Small business advice: How to carefully vet job candidates through social media


When evaluating job candidates, sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can be both valuable and overwhelming. (Jason Alden/BLOOMBERG)
May 23, 2012

When the economy crashed in 2008 and unemployment began to skyrocket, job seekers got caught up in an all-out brawl over who could present the most creative resumes. Companies began to see candidates offering everything from video resumes to infographic resumes and even sandwich board resumes.

It was an arms race for creative job applicants looking to use any and every tool at their disposal to land a dream role in a nightmare economy as all of the traditional methods of getting hired and finding talent had evolved.

At the same time the financial crisis took hold, social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn entered the mainstream. Many companies realized that these extensive networks offered a great pool of talent and that social media could take their job opening viral. The online world has become awash with opportunities to both spread the word about job openings as well as investigate possible candidates before you meet them in the flesh. But how can small businesses avoid information overload? Here are some tips:

LinkedIn: Every recruiter’s friend and even better than you think. LinkedIn is a great first stop for recruiters. Beyond showing their professional growth in an easy-to-read format, smart candidates request (and get!) insightful recommendations from peers, clients and friends that give an outsider’s view of their performance. These are sometimes more powerful than regular references, since they are publicly displayed. You can even find portfolios on LinkedIn now to get a snapshot of a candidate’s creative skills side-by-side with their experience.

Love or hate Facebook, check it out. If an applicant has an open page, this can be a great way to see beyond the resume. You can learn where they volunteer, what kind of music they listen to, what activities they participate in outside of work or what TV shows they like. This information can provide powerful insight into whether a candidate is a good cultural fit.

To tweet or not to tweet. Twitter can be an awesome way to find out more about candidates. You can determine if they are interested in your business and industry subject matter by the type of news and posts they share. Though actually finding your candidate (and all of his/her Twitter accounts) can be a challenge, finding an identifiable main account will let you see communication style and interests — in 140 characters or less.

What about blogs? A candidate’s blog is another way to evaluate cultural fit, because most blogs are a labor of love and really show passion for the topics they cover. This longer form copy gives an even better view of an applicant’s communication style. Plus, if you’re filling a position that includes interactive roles like online marketing, keep in mind that candidates without blogs are often ones who aren’t active online.

Go beyond the big three social platforms. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the first places to check, but if you are looking for a creative candidate, visually-rich sites such as Pinterest and Instagram may give you a good sense of the design style a candidate values as well as their interests both within and outside of work.

Social media platforms are being looked at more and more by companies when looking to recruit and hire candidates. It is important to have a good strategy in place when deciding to use social media tools to find talent, but don’t be afraid of the platforms, they can tell you a lot about a person and whether a candidate would be a good fit for your company.

Susie Hall is president of Vitamin T, the division of Aquent that connects design companies with creative talent.

Related: Four more hiring tips for small business owners

Related: How to use social media to keep tabs on your competition

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