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Facebook Graph Search: don't get caught with your pants down

OK, so it has finally happened.  We’ve talked about it for years, we’ve argued about it in the bar and in the board room:

“Facebook will always be for my personal stuff and Linkedin is always for my professional stuff.”

Not so fast. 

With Facebook's new Graph Search, your personal life and your professional life have just collided.  In a VERY big way.
Released in Beta in January, 2013, Graph Search is Facebook’s new people search tool.  The name isn't very sexy, but what it can do for recruiters, marketers, and those of you looking to troll Facebook to find a date is actually pretty powerful.  Almost scary.

Facebook has been collecting data on us for years.  With 1.6 billion people logging in every month and more than 600 million users connecting to Facebook daily, Facebook knows where we go, what we eat, who we’re friends with and what we like.  Now, with Graph Search, that information is available to ANY user, whether they’re a Facebook friend or not.

According to a recent JobVite Employer survey, 92% of companies use or plan to begin using social media to support recruitment efforts, 66% of employers use or plan to use Facebook for recruiting, and 26% of employers have reported hiring employees through Facebook.

Career sites like will always have their place in the overall sourcing landscape and are great resources for sifting through large amounts of candidates.   But, as tools like Graph Search unlock our social movements, recruiters will quickly add these tools to their candidate sourcing toolbox.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who has access to the BETA Graph Search, then you’ve probably spent some time playing around with it.  The Graph Search opens up the recruiting power of Facebook in a brand new way.

Let’s pretend we’re a recruiter, and see what Graph Search can do for us.  Graph Search replaces the old search bar at the top of your Facebook home page. 

To begin searching, simply type what you’re looking for into the search bar:

...and we get 1,000+ results, including a guy’s profile showing himself in his underwear. A Quench marketing executive in his underwear, to be exact.  Oops for him.

OK, lets stay focused and move on.  Let's find out who lives nearby and works in a marketing capacity:

...129 people. Bam!  Look at all of these great job titles:  Director of Sales & Marketing at Sheraton Philadelphia, an Account Executive at TE Connectivity, the Hiring manager of the Marketing & Sales Department at PC Helps Support.  Almost every person has a message button next to their profile, allowing you to easily reach out and introduce yourself.

The possibilities of Graph search are only limited by your imagination.  Here are a few more searches to demonstrate the power of Facebook as a recruiting tool:

Hiring for java folks in my area (29 people found):

Want to steal nurses from my competitor (26 people found):

Find graphic designers who have expertise in a certain product (19 people found):

Targeting a specific occupation at a specific location (1 person found):

Looking for a referral-based candidate lead in accounting who likes comedy TV shows (2 people found):

You get the drift.  Hiring companies can now use Where you work, where you live, who your friends are, your age, gender, and what products and services you like for good or evil.. 

Now that I’ve hopefully convinced you that Graph Search has the potential to be a pretty powerful tool for recruiting, let’s go through the six things you should do to prepare your Facebook presence for the onslaught of recruiters who will descend upon Facebook’s new Graph Search:

1.  Update the Work & Education section of your profile.  This section of your profile should be completely filled out.  Add every single one of relevant prior jobs and be sure to exploit the About Me section to include a professional bio of yourself, as well as links to your career site profiles on sites like and  Even if you may not be actively looking for something new, a great job could find you!

2.  Clean up your likes.  It’s time to inventory those likes and make sure that Mom would be proud of what you’re liking, because now they can be used against you.  There are some Graph Searches where you never want to appear:  “Single women who live nearby and who are interested in men and like Getting Drunk” is one of them (yes, this search actually works, as pointed out by Tom Scott, Internet & Social Enthusiast).

3.  Check your activity Log.  Even though you think you’ve got your Facebook stuff pretty tight, if others have tagged you in photos and have their settings to Public, it’s available in Graph search.  How about that crazy night at the casino last year when wine erased parts of your memory?  All it takes is one friend’s photo upload and tag to make a less-than-desirable image available to any prospective (or current) employer.  Review the photos you’re tagged in, and if you wouldn’t show ‘em to your boss, untag yourself.  This prevents them from showing up in Graph Search results when people are searching for you.  And, when you untag, it’s instantly removed from the search index.

4.  Review & delete your profile photos.  All Facebook profile and cover photos are public.  If you’re like most people and have made profile picture changes, you’ve probably got a number of old photos out there that you may not want seen by a potential employer.  Pick the few of them that represent who you are, and delete the rest.

5.  Like the companies and products that make you visible.  Are you a web developer?  Like HTML, CSS, JQuery.  If you want to work at Merck, like their Facebook page.  Are you a Microsoft Administrator?  Like Exchange, Sharepoint, Microsoft 365.  Recruiters are more likely to search for people who already have a relationship with the product or company that their trying to hire for. 

6.  Privacy settings.  Take 20 minutes and thoroughly go through your privacy settings, and consider making these changes:

  • Lock down your profile so that only friends can see the stuff that friends should see.  “Friends of Friends” can leave you vulnerable.  The average Facebook user has about 220 friends, which means that about 48,400 people can see your information with the “Friends of Friends” setting.
  • Make sure you’ve told Facebook that you want to approve all photos you’ve been tagged in before they go live.
  • Modify the Work and Experience section and the About Me section so that recruiters searching on Google can find you publicly, but only allow YOUR friends to see your full timeline and ’About Me’ section.
I’m sure I don’t need to even tell you this, but I’ll say it anyway:  employers react negatively to drug use references, posts of a sexual nature, profanity in posts or tweets, pictures of irresponsible alcohol consumption.  Review what you’ve made available publicly to ensure that you’ve cleaned yourself up.

Facebook’s Graph Search is still in Beta, so only a limited number of people have access now.  But, with a database of over 900 million members, recruiters are sure to include Facebook Graph Search in their mix of recruiting