When reviewing potential candidates, hiring managers rely on resumes, background and reference checks and in-person interviews. But in a 60-minute interview, it can be difficult to determine a candidate's personality and what makes them tick. It's also tough to gauge how a candidate will work within a team and if she has issues with following a chain of command. Often a resume will not show if a potential hire is being honest in their description of prior experience and current skills. Candidates may look good on paper and interview well, but there's no guarantee that they'll add value or will fit in. This, of course, can lead not only to productivity issues but also eventual dismissal – not to mention a waste of a company's time and money. An even greater risk is a disgruntled or opportunistic employee who might sell a firm's client list, corporate intellectual property or worse.
For small businesses who don't have resources to waste, it's imperative that you make the right hire the first time. One way to help you in the process is to leverage social media to determine if a candidate is being truthful on their resume. You'll also be able to analyze his or her online identity by identifying traits that could affect her performance:
1. Is this person a team player? Look through the candidate's open social media and Twitter for clues about their personality. The key is to consider the entire picture versus individual posts. Everyone occasionally has a bad day and might make reference to it sometimes, but look for signs of a constant complainer. If someone frequently belittles others for not pulling their weight or talks about how they have to do the brunt of the work (whether it's about their job or even just chores around the house), he or she may not be a team player.
2. Do they argue passionately and refuse to compromise? Along the same lines as above, does she frequently argue on social media? I've known people who will debate to the death about things that are not really important, like the weather. Also – although there's nothing wrong with being passionate about a political topic – name-calling shows that a person is both juvenile and unwilling to compromise. People who deride others on Twitter, for example, probably don't have a problem airing your company's dirty laundry in public. Beware: This is not a good fit for a team-oriented small business.
3. Is this person going to be good for your corporate image and brand? This one may seem obvious, but look closely. You want to be careful of hiring people who post multiple photos of themselves engaged in activities that don't represent your brand. It's one thing if to post a photo of yourself at a birthday party where everyone including you is drinking a glass of wine. It's something else entirely if a person posts many photos (or is tagged in many photos) where they are falling down drunk. It's imperative that you look for signs that a potential candidate has badmouthed a boss or colleague on social media. Whether it is deserved or not, slamming a boss or colleague for the world to see shows that a person may not respect authority or the company they work for.
4. Read their posts for grammar, spelling and maturity. All HR recruiters and hiring managers that I interviewed for my book say that grammar and spelling are very important to them. Also, you can gauge a person's maturity level based on what words they use. If a 30-year-old professional is consistently using terms typically reserved for tweens (such as "totes amazeballs" or "weaksauce") you might want to think twice about considering that person for a position. You want your employees to represent your professional brand at all times, even on social media. Can you imagine this person in a meeting with high level clients saying things like that?
5. Do standard background checks. Look through public records such as traffic tickets, bankruptcy proceedings and court filings. Typically a company does not want to employ people who have been in legal trouble. Note: The degree to which companies can base their hiring decisions on a candidate's record of offenses depends on the human rights code in their province.
6. Do reconnaissance through photo search and user name search. Sometimes people will put a professional face on their public social media but have hidden social media or things that they don't want you to find. Take photos from their public social media and run them through Google Photo Search. You might find that the candidate has a hidden site under another user name. If they have used the same photo, you will find it.
7. Look for untruths in cover letters and e-mails. Resumes are typically sanitized, so they're not exactly the best place to uncover lies. If someone wrote something misleading in an e-mail or cover letter, the truth will always come out. In the same way body language can indicate deception, there are certain hints that people give away by the words they use. Keep an eye out for someone who changes tenses. If a candidate is telling the truth in a cover letter, they will typically keep to past tense words. If suddenly they switch to present tense, take note. Look at the following excerpt from a cover letter:
"I am looking to join your firm. As you will see in my resume, I am extremely qualified for this job. Even though I was very happy and very successful in my current position, I am looking for something more challenging."
Note how the person states "Even though I was very happy…" That is a slip up on their part. They intended to say "Even though I am very happy…" They are showing that they are in fact not happy in their current job but certainly didn't mean to tell you that.
8. Don't just rely on phone references. Be sure to look at candidates' references through social media. See if they are "friends" with bosses and co-workers and determine if they have good endorsements on LinkedIn.
9. What they don't say can be more important than what they do say. Let's say a candidate's resume says they worked at Company X and Company Y. In their professional online profile, they have glowing endorsements from colleagues at Company X and many "friends" from there, but none from Company Y. There could be a logical explanation, but it would be a good idea to reach out to Company Y to find out if there is something that the candidate is hiding.
Tyler Cohen Wood is a cyber branch chief and senior officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency. She has more than 14 years of experience with cyber forensics, supporting DoD and law enforcement. In her new book, Catching the Catfishers: Disarm the Online Pretenders, Predators, and Perpetrators Who Are Out to Ruin Your Life, she discusses privacy and how to protect yourself online.
All views are my own and do not in any way reflect those of my employing agency or the United States Government.
Editor's note: This story contains a clarification. An earlier story did not specify that a hiring manager for a company must take into account the human rights code in their province.