Stalk People Before You Hire Them

Facebook. Twitter. Tumblr. Instagram. Blogs. These social networking tools (and scores of others) have changed everything about hiring staff, finding volunteers and leading people. Why? Because everything you’ve posted, tweeted, commented, emailed, sent—it’s all out there. Seth Godin says it this way: “Google never forgets.”

A report from the University of Evansville seems to back this. They found that more and more employers are turning to the internet to screen applicants. The study determined that employers were able to determine with a “surprising level of accuracy” personality traits and indicators that could predict future job performance.

It’s worked for us. Before we hire people, we unapologetically research them on Facebook and Twitter and other sites. We have discontinued our talks with potential staff members because of their online persona. We have ignored applications because of what we’ve found on their Facebook page. We’ve also fired people based on what we have found online.

I would recommend doing some simple searches before you hire staff or select high level volunteers. Here are some things to observe:

  • Look through all of their picture albums. You will learn much about a person by the pictures they take and believe are worthy of posting.
  • Read their posts to see how they think.
  • Click on articles they link to find out what they find interesting.
  • See if they talk about their spouse or kids. (Note: If they talk only about their kids and never about their spouse, that could be a sign of marital trouble).
  • See if you can find how they react to people with whom they have a disagreement. Are they kind or critical? Do they treat people online the way you would want them to treat your leaders in person?
  • See what they think is funny. Is it always crass and bordering on inappropriate? If so, that probably is a reflection of their heart.
  • Find out about their interests. What movies do they like? What books do they read? Where do they like to vacation? What do they do when they have free time?

You might say, “That borders on stalking!”

And you’d be exactly right. Stalking. Creeping. Whatever you want to call it…do it! Our work is way too important to chance getting someone on the team who has character flaws we don’t know about. Anything that is put online is for public consumption. And it would be ridiculous not to do the fullest possible research.

If you were buying a used car, and they offered to give you the full historical report of every mechanical issue or accident the car has experienced—you would do it! You would want to know what you are getting when you buy that car. If it is true when buying a car, it should be true when hiring team members and lending the entire credibility of the church behind their leadership.

Oh, and it probably goes without saying, but make sure you are also smart online. You might be ticked at the church you last worked at—but you’d do well not to air that online.  Like Godin says, “Everything you do now ends up in your permanent record. The best plan is to overload Google with a long tail of good stuff and to always act as if you're on Candid Camera, because you are.”

Do you actually need to change your hiring practice so you begin cyber-stalking potential staff members?

Is there something you need to change about your personal online practices so it doesn’t jeopardize a future opportunity?