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Apr 22, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

After Facebook graph search was introduced a new dimension of sourcing passive candidates has opened. When Balázs Paróczay first wrote about how the graph works and how can you (ab)use it, the potential capabilities shocked the sourcing world. Although the user interface and the semantic searches changed quite a bit since (read: most cool functionalities got limited due to legal restrictions), the URL cracking back-doors have not only been left in but got expanded with new ones.

Today finding people on Facebook is easier than ever thanks to amazing sourcing tools like the one developed by Shane McCusker (fantastic as his usual work!), this one by internet investigators or this one for more general purposes.

Facebook - helping stalkers since 2004

One major problem with searching directly for people however is that Facebook profiles are not data rich enough. Only a small portion of users enters both their job title and company information. The first hack is about a way to get around that and find even those people who have relatively empty Facebook profiles.

1. Alternative method to explore Facebook networks

For obvious reasons Facebook lacks a functionality such as the “Similar profiles” on LinkedIn. What you can do is to utilize the power of the human network.

Start with finding someone at a target company in the position you need (use the tools mentioned above).

Using Facebook Search by Shane McCusker to find candidates

Go to the Friends tab on their profile and look for another person in the same position. Some users are hiding this information for out of network people, in those cases this section is empty and you should try to find an other employee. You might not understand the language here, but this is the position we are talking about:

Browsing the Facebook friends list to find another candidate

Now you have two profiles open. Copy either the usernames or the identification numbers of these profiles and add them to this URL:

In this case we copied nora.solymosinegyaraki and erika.szanto.14 to get this

The list of mutual friends contains interesting target profiles who have data dry profiles both on Facebook and LinkedIn and are not likely to find otherwise. Some examples cross-referenced: Example1Example2Example3. Of course with this method you will even find candidates who are not on LinkedIn and tap deep into the company structure. Threat this not only as a sourcing method, but a mean to gain market intelligence. Speaking of market intelligence:

2. Facebook as a robust market intelligence tool

Facebook’s advertising feature has an obvious (yet still not that widely used) use in recruitment as an inbound marketing tool to advertise your positions. What remains even less noticed is the fact that you an use the advertising interface  for so much more – for example as a fantastic source of market intelligence. When creating sourcing strategies besides Extended LinkedIn Alumni searches,  public online databases and some other stuff I am soon writing an article about (subscribe here if you don’t want to miss it) Facebook ads are one of the major sources I rely on. You can easily gain information like

How many people:

  • Have certain degree
  • Are coming from the selected university
  • Are active students in a specific field
  • Work for given employers
  • Have a specific job title
  • Work in selected industries
  • Have niche interests like investment banking or graphic design
  • Used Facebook’s advertising products
  • Are travelling frequently for business reasons

All of the above can be filtered by demographics like

  • current and former location
  • languages spoken
  • for companies having diversity hiring targets gender, generation and in the US even ethnicity can be monitored
  • expat status
  • connection with the page of your company

The real power comes in combining this information with each other and understanding your potential talent pool limits. It’s pretty easy to check on pools like how many french speaking marketing specialists are there in Devon, how many financial advisers are currently working as expats in Germany or how many mechanical engineering grads your competitors employ. This is all wonderful information you can feed back to your hiring community/client.

3. Reverse engineering Facebook images to find Facebook profiles

Try saving any image from Facebook and you will see the name of the file is a bunch of numbers ending with _n.  Keep this in mind whenever running image searches or finding pictures on various sites around the internet. If you click on Save the image as.. and you see a file name ending with _n, that picture is coming from Facebook. Simply take the middle number and add it after to find the original picture (and the profile of the uploader).

Reverse engineering the Facebook picture owner from the name of the picture

Just like this. Hint: LinkedIn and Twitter are using a file storage method which changes the name of the original file as well meaning there is no point to try this trick there. Wordpress or other blogs typically keep the original. They are a sensible place to use the hack, at least until Google Image Search starts crawling Facebook images much better. And why would you do that? Because:

4. If you have a Facebook profile you have a way to contact

Some people used to have the option on the bottom of their Facebook messaging interface to pay 1 USD and have their message delivered directly to the Facebook inbox of anyone. Emailing the used to deliver the content directly to the mailbox registered with the site (the users had the option to opt out of this in settings). Both of these options are being gradually rolled out to make way for something much simpler: the message request system.

Messaging now is as simple as it gets: you message a friend of yours, a friend of a friend or someone who you are in a common closed group with, they get your message directly to their chat/messenger. You message someone out of this broad network, they get a message request from you. This request materializes as a notification and a popup in Chrome.

Facebook message request

There is no snippet or preview in the request – and in my experience that is an advantage. Who would not be at least minimally intrigued by this?

Update: 2 days after sending this trial message request for the purpose of making a picture for the post, I had a notification on my phone from Facebook Messenger reminding me about it. Since I still have not reacted, it not only keeps being a red dot on my iPhone, but it’s  also on the top of the Messenger app anytime I open it. Check it out:

Facebook making sure you will read the message request

The only way to get rid of it is to actually click on it and see this:

Facebook message request

If you want to get rid of the notification, you also have to click on the message to read the whole:

The full Facebook message - you can be sure your candidate sees it

And this is where you decide the fate of the request. In other words, it’s basically guaranteed that the person you are messaging will see your message. Whether they answer that’s of course a different questions, but this is as good as it gets with making sure your message is delivered. Talk about technology helping you contact people!

+1 And a plus one: Facebook Directory

Since I realize there is a strong likelihood that the readers may know about one or two from the above, here is a plus one to compensate and make sure the title is correct for as many people as possible.

Facebook has a directory section which not only contains every

  • person,
  • page and
  • place

but is also the only place where the results are ordered alphabetically and not in a personal order modified by your network and an algorithm. If you know exactly what you are looking for this may be the easiest place to find it.

While I would not suggest that Facebook is THE primary sourcing tool you should use I believe it has an increasingly important place in the sourcing toolkit. The usage scenarios are countless from search to engage so I hope

  1. you have picked up some ideas from the above and
  2. after some experimenting you can let me know about other Facebook hacks you have found.

Looking forward to that in the comments!


This post first appeared on Sourcing and Recruitment Info

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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