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5 social media hacks to track down more information when hiring

5 social media hacks to track down more information — on anyone

A friend of mine was recently made redundant. He worked in the media sector so he was prepared for it, had a positive attitude about it, and he called me up to talk about social media and, in particular, how to make sure his LinkedIn profile was all up to date.

So we went over his profile, talked about the latest features and changes, and then I asked him about Facebook and Twitter — whether he was thinking about using them to expand his social footprint. No, he said. Instead, he was planning to change the name on his Facebook profile to something unidentifiable, so prospective employers couldn’t find out about his personal life, and his Twitter handle was already pretty anonymous, so he’d leave it at that.

This is not the first time I’ve heard of people doing this. Amidst the ever-growing expanses of social media data and data tracking, there’s also a lot of people who are becoming increasingly suspicious about such tracking and data use.

In this case, my friend had nothing to hide, there’s nothing controversial or outlandish on his Facebook profile, there’s no reason for him to obscure it. But he wants to be judged as his professional self and not have any of his personal affiliations or interests come into it. And I get that. But I also do not think hiding your social media profiles is the way to go.

For one, anyone aged 50 or under who works in the media industry is probably going to have a social media profile of some kind. If I were a recruiter and I went looking and couldn’t find anything, my assumption would be they’re hiding it, and that would raise questions as to why they would do so — so it could be more damaging regardless.

But aside from that, it’s normally pretty easy to track people’s social profiles down, if you know where to look. And anyone doing regular recruiting or hiring — anyone considering making a financial investment in someone — they might have reason to do just that.

Here’s a couple of social hacks that can be used to find profiles of people who may or may not have something to hide.

1. Google Image Search

So this is not really a ‘hack’, it’s just using the system’s functionality as intended, but many people don’t realise that you can search Google by image. That means you can cut an image from somewhere — say, a LinkedIn profile — paste it into Google Image Search and it’ll show you all the places that image appears online.

Google Image Search

So if you’re using the same image from your LinkedIn profile on Twitter, it’ll come up. If you’ve got your LinkedIn profile image in amongst your Facebook pictures and it’s marked ‘Public’, it’ll come up.

This is one of the first checks anyone looking to find more information about a person online would conduct to see if there’s any further info out there for them to assess.

2. Facebook Phone Number Search

Did you know you can search Facebook by phone number? You can, and, in fact, most people who’ve entered their phone number into Facebook can be found via this method because this setting here, in amongst your Facebook privacy tools:

Facebook Phone Number Search

…is set to ‘Everyone’ by default.

Surely not, you say. Surely that’s a privacy concern.

Facebook doesn’t see it that way, and the majority of people don’t bother to update their privacy settings too often — so for most people, if you have their mobile number, you can find their associated Facebook profile. Of course, you need their number to begin with, but recruiters have that — so if your phone number is listed in your Facebook profile they can look you up.

3. Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search has been quietly slimmed down in the last year or so.

The idea of Graph Search, originally, was that it would enable all users to track down relevant information easily, by searching through the profiles of their connections and extended connections (friends of friends) to find relevant matches for search queries. Graph Search could also locate any info listed publicly — so you could enter in ‘People I know who use dating apps’ and Graph Search would show you.

Facebook Graph Search

But, of course, not everyone wants you to know that type of information, and privacy settings on Facebook can get pretty complex — even if you’ve locked down your profile, that doesn’t mean the groups you’re in are also locked down, or pictures of you on other peoples’ profiles. Because Graph Search effectively enables you to locate somewhat sensitive information, Facebook stopped talking about it and put it on the backburner. But you can still use it.

First off, Graph Search is only available to US users. Or anyone who changes their language to ‘English (US)’. To do this, go to your settings, click on ‘Language’ and change it to ‘English (US)’. And now you have Graph Search. As above, you can now enter more complex search queries into the Facebook search bar and it will return more contextual matches — Graph Search is built around conversational language to make it more functional, so you can type in variations of questions and it’ll try to return a result — you don’t need to use specific search language, necessarily.

