Personal Website from Potential Employees...?

Hello, all--

 I have a quick question, from the POV of someone seeking a position: as HR professionals, if you saw a URL on an applicant's resume for their personal website, would you check it out? At what stage in the hiring/interviewing process? Presumably you would go there and find an introduction to the person, their resume, some work samples, etc-- just a brief 1-2 page website. Would this be of use to you/interesting?

 I'm eager to hear your thoughts on this! Thank you, from a first-time poster.


  • 10 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • This is hard to answer.  Questions like this have been up for debate by employment law attorneys a lot lately.

    The debate about sites like this is whether an employer can make a hiring decision based on a legally protected status (age, sex, race, religion, etc.) which an employer may be able to see or determine from these websites.  Most people do not put these things on a resume but they do put things related to this on these personal websites.  So the side that says an employer should not look at these sites says that employers could potential see that someone is of x race or y religion and therefore not hire the person because of that knowledge. 

    The other side of the fence says that an employer can learn a lot more about the character of a person by looking at these websites.  If a person is willing to put it out there for the world to see then an employer should be able to use this information to make a hiring decision.  Believe it or not there are those that put pictures or other information on their site related to illegal activity (drugs, underage drinking, committing a crime, etc) or unappropriate behavior (talking about writing a novel while on company time). 

    I personally do not look at websites like this or things like myspace and facebook.  I would much rather look at a cover letter and resume that shows me you have the qualifications that I am looking for to fill a position. 

    Hope that makes sense.

  • Many applicants, especially in the graphic design & journalism fields, have personal websites where they locate work samples and portfolios.  Since we generally ask for samples from these sorts of people, I absolutely check out their websites before calling them in for an interview.  If their work samples are not up to our standards, they do not get a call.


  • Thanks, efeldman.

    I'm really wondering about this for people who do not work in fields that depend on portfolios, or fields that have little to do with computers--just most average office jobs. I'm at entry-level for a job as an assistant-- if I make a 1-2 page website that basically just has a short bio, my resume, and a writing sample or 2, would that be useful? Would HR profs be inclined to check it out, if they saw my URL on my resume?

     I also am worried about the idea of putting up a photo of myself--is that dangerous? Would I be disregarded immediately, for fears of breaking discrimination laws?

     Thanks for any help you all can offer!

  • If you're not trying to show some work product, I'm not sure that a website is so useful.

    Also, I always find it strange when applicants put a photo on their resume.  I work in media, and it's really not that unusual for talent to do this, but for non-on-camera jobs, it is truly bizarre.

    I'd spend more time making the content of your resume stand out and less on the "fluff".

  • Honestly, yes we do check up on candidates and their online presence especially if they list a website on their resume.  But as a job-seeker, I would not depend on every employer to do so. Many do not, because they do not want to know certain things.  That way they can not be accused of illegal discrimination.

    I agree with efeldman. You want your resume to speak for itself.  Especially since many large companies have resume filtering software that culls out resumes with specific words/topics, etc.  You would not want to leave your website to do that. 


  • The other thing you have to think about is depending on the company and job you are applying for, your potential employer may be receiving hundreds of resumes.  Many HR departments do not have time to go out to a website to learn more about you.  I agree with the others, put your time and effort into your resume, and thank you letters if you get an interview.  It amazing how much a thank you letter will make you stand out from the crowd. 
  • Thanks again for all the responses

    Now, I realize HR people do not have time to check out everyone's websites. But these days everyone is talking about how employers check out Facebook profiles, Google potential hires, and so on. It seems as if, once they get further in the hiring process, they are interested in seeing more about the person.

    This isnt something I'm worried about--I have a great resume that I already put good time (and others' advice) into. I'd just like to know if a recruiter could/would use a website I put together. I think I already do the other things you recommend--always send thank you letters, make a good resume, prepare for interviews, etc. I just want to know if going this extra mile will add any value.

  • yes - I would check it out and I would view it as creative and inventive.  It would be a plus in my book to see someone who took the initiative to do that.
  • If someone provides you with a URL on their application materials and you choose to check it out, it's no different from another well-known nightmare scenario: let's say you open an interview with the common (but horrible) ice-breaker, "So, tell me about yourself," and the candidate responds by telling you about their racial heritage, religious background, family makeup (including maritial status), and the serious health conditions of their children and their experiences in the Vietnam war.  If telling you that gave the applicant certain victory in a discrimination action if you don't hire them, then everyone would be doing it.  In short, there are many things you can't ask, shouldn't ask, and don't even want to know that applicants may tell you anyway.  I vividly recall many applicants falling all over themselves to tell me about their church affiliations in an interview when I was helping out a secular non-profit organization with a variety of HR projects.

    Alternatively, what if you fail to hire a person because you didn't check out their web site and the website contained the information that would have tipped the decision in their favor and that information was not easily addressed in an interview or resume?  To be frank, nothing like that comes to mind outside of the work-sample category such as writing, programming, art, and design, but this is still a possibility.  The person provided you with everything you needed and you simply failed to examine all the materials in making your decision.  Perhaps it's a stretch, but I could see this resulting in a pretext case when you argue that you simply don't have time to look at everyone's website.

    On one side of the legal fence, if they give it to you and you don't look at it, that's analagous to saying you didn't really read their entire resume.  One could say you had "selective memory" or "selective reading criteria" when it came to applicants of category X.  Winning the case would be great but avoiding it would be better.  On the other side of the legal fence, you could be exposed to information you may not normally be exposed to such as national origin and marital status and an applicant could claim that it was on that basis that you made your decision.

    Here's another wrinkle: how will you prove you didn't look when they claim you didn't hire them for illegally discriminatory reasons?  I guess my point is that once the URL has come before your eyes, there are ways for people to get you whether you look or not and the most compelling argument for going ahead and looking is that you will have a tough time saying you didn't, anyway, unless you have a very solid IT infrastructure.  I think the risks associated with not-looking, particularly if you can demonstrate that you couldn't, are much lower than the risks of looking.  Of course, the person could always say you looked from your private computer, so there's really no end to the ways this can be used as an inroad to problems.

    In the end, if your employment decisions are easily identifiable as being based on merit factors and the difficult decisions are not disproportionately won by any one group, then you are going to be in better shape than if you make a lot of decisions that are hard to justify to a third party.  I'm always nervous when the hiring manager wants to resolve a tough decision by explaining to me that one person "feels" better than the other.  "Feeling" your applicants or feelings about them are not very good criteria.  If your hiring decisions are not documented and/or would not look good blown up on a poster board to be reviewed by a dozen strangers, then you should address that problem.

  • I guess the best way to describe this situation is to say this "you are damned if you do and damned if you don't."  There are some good and bad reasons to look and some good and bad reasons not to look.

    I know there has been a lot of talk about this but I haven't see any court cases come through about it.  Has anyone else?  I will be curious to see how the courts rule on a case about this.

    For now I think I will stay with the high road and just rely on the cover letter, resume, and interviews.   I agree that if you have a documented hiring process with documented hiring decisions then you can use that if a decision is every questioned. 

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