How Hiring Decision-Makers Vet You Online — Before and After the Interview

IT AdvisorEngine Job Search, Personal Branding

By understanding how you’re being evaluated when applying for a job, you’ll be able to gain an advantage on other applicants and have a much better chance at getting the job.

Hiring decision-makers follow what we call the digital consideration path. Throughout the process of finding candidates, vetting candidates, and interviewing candidates in person, they look up candidates online at several points.

Pre-Interview Selection Process

There are three types of job candidates that hiring decision-makers research online.

  1. Passive job seekers. 77% of hiring decision-makers have contacted a job candidate based only on the information they found about them online [source: Kredible research]. They may have done a LinkedIn search for a certain job title, scoured company websites for candidates to poach, or done a Google search. What they found during this initial fishing expedition was enough for them to move to the next step: contacting someone who wasn’t actively looking for a job…but that they hope they can persuade with a great offer.

    Word to the Wise: People in this category generally have a stellar online presence — complete, engaging LinkedIn profile; solid Google presence; well-done social media.

  2. Blind application. If you’ve ever seen a job posting on a site like Indeed or Careerbuilder and applied, or applied directly on a company website for a position, that makes you a blind application. There’s no one at the company who knows you or can speak to your skills, so beyond your resume (which may be embellished, for all the hiring manager knows), the only tool a hiring decision-maker has at his or her fingertips is the Internet. 


  3. Third-party referral. Hiring decision-makers love referrals. PERIOD. But even if it’s their best employee recommending you, they still do due diligence.  In fact, our research shows that 91% will still research you online.

Any employer with a posted job is sorting through dozens, if not hundreds, of applications. While some skim your resume for the appropriate experience, others go straight online.  Regardless of the path they took, their next step isn’t to call everyone who seems qualified for an interview; they want to narrow down the pool of applicants, so their next step is to vet you online.

  • Do your LinkedIn profile and search results match your resume?
  • Is there something in your online presence that tells them you’d be a fantastic cultural fit?
  • Is there anything immediately apparent on your social media that’s cause for concern?
  • Is there additional, welcome information about you online that wasn’t present on your application that might make you a great fit?

Post-Interview Selection Process

Based on your resume and online presence, and possibly a referral, you were selected for an interview. You connected with potential colleagues and feel confident that you aced the answers to every question and asked some good ones of your own.

But you’re never the only person in the running for a job. Hiring decision-makers are looking to select the very best candidate.

After an interview comes the re-evaluation process, where you’re held up against your competitors to determine who should get an offer.

This calls for a deeper dive online. A hiring manager is still keeping an eye out for red flags, but they’re also looking for the “something extra” that makes you stand out. If your qualifications and those of another candidate are exactly the same, and I loved both of you in person at your interview, what could I find out about you online that would sway me one way or the other?

Let’s say I did a Google search and found that you were a speaker at several professional candidates, while a search for your competitor turned up nothing. Or, I saw that you’ve been posting thoughtful blogs about hot topics in your industry, while your opponent has a poorly cropped photo and wrote his summary in third-person.

Your online presence allows hiring decision-makers to find out:

  • If you have experience with similar companies. If I’m at a healthcare company, it’s likely very important to me that you know the ins and outs of the industry — not just that you have the skills I need.
  • If you’re a good cultural fit. I might find out in my searches that one of the companies you previously worked for was a startup. Not familiar with the name, I didn’t realize that when I interviewed you — but I’ve been looking specifically for someone with startup experience.
  • If I would get along with you personally. Suppose I uncover results of your marathon training, proof of your volunteer work, or a blog based around a personal hobby of yours. Learning more about you as a person makes me feel connected to you — which makes me more likely to think of you as a potential coworker. If, on the other hand, I discover a bunch of rants against airlines and news stations, I’m more inclined to think of you unfavorably as a potential coworker — the kind who leaves passive-aggressive notes in the kitchen.
  • If people I trust would recommend you. I may not have asked you for referrals, but if I see that several former colleagues have recommended you on LinkedIn, or that you’re connected to people I know whose opinions I trust, I have social proof that you’re worth consideration. I also have the option of contacting our mutual connections and asking about you.

What to Do Next

Google yourself. Look at your LinkedIn profile through a stranger’s eyes. Or, have us do it for you. With an honest appraisal of your online presence, you’re in a better position to ace the interview game.