We Googled You - Hbr Case Stydy

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HBR CASE STUDY AND COMMENTARY

S hould Fred hire
M imi d espite her
on line history?
Four commentators offer
e xpert advice.

We Googled You
by Diane Coutu


Reprint R0706A

Hathaway Jones’s CEO has found a promising candidate to open the company’s flagship store in Shanghai. Should a revelation on the Internet disqualify her now?

HBR CASE STUDY

We Googled You

COPYRIGHT © 2007 HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL PUBLISHING CORPORATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

by Diane Coutu

The wind was howling and relentless as Fred
Westen opened the door and called upstairs to
tell his wife that he was home. While he waited
for her to come down, he poured himself a shot
of whiskey, tilting the decanter with his left
hand. In his right he grasped the morning’s
Wall Street Journal. The CEO of the luxury apparel retailer Hathaway Jones wanted to hear his wife’s reaction to a story.
Martha Westen walked almost languorously
down the stairs. She went to the kitchen, poured
herself a cup of tea, strolled into the living
room, and nestled in her favorite chair by the
fire. Fred handed her the paper and directed
her attention to the front page. There she found
an article about how an insurer had rejected a
woman’s claim for disability because of chronic
back pain, based on information the company
had obtained from her psychologist’s notes.
Martha shook her head. “It gets worse every
day,” she shuddered as she envisioned a future in

which everyone’s medical records were posted
online. “Even our thoughts aren’t private anymore.” At 58, Martha didn’t pretend to be an expert on shared online content or anything else to do with the Internet. All her information was
limited to what she read in the popular press.
Which was just enough to keep her up at night.
“It’s what I keep on telling you, Fred. There
are no secrets now, and we’re just going to have
to learn how to live with that.”
Martha fell silent, staring moodily at the
flickering fire. Fred was almost relieved when
the telephone rang. He jumped up to grab
the receiver.
At the other end of the line was John Brewster, Fred’s old roommate at Andover and now a stringer for a number of U.S. newspapers in
Shanghai. Although the two had not stayed
close after prep school, they still exchanged
Christmas letters and called each other occasionally. The men spent a few minutes catching

HBR’s cases, which are fictional, present common managerial dilemmas and offer concrete solutions from experts.
harvard business review • june 2007

page 1

W e Googled You •• •H BR C A SE S T UDY

up and then John eased the conversation
around to his daughter, Mimi.
Now in San Francisco, Mimi had heard that
Fred planned to expand the Philadelphiabased Hathaway Jones into China, and she wanted to be part of the move. Fred hadn’t
seen her since she was a teenager, but he
remembered her as poised and precocious in
the way that expatriate kids often are. John
asked Fred if he would meet with her. “She’s a
terrific gal,” his old friend promised, “a real
mover and shaker.”
“I look forward to seeing her again,”
Fred said honestly. “Just have her contact
my assistant.”

The Candidate

Diane Coutu (dcoutu@hbsp.harvard.
edu) is a senior editor at HBR.

harvard business review • june 2007

A month later, on the other side of the country, Mimi Brewster was admiring herself in the bedroom mirror. As she stared at her reflection, a trace of a smile brightened her face. It wasn’t a smile that Mimi would let everyone

see, but it communicated the satisfaction she
felt with her life. With her bobbed black hair
and Manolo Blahnik shoes, Mimi felt that she
was right on track. Not quite 30, she was already the kind of person who made people sit up and take notice.
“You look terrific; he’ll be as wild about you
as I am,” Mimi’s boyfriend, Chandler, said as he
rolled over in bed, unable to hide his continuing infatuation with Mimi. “He’d be...
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