I regularly ‘google’ potential hires to see if I can find out any useful information before even getting to a technical screening phone interview. Sometimes you can’t find much of anything on a candidate even a candidate with an unusual name. I don’t read a lot into this but I often wonder about it. If you’ve never posted a comment on something like TSS or some other searchable forum, don’t have an old blog, or a bug report on sourceforge are you just trying to hide something? Since I’m almost always hiring for web development seeing a candidate’s content out there on the internet is a big plus.
I love coming across candidates who have web sites or who have made a lot of posts to newsgroups. You can really get a good idea about someone from even how they ask for help with some configuration issue. Unfortunately I think a lot of technical people realize anything they put out on the public internet could possibly be used against them later, so they generally avoid it. I think the advantages outweigh the risks, but that’s pretty obvious.
The one time this did impact me in an interview process I got attacked for posting something on a Mac forum I had forgotten about. After three interviews I was on yet another interview with the head of networking for a company. He apparently was a Microsoft bigot and believed that the world should be Windows NT. The company already was starting to annoy me because they couldn’t make a decision after three separate interviews. This was in 1999 at pretty much the height of the dotcom bubble so I have no idea how they thought someone wouldn’t find a better job in the month long interview process they engaged in.
Anyway this the interview devolved into some weird attack interview which took me quite by surprise. I really didn’t see why it mattered that I used Macs as well as Unix and Windows machines. Anyway that was the final straw that convinced me not to even consider their offer. And I sent an email to the actual hiring manager explaining that being personally attacked because I dared to use Macs in an interview by a network admin wasn’t my idea of a good work environment. He replied back about a month later after he had left the company and apologized for the process. But by then I had found a great dotcom to work for. OK, it was a great experience. The company is of course out of business.
Anyway you can still find old Usenet posts of mine out there on rec.sport.paintball when I spent a lot of my freetime playing amateur paintball.