By: Emily Bennington
We all know it’s expensive to make a bad hire. At best, you’re out the time and resources it took to get the person up to speed. At worst, you’re putting out fires in their wake.
The good news is that, thanks to technology, employers now have unprecedented access to a virtual treasure chest of information on candidates, making hiring decisions much easier. In fact, these days almost half of businesses are using social media online tools to screen potential employees and that number will only continue to rise. Even small businesses are finding social media can be an enhancement to their hiring process.
A good place to start is with social media sites. Be aware, though, that some of the information you find (such as a person’s age, race, gender, religion, marital status or disability) should not be used to influence your hiring decision and laws around discriminatory hiring practices are still very much in place when recruiting online. Also keep in mind that job seekers write their own credentials on these sites. As such, there is no guarantee that the information is always 100% accurate.
That said, where should you begin your research?
Google (Of course)
For the most part, candidates can control the information that appears on their social media profiles. They have considerably less control over what shows up on Google. So, before you check any of the other sites, do a thorough Google search, e.g. go back at least five pages and be sure to click on any links rather than rely on the summary text. Obviously, this becomes more difficult (if not completely useless) if the candidate has a fairly common name. For example, I teach a graduate course and one of my students is named -- you guessed it -- Jon Smith.
It’s a common best practice in business to “hire for attitude, train for skill.” And if ever there was a place to gauge attitude online, it’s Facebook. Assuming you have access to a potential employee’s account, resist the temptation to go straight to the pictures. Instead, take note of what they’re posting on their wall. Do they engage with friends positively and show enthusiasm, or do they whine and play victim?
As with the Google search, you’ll want to scroll through a few pages to get a better sense of the overall picture. Pay special attention to group membership as well as the tone of their comments. Alone, these might not mean much, but together they can give you a sense of your candidate’s interests and interpersonal skills. Also, understand that Facebook is designed to be highly social, i.e., just because someone posts a photo with a cocktail in their hand doesn't mean they're destined to go on bender at the office Christmas party.
With as much of a beating as Twitter takes from non-users, I’m always pleasantly surprised and impressed when I find a candidate here. Beyond the basics (i.e. appropriate username and photos) I dive deep into status updates and retweets, giving extra points to those who are sharing helpful articles and links as opposed to just documenting their day. I also take note of who the candidate is using Twitter to follow thought leaders and look for industry leaders, respected authors, major media sources and other signs of vigorous learners. Some recruiters are also finding Twitter to be a useful recruiting tool.
I take note of job seekers who have a compelling summary, excellent recommendations and membership in industry groups. This shows me the candidate pays attention to detail and is actively seeking to build his or her career.
As with the Google search, you don’t go into You Tube expecting to find digital dirt. Sometimes, though, you get surprised. For that reason, no online due diligence is complete without searching for your applicant here.
Finally, don't just rely on the Internet to evaluate potential hires. Especially if you’re looking to fill a leadership role, put the most stock in what you see offline. In other words, your recruit could have the best web presence ever, but if he’s rude to the waiter in the interview, it’s time to look elsewhere.
Emily Bennington is the co-author of Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job (Ten Speed Press, 2010.) She is a contributor to The Huffington Post and a frequent speaker to college students and organizations on the topic of career success. Emily also teaches a graduate-level course on social media and hosts Professional Studio 365, a popular career blog which helps new professionals successfully navigate their first year in the workforce. She can be reached via email at ebennington (@) msn.com or on Twitter @EmilyBennington.
None of the information provided herein constitutes legal advice on behalf of Monster.