly hope that, and similar other things which might pop up in the 16k+ hits for my real name on Google aren’t unduly prejudicial against me.

  5. Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a lazier method of weeding out candidates.

    In one fell swoop he rejects anyone who has never contributed to open source or who has anonymously answered questions. In a sampling of colleagues I would consider “Hall of Fame” developers, that category includes everyone. I’m glad I’m not an investor in his company.

  6. In my recent job search, I google searched my name to see what employers would see. I went out of my way to detach myself and remove my name from all the projects and personal sites I had built over the course of time. I feared that an employer would get the wrong impression and have too much of an insight into my personal projects, past work, and hobbies that were completely unrelated to the position. In addition, they would also see my projects in the wrong chronological order, see works in progress, etc. Basically a bunch of stuff that, even if not bad, was simply unrelated to the position and would most likely turn off a hiring manager with 500 (or 5,000) other applicants. A particularly big pain was to contact a site where I left comments related to a friend of mine that died during service in Iraq. I don’t see how that would move my resume to the top of the pile…

  7. I see where this hacker/company owner is coming from, but if he had any guts he’d just come out and say “I refuse to hire military veterans, former NSA employees, people who have extensive work experience with closed-source corporate code, people from Europe who blog in languages I can’t read, people like DVDJon who can’t blog in their own names without being arrested, people from China who can’t blog without getting shot, people with kids who have no time to blog, people named John or Michael who don’t practice SEO, and most people over thirty,” instead of pretending that Google hits are some kind of time-honored badge of quality.

    I mean, I guess it’s legal to insist that all your employees be prolific writers, have unusual names, or deliberately practice Google marketing, but you had better know what you are selecting for.

    I was un-Googleable until recently. My name is just too common; “Booth” seems to be a popular surname in the UK. Since I’ve spent several of the last few years working for a biology researcher at MIT (i.e. the kind of person whose paranoia makes Richard Nixon seem mellow) I didn’t worry a lot about that. The only kind of paper trail that matters in government-funded research is the refereed kind; to publish anything else is to increase the risk that you will piss off some colleague, who will retaliate by anonymously sandbagging your career several years later. Or, worse, that you will inadvertently reveal your line of research to a colleague who will publicly pre-empt your career by publishing first.

    When I eventually got tired of having the kind of job that I was afraid to talk about, I registered a domain that matches my full name. (Middle initials are your friend.) And, like magic, I moved to #5 or #6 on the Google search page. Admittedly, the filmmaking Michael Booth is still at #1 (curse you, IMDB Googlejuice!), but I’m ahead of the Mike Booth who studies fish at my former university, and well ahead of former champion Michael J. Booth (Ph.D.), author of “Quenched Chiral Perturbation Theory for Vector Mesons” and other light classics.

    I’d like to think that my superior Google ranking makes me smarter than my professorial doppelganger, or more highly respected among my peers, or at least a better software developer. But I think it just means that my SEO is a tiny bit better than his SEO. And that I’ll get more job interviews.

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