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How to Scope Someone Out Online

Social Networking Sites

My roommate, Sarah, thought she was getting a pretty accurate gauge of her faraway love interest, but she didn't pay attention to several important signs. His Facebook profile photos all appeared to be self-portraits. Many of his friends were virtual-only, not people he seemed to know in person.

His end of the Skype conversations turned intimate too early for an exchange with a stranger, and he also jumped the gun in changing his online status from “single” to “in a relationship” before they even met. Of course, any new love affair, employee hire, or contract arrangement is a gamble--set up in person or not. But with the right high-tech tools combined with a healthy dose of skepticism, online seekers may be able to minimize the stakes.

Employers are increasingly looking at social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to get a sense for how a person might fit into their company. The same kind of search might be applied to dating or other connections made online.

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According to a poll conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, online search engines and social networking sites have been growing as methods for screening job candidates. The survey, entitled “SHRM Staffing Research: Online Technologies and Their Impact on Recruitment Strategies,” showed that 26 percent of those polled in 2008 used social networking sites as an HR tool “always,” “frequently,” or “occasionally,” compared with 9 percent from two years prior. Use of search engines among recruiters also increased.

“What are the candidates like outside of the office, above and beyond what they are giving us in an interview setting?” says Damon Lovett, an SHRM technology and HR management special expertise panelist.

Lovett says companies can use social networking sites to gauge whether any discrepancy exists between what job candidates put forth on their résumés and how they present themselves--either professionally on LinkedIn or socially on Facebook. The same can be said for dating: A person might appear to have a lot of “friends,” but what's the quality of those interactions? Does the person seem well respected by colleagues and friends in their network?

Lovett recommends searching for the candidate by e-mail address--usually found on the person's résumé--rather than by name. All the major social networking sites are connected to specific e-mail addresses, and it's a way to ensure that you are in fact looking at the right “John Smith.”

Lovett also suggests looking at a job applicant's LinkedIn profile to assess the person's true area of expertise. If a candidate is applying for a job in one category but most of the person's connections are with professionals in a different field, that candidate may not be as well suited for the job as he or she might have you believe in the résumé.

“It's all about who you know,” Pinstripe's Krier says. She notes that it's possible to use social networking to find the perfect employees who aren't even looking for a job. If an employer--or anybody else needing a service--has a specific type of person in mind, they can scan LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites for just the right person, rather than sticking only to those who saw and applied for the opening.

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