I don’t know about you, but my eyes start to glaze over as soon as I pick up a resume. All those one-pagers with tight formatting, impressive-sounding titles, bullet points with powerful action verbs — it’s enough to make you crazy.
Resumes seem like a great idea.. until it’s time to actually hire someone. That way of sorting prospective workers may be effective for weeding out the careless (a-ha, a typo!) but it makes it extraordinarily difficult for companies to find standout employees. On paper, the clock-in-clock-out types look the same as the standouts — they have the same experiences, same job titles, and same responsibilities. It becomes impossible to distinguish between the passionate and indifferent, motivated and unmotivated, culture fits and rotten apples.
But those distinctions matter. My suggestion? Put down the polished resumes and try Googling your job applicants instead. You’ll get much more valuable information, and you’ll find it on your own terms.
Here’s exactly what you should be looking for:
There’s a reason 75% of HR departments are already required to search job applicants online. It’s a far more effective way to find those exceptional employees than a piece of paper. It’s also a more instructive method for finding red flags than a polished resume — 70% have rejected applicants based on info they find online.
The first page of search results are a great place to start. Take a quick skim and see if anything weird stands out. If you find a website and active social media properties, you can probably move on. But if you find any red flags — legal issues or negative press, perhaps — you might want to think twice. It’s not to say a bad search result is a reason to automatically reject an applicant, but it’s certainly worth looking into more.
Next, move on to images and public social media profiles. Do you find loads of drunk college photos and inappropriate pictures from Spring Break? Do they tweet, share and comment using offensive language? Do they bash their current employer, insult others and get involved in controversial topics?
Your employees represent your company online, so you’ll want to be careful before hiring someone with this kind of questionable material. Again, it’s not necessarily a reason to reject an applicant on the spot, but you’ll want to proceed with caution.
A job applicant’s online footprint is one of the easiest ways to locate their unique value-add for your company.
If they have their own website, that’s a great place to start. A personal website is a sign that your applicant takes their online presence, job search, and career growth seriously.
So take a quick look around. If they have a blog, read a few posts to get a feel for their writing style and thought process. If they have a portfolio, it could be the easiest way to gauge their skills and actual output on previous projects.
See what other nuggets of info you can dig up. Take a look at their press or awards page — if they have one — to see if anything stands out. Have they been published on top tier publications? Perhaps that’s a connection your company can leverage. Have they been mentioned in trade magazines? Have they published a book? That kind of credibility and expertise might be helpful to have on staff.
Next, explore their social media channels. A large and engaged audience could be a massive benefit for your company. The research shows that content shared by employees receives 8 times more engagement than content shared by brand channels. And brand messages are re-shared 24 times more frequently when posted by an employee versus the brand’s social media channels.
Don’t underestimate the value of a huge and engaged social media following. That network and level of reach comes in handy when it’s time to spread the word about new job openings, important company updates, or that latest piece of press.
Personality and Culture Fit
Don’t wait until the interview to gauge your job applicant’s personality and potential fit with your company culture. An initial look through someone’s social media is often enough to give you a sense if someone is worth pursuing or not.
Look through visual mediums like Facebook and Instagram to get a snapshot into their personal life. Check out their Twitter and LinkedIn to see what articles they’re reading, what stories they’re sharing, and what thoughts pop into their heads.
And if you still feel like you’re missing some high-level chronological understanding of this person’s career experience, just check out LinkedIn. It’s the internet’s functional equivalent of a resume and has the added benefit of providing a full list of other eligible applicants if this one doesn’t work out.
Originally published on Forbes.com.