Reference checks are arguably the best first-hand source to understand the true professional side of an applicant and to learn how they will fit into your team. Unfortunately, for legal reasons, more and more companies no longer provide detailed reference checks and, instead, will only confirm basic information like dates of employment and job title.
So, what’s the next best way to learn about potential new-hires? Stalk them online! Most hiring managers are already researching candidates’ profiles, as evidenced by the large volume of articles to job seekers, cautioning them to adjust privacy settings on Facebook. Given all the prudence applicants are now taking, can you still benefit from this practice? Of course! You just may need to dig a little deeper.
As the most popular social network, this is where the majority of people share details of their life. It’s also the first place they lock down. Unless you get lucky and find somebody who has never heard of Facebook security settings, there is little you will find here.
If you’re checking in on somebody to gather dirt or truly understand somebody’s personal side, then your LinkedIn search will come up short. This is the professional network, so except for the terribly irresponsible, nobody is sharing any details. There are some measures you can take, however, to gain valuable insight:
- Look at the person’s connections and see if there’s anybody you know. You may be able to get a good backdoor reference.
- Review the recommendations section. They will all be positive, but are they credible? Were these written by other professionals with whom they definitely did business, or were they friends and co-workers helping your candidate look great.
- Take a careful look at the experience section and cross-reference it with their resume. Is it all consistent? Is it possible they embellished one and forgot to adjust the other?
- Visit their contact information and look for links to a personal website, blog, or Twitter account. That will give you even more to explore!
Don’t forget the other networks!
Speaking of more to explore, there are many other popular networks that will help you learn more about somebody. Use their email address to search your applicant out on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and even YouTube. If you find an account, explore their past posts, items they shared, or playlists they created. These social networks will rarely give you an insight to a person’s professional life, but could help you understand who they are as a person, which would help to manage them should you decide to offer a job.
Finally, there’s the great search engine that doesn’t let anybody hide online. Search out the name, but also try their email address and any usernames you may have learned they use from your other social media searches. Here you can find small hints about their past, such as newspaper articles and comments in forums.
A Word of Caution
These online sources are all helpful to learn more about a job applicant, but before you use this knowledge to decide whether or not to hire them, it’s most essential to understand how important this knowledge actually is to you. After all, a wrong decision could cost you a great employee!
How much time do you invest in researching a candidate online? Leave us a comment below.