In terms of tracking people down, Graph Search enables a range of queries that can help. Let’s say, for example, you know this person worked at McDonald’s in Greensborough between 2010 and 2014.

Graph Search Image 2

Of course, it depends on either how you’re connected to these people (your connections will show up) or if their profile info is public.

But even if the person you’re searching for hasn’t listed their previous employers on their Facebook profile, or has their info locked down to search, you can still find former colleagues from their past places of work and search through their friends — if the person you’re looking for is using a different name but is connected with someone from their old work, you’ll be able to track them down.

4. Twitter/Gmail Hack

This one is slightly genius — and I can take no credit whatsoever, I learned about it from BuzzFeed.

So, in Twitter there’s an option to find friends by importing your contacts from various e-mail providers.

Twitter Contacts

This is designed to make the Twitter on-boarding process easier, as you can find all your friends who have Twitter accounts and follow them straight away, giving you a feed of personally relevant info.

But what you can also do is enter the e-mail of anyone as a contact in your Gmail account.

Twitter Email #2

So if you’ve got the e-mail address of the person you’re searching for (like that one right there on their résumé) you can enter it in as a contact, then ask Twitter to search your Gmail contacts and look for any matching Twitter profiles. Twitter will go through the process and will return a list of Twitter profiles that match the email addresses you have listed.

Twitter Email 3

If the person has a Twitter account and they’ve used that email address to open it, it’ll show up here. Furthermore, you can then go into ‘Manage Your Contacts’ and see how each email address you’ve entered matches (or doesn’t) to a Twitter profile.

Twitter Email 4

So if you wanted to absolutely confirm that a specific Twitter profile is linked to a specific account — if, say, the Twitter profile was under a different name — then this is how you do it. This was the process BuzzFeed used to recently catch former MP Mark Latham out over his Twitter profile which he’d used to criticise members of the media.

5. Searching Social Profiles by Email

Now there are several social search tools that’ll enable you to enter an email address and they’ll go through all the major networks and find any matches — apps like Pipl and Social Searcher. I find these tools to be pretty hit and miss, and you usually get to a page that says “unlock full results for $29.95” and, really, most people aren’t that serious about tracking people down. But you may get good results with these tools if you’re really determined to find out more info about a person.

But one e-mail tool I do use is Rapportive’s Gmail extension.

Rapportive

What this tool does is it searches for LinkedIn profile matches based on the email addresses you type into your Gmail account. If that person has other social, website, or Skype profiles connected to their LinkedIn account, it’ll also show them.

Now, given the person you’re trying to track likely has a LinkedIn profile, they probably haven’t connected their anonymous Twitter and Facebook profiles up to it, so this is probably not going to help a lot in this regard, right? Well maybe.

If you don’t know a person’s email address, Rapportive can be helpful because it will show up connected LinkedIn profiles based on the email you enter — so if you were to type in ‘david@mcdonalds.com.au’ in your ‘to’ field and nothing came up as a match from Rapportive, you could safely assume that’s not David’s real email address. But if you enter ‘david.smith@mcdonalds.com.au’, Rapportive will check through and if it finds a match, you’ve worked out that person’s e-mail address.

It’ll show you the results as soon as you enter the e-mail in the ‘to’ field, and well before you press send, so you can try out common variants of e-mail addresses until the right one comes up.

So there you are, five social media hacks that can help you track down a person’s online identity, even if they’re trying to hide it.

Of course, there’s also moral and ethical questions about whether you should be looking up this type of info to use for personal assessment purposes, but the fact of the matter is the data is there.

The information, on people you’re potentially bringing into your business, and investing in, is available.

People should always exercise a level of common sense in their judgement of social media profiles and content — a person going out and having a drink on a weekend is pretty common practice, and not highly indicative of their professional capabilities. But criminal activity, bagging out their bosses, anti-social behaviour — those things might be good to know.

If you have the capacity to find out such info ahead of time, why wouldn’t you do so?

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