How to Stalk Candidates Online so They’ll Never Find Out – Or Will (if you want!)

By Jenn Steele - Mar. 2, 2014
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stalking your candidatesSo it’s time to find out a little more about the person you want to bring on your team… in other words, stalk them. We’re all for a little stalking, whether it’s for professional or, erm, personal reasons – provided it remains within the bounds of legal and ethical activities, of course. It’s okay, you can admit it to us… you totally stalked that Account Manager you met at a seminar the other day, didn’t you?

Whether a candidate has been savvy enough to manage their online reputation is only the basic thing a quick stalk online will tell you about a potential future employee. You could also find out their interests, tone of voice, and other people’s opinions about them outside of a work setting.

Shocked at the fact we’re advocating online stalking?  Don’t be.  Googling someone isn’t just common in recruiting circles; most people are googled as a natural matter of course in any environment where networking is involved.

It’s okay, you can admit it to us… you totally stalked that Account Manager you met at a seminar the other day, didn’t you?

It happens most in a recruiting environment though.  Check out this survey which shows that:

  • 91% of managers use social networks to google a candidate
  • Most of them use Facebook!
  • Nearly half of them do a stalk immediately after they receive an application
  • And nearly 70% of them have rejected a candidate because of what they found out!

So thumbs up to stalking!  It does have to be done in the right way though. Here’s the lowdown on professional stalking methods:

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Places To Stalk Candidates

The usual suspects rear their heads when it comes to the best places to stalking candidates online.

  • LinkedIn
  • Google
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Real people (remember those? Look around – they’re the other people at the coffee shop!)

Google in particular can help you find a wealth of interesting information about a person especially if they’re part of special interest groups or write a blog.

Staying Anonymous

What do you do if you don’t want a candidate to know that you’re stalking them? While this isn’t a problem with some networks like Facebook and Twitter, who don’t relay your activities back to your prey candidate, it can be an issue when it comes to LinkedIn and any discussions you have with people who actually know them.

Why would you want to remain anonymous?

There are many good reasons for a recruiter or manager wanting to remain anonymous when browsing LinkedIn for potential candidates.  It may be that you are wanting to suss out potential hires without anyone knowing you are interested in hiring.  Perhaps that person has notified you of their interest and you want to do a little recon before contacting them.  Or maybe you simply would prefer that they didn’t then also check you out in return.


There is only one website that notifies a person that you’ve been looking at their profile; LinkedIn.  Many people aren’t aware that this is actually a feature that you can turn on and off quite simply.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Hover over your mini photo on the top right hand side and click ‘Privacy and Settings’
  2. At the bottom of the page, there’s a Privacy Control section.  Click on ‘Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile.’
  3. Choose the level of anonymity you want!  There are three levels to choose from.


Staying anonymous when talking to real people about a candidate is a little more tricky.  You should be aware that you can never 100% guarantee that your conversation won’t be relayed back to the individual.  The best way of avoiding the grape vine of gossip after a discussion is the request a confidential discussion upfront and clearly give the reasons as to why you want it to remain confidential.  That way, your informer can decide whether they’re comfortable with the secrecy or not.

Making Yourself Known

Sometimes though you want a candidate to know you’ve been peeking around their online reputation. In fact, if you’re doing some serious long-term stalking, using one of the ways below to connect with a potential candidate before you approach them about a job can open the flow of dialogue up rather nicely.

Here’s a few ways of popping your head up and letting a candidate know you’re around:

1. Commenting on their blog

Feel free to use flattery, too. Find a piece you really liked and make an interested and informed compliment on what they wrote. Show them the respect of asking them their opinion on a related topic and see what you get in response.

2. Retweeting a tweet

Particularly if you have quite a following on Twitter, an individual will be totally stoked that you retweeted something they said / wrote / shared.

3. Connect with them on LinkedIn.

Of course, LinkedIn will show that you’ve been a-lookin’ anyway but if you’re really keen to stay in touch with an applicant, a real connection is the only way to go.  It shows you’re serious about a long term relationship. Which is also some good advice to remember if you’re stalking for personal reasons…

What methods do you use to stalk candidates?  Tell us your stories of stalking (or being stalked!) below.

Photo courtesy of Kenneth Lu.


Jenn Steele

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