While this is a very prudent and intelligent course of action to take, many people don’t take a streamlined, step-by-step approach to this process. By focusing your efforts, you will reduce the time it takes to research, increase the quality of information you collect, and make the best decision possible.
Step-by-Step: Approaching Online Research
Although there are several methods you can utilize in researching your talented applicant, the approach I’m about to provide is the one I like to use. It’s not only a logical progression, but can be turned into a simple checklist for any candidate you research:
1. Google Search: Search not only the applicant’s name, but any nicknames they could possibly use. Obviously your job is easier if they have a unique name rather than, say, Molly Smith. If you’re having trouble finding good results, add keywords related to that person: their college, past employers, major accomplishments, etc.
2. News Items: Switch over to Google News search and look to see if there has been any positive or negative press for your candidate in the last few years. Do this by changing the search results to be for any time frame. Once again, use additional keywords if results are murky.
3. Personal Blog: Scan their past posts and their headlines. Do they complain about others? Are there well-spoken? Do they display knowledge or have a decent readership?
4. Facebook, MySpace, & Twitter: A potential employee’s social networking profiles should be your next target. Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace are where the most information is generally shared. Twitter and MySpace profiles tend to be public, so it’s easy to look at past friends, their tastes, and links that they share. Red flags to watch out for include irritability, bad judgment, and overuse of social networking during work hours (unless it was their job).
5. Other Social Networks: Conversations on FriendFeed, Xanga, blog comments, and elsewhere can be illuminating. Really only look for these if your research has turned up short thus far or if a result for a different social network ranks very high in Google.
I really want to impress one other important note: be courteous to the candidate you’re researching. You don’t need to hack into a person’s account or find workarounds to discover good information. This will set a bad tone that could ruin the working relationship before it begins.