Why is Google Missing Available Search Results?

Google_Bing_Yahoo_LogosWhen you’re searching the Internet for potential candidates, it’s quite common (and practical) to search for resumes of  people who are likely to be local to your opportunity. The two main ways of doing this are searching by area code and searching by zip code range.

While there are limitations of both approaches (not everyone includes a phone number or address), in this post I want to explore an interesting phenomenon that was brought to my attention not too long ago which clearly demonstrates that even when people DO provide a phone number or address, you may not be able to find them by searching for that information.

Yes, you read that right.

Recently I had a recruiter in my network ask me why he could find a specific resume online using Google, but when he added the area code (which was clearly on the resume) to the search string – the search result disappeared.

When he sent me the screen shots, I investigated – and sure enough, he was right.

What I find especially interesting is the fact that he found the resume at all, because he wasn’t using any location criteria in his search to try and find local people. If his initial searches tried to target local people using an area code or zip code range, he would have never found the resume in the first place.

Moreover – he would never know of it’s existence.

Click on the image below to watch a short video clip of the Google resume search phenomenon:


Fascinating and Frightening

Seeing something like this makes me wonder how many people have resumes and other information online that are indexed by search engines, but are never found due to the search criteria used.

My instincts tell me there are many – but the insidious nature of searching is that all searches “work.” In other words – you get results from your searches, which gives you a false sense of security (and perhaps accomplishment), but you’re not aware of available results that your searches simply didn’t return. You can’t be.

In fact, it never occurs to most people to even wonder about available results they have access to, but are never retrieved.

However, just because you don’t find something – does that mean it doesn’t exist?

Why Does Google Fail to “Find” the Search Result?

I have my ideas as to why that specific resume cannot be found when adding the area code to the search, but I am curious to know your thoughts.

Multiple Search Engines

Of course, you should always employ difference search engines, as they don’t all index the exact same pages/sites. And even of they did index the same pages/sites, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they would return the exact same results for any particular search.

For example, while Google, Bing and Yahoo can find the same result without the area code, only Bing and Yahoo find the result that Google fails to return when adding the area code to the search string.


I bring this example to your attention because you should always be aware of the fact that you may have access to people that you simply cannot find using certain search criteria, and it’s not limited only to location searching. Searching by skill, title, company, industry, etc., can be similarly affected.

It’s often simply impractical to NOT search with some location criteria – few people have the time to sort through and review results from all over the world that they cannot use. And location-focused searching doesn’t just apply to resume search, but also for any kind of searching in which you are trying to find people that live relatively close to where the opportunity you are sourcing/recruiting for is located.

Hopefully this post makes you think twice about your strategy and tactics to try and identify local people and helps you uncover previously “unfindable” results.