Exploiting open source intelligence techniques in recruitment: focus on social networks

In the HR world, the more tech-savvy are likely to do some Google or LinkedIn searches on shortlisted candidates, in an effort to gain a better insight into their background, skills, and even character.

What many may not know is that this is an OSINT survey methodology that can be taught and honed, as well as automated and refined using specialized tools – for return an even greater wealth of information to inform decision-making related to hiring. .

There are many other tools besides these two as well, and learning more about them can give an HR professional an edge over the competition when it comes to background checks and assessing a candidate’s potential.

What is OSINT?

The acronym OSINT stands for Open Source Intelligence. This refers to open and overt sources rather than open source software. Essentially, OSINT tools allow HR professionals to find valuable information about a person’s previous employment, academic background, industry status, interests, etc. from public databases.

In its simplest form, this could mean searching Google for a candidate’s full name or email address, or searching for them on Google Scholar if they claim to be published in academic journals. This is something many already intuitively do as part of the background check when screening applicants, but once the methodology is augmented using techniques like reverse email lookup, it can provide a wealth of information from social media and public databases. Such a strategy allows us to extend data sources to more than a handful, use additional tools, and, for more advanced users, automate the process.

Google hacking for background searches

Hubspot estimates that an average of 5.6 billion Google searches are performed each day. Qualified Googlers in all descriptions use search operators to narrow down and dramatically improve results. Quotation marks for exact match searches to to place: searches to search a website, there are dozens of different ways to search smarter using search syntax, as well as advanced Google search options. These techniques are sometimes called “Google hacking” or “googleDorking” and can return much richer results.

Then there are alternative web search engines including privacy-focused DuckDuckGo, Yahoo Search, the oldest yet popular search engine first introduced in 1995, and Microsoft’s Bing – which comes in second in popularity. , with around 5.50% market share.

Thorough search engine research can also help spot applicants who are lying about their past experience. According to an OfficeTeam study, 46% of workers admit to knowing someone who lied on their resume, with the previous job being by far the most common lie, at 76%. Younger age groups got higher scores for knowing which professionals lied.

Use email addresses and social networks

In addition to job and skill-based platforms, such as LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and portfolio and freelance websites, social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube can provide additional information on achievements, reputation, the interests of a candidate or even the way he behaves. There are also data enrichment automation platforms, which aggregate social media profiles associated with a candidate, for verification purposes via email addresses to confirm that a candidate is who they claim to be or for a thorough background check. They will return a detailed breakdown of someone’s online activity and all that can be learned from it – and have the potential to help avoid applicants whose publicly expressed views are unsavory and may cause their employer. legal or reputational issues.

Next are those tools that tell us very specific things, which can be combined with known information to draw conclusions. Glassdoor is a useful example for HR managers in more ways than one. In addition to a clearer and more objective assessment of the candidate’s previous working environment (and potentially even their own contribution from what existing reviews reveal), one can even find information on the previous salary or current of a candidate.

Many such tools are readily available, while some brands offer free versions of their social media focused intelligence gathering platforms. Depending on the workload and circumstances of each HR manager, there may be a need for faster automated methods to find candidate information available online. These include subscription services such as InfoTracer, Snovio, BeenVerified, US specific, and SEON.

Interpretation of conclusions

Interpretation of results varies by industry, team and HR professional. A 2018 survey by CareerBuilder gives an indication of what the results tend to mean to others.

Employers and hiring managers use OSINT methods to find out:

  • If applicants have an online presence (47% won’t hire them without one)
  • Additional proof of their employment and education
  • Whether applicants behave professionally online (50% are looking for it)
  • What others, including colleagues, say about the candidate
  • If the candidate posts insightful and authoritative content related to their industry
  • If the candidate posts inappropriate and discriminatory content in public

Manual, automated, passive or active, OSINT methods are used in a multitude of sectors for better decision-making and for the prevention of fraud and security risks. Offering a wealth of information, they can provide a secondary check on a candidate’s suitability – or red flags. This can confirm their background or give a general idea of ​​their fit with the culture of the company or, on the contrary, be a handicap.

Employee retention is considered the biggest challenge facing HR teams according to a 2019 Work Institute report, with 47% of respondents. Finding the right match is key, and OSINT can help.

About the Author

Gergo Varga has been fighting online fraud since 2009 at various companies – even co-founding his own, He is the author of the Fraud Prevention Guide for Dummies – SEON Special Edition. He currently works as a Senior Content Manager / Evangelist at SEON, using his industry knowledge to maintain sharp marketing, communicating between different departments to understand what is happening on the front line of fraud detection. He lives in Budapest, Hungary, and is passionate about philosophy and history.

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