Remember to Search

I’m amazed at how accomplished people sometimes miss simple things.

I’m amazed at how accomplished people sometimes miss simple things. In recent weeks, I’ve had three organization leaders come to me with stories of bad hires. In all three cases, the employees were diligent and competent but bad for PR. “I called all of their references,” I was told by all three employers. “How could I have prevented this?” We live in an information age, where data is bought and sold for big money, and sometimes we forget that acquiring knowledge can be simple. References are always chosen with care. But Google doesn’t lie. It only takes a minute to input a name into a search engine and sort through the results. Occasionally, you have to go back and refine the search; there may be a plethora of “Joseph Smiths” who have been campaign finance directors, but only four in Texas and only one who was tied to a tree with his fraternity letters emblazoned in Magic Marker across his chest after a night of snakebite shots at the local watering hole. (Above names and places not meant to represent any human, living or dead.) It doesn’t take ten thousand dollars and a full research team to find the embarrassing pictures on Facebook or the student-body president campaign video in which the recruit championed free kegs in the dining halls. All it takes is ten minutes and the realization that anyone can do a rudimentary search that, sometimes, yields amazing results. On occasion, it goes deeper. In one of the above cases, the employee had “several” felony charges and “a few” convictions—certainly not the guy that you want working as your candidate’s body man, potentially appearing in candidate photos. Given that the felon in question numbered a “hit and run” among his highlights, letting him drive the boss around wasn't such a sound decision, either. All of that could have been avoided with a simple Internet search. In that particular candidate’s state, criminal records are searchable (as they are in Florida, my home state of Rhode Island and many others). Sex-offender status is searchable in all states. Even driving records can be checked in some places. We hire opposition research specialists to look into the other side in almost every race. If we’re smart, we do the same oppo research on our own candidates so that we know what will be thrown our way. Digging up information on potential staffers doesn’t take that level of investment in either time or money. Anyone can do it. They just have to think of it. How could the bad hires been avoided? The simple answer is that the organization leaders and candidates could have come to me sooner. The simpler answer is that the laptop holds the key. Happy hunting. Jonathan Scott is president of the Liftline Group, a New England-based consulting and public relations firm. He is also the chairman of Ocean State Policy Research Institute. He can be reached at

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