Google Era Interviewing

At the end of the 1990s companies like monster.com reshaped the hiring process–at least the first half of it. They changed the way people found job opportunities. They also changed the way companies found the people they were looking for.

2005 marks 10 years since Amazon.com, Google, Yahoo!, and eBay appeared on the Internet. During these 10 years they expanded tremendously; so did their databases. The data they collected captures a great deal of the Internet’s history. It also captures a great deal of information about the people who may seek employment opportunities with them. Without your realising it, the people interviewing you may know details about yourself that you’d have a hard time remembering. These details could reveal a lot more about yourself than your cover letter and your carefully crafted resume.

While browsing a large web retailer’s web site I had an opportunity to review my order history. I was curious to see how it looked like and went ahead to explore it. I was reminded that:

  • In 1997 I bought Concurrent Programming in Java: Design Principles and Patterns
  • In 1998 I bought A Polite and Commercial People: England 1727-1783
  • In 1999 I bought Tis: A Memoir
  • In 2000 I bought Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century
  • In 2001 I bought The Deadline: A Novel About Project Management
  • In 2002 I bought the Nikon WC-E63 Wide-Angle Converter Lens
  • In 2003 I bought Documenting Software Architectures: Views and Beyond
  • In 2004 I bought Loosely Coupled: The Missing Pieces of Web Services, and
  • In 2005 I bought A Mathematician’s Apology

I remember very well about some of these things: I see Concurrent Programming in Java and Loosely Coupled on my bookshelves; I know that A Mathematician’s Apology lies in my nightstand’s drawer; and the Wide-Angle Converter Lens is packed with my digital camera. However I did forget about others. My retailer has not; fascinating!

Would a potential employer be interested in this information? Should I apply for a job with this retailer, will they fish it out of their database and put it next to my resume? What does the list tell them about me?

The above questions apply for all of the above web sites, as well as many others: Google has the history of most things I googled for; Yahoo! has the history of many news articles I read; eBay has the records for many of the items I bought from (or sold to) an auction. This information could provide valuable business intelligence when it comes to interviewing a person. The interviewers could infer quite a bit about myself, my professional and personal interests. They could even gage whether I would fit with their culture. In other words, interviewing no longer has to revolve around someone providing credentials and the interesting parties probing around them. Instead, they could supplement the old fashioned techniques with a bit of data mining and inference, leveraging the gigabytes of data they’re sitting on. Welcome to the Google era of interviewing!

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