When candidates send in a resume and answer questions at interviews, they do their best to present themselves in a good light. Answers are rehearsed, and even questions like "What is your greatest weakness" have canned answers that subtly put a positive shine on the candidate.
Cutting through the spin means finding out things the candidates won't tell you directly. One way to do that is through speaking to references. The problem with references, though, is that they're pre-selected by the candidate and you can be pretty sure they'll also paint a positive picture. Even if a reference wanted to present a complete picture of the candidate, faults and all, corporate policies often prevent them from doing anything more than confirming dates of employment.
So you have to do a little digging to find out more about the candidate. Background checks have their place, but they tend to focus on big issues like criminal records or lies about earned degrees. Sometimes it's the smaller things in how a candidate conducts themselves in their normal lives that will impact your organization.
Fortunately, these days it's easy to observe a candidate's behavior outside the interview room. Candidates put their uncensored selves online in social media like Facebook and Twitter. More than half of employers looked at candidates' profiles. Should you? Here are the kinds of things you might find out.
The candidate brags about drug or alcohol use.
If your company has a serious drug-free policy, anecdotes about illegal substance use should throw up a red flag.
The candidate expresses intolerant opinions.
Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but you need to maintain a non-hostile workplace. A candidate who puts racist or sexist opinions on their profile may bring them to the workplace, placing you at legal risk.
The candidate bad-mouths their current employer.
If you hire this person, your company becomes their current employer. Do you want them publicly posting negative opinions about your business?
Not everything you learn from a social media profile should factor into a hiring decision. Social pages often reveal things like marital status or religious affiliation, neither of which should be used as part of the candidate review. But hopefully you'll identify some positive characteristics of the candidate from their profile that didn't come up during an interview, such as their active participation in a charity.
Don't forget to review the candidates' profiles on professionally oriented social media sites like LinkedIn as well. Profiles there should appear professional and support the candidates' qualifications. If you can't find a profile for the candidate, that's a significant sign as well.
Hiring decisions should be based on a well-rounded picture of the candidate. Today's social media sites can help paint a large piece of that picture. Combining a review of a candidate's social media activity with their credentials and formal qualifications can help you understand what the candidate will bring to the office and help you make the best possible hiring decision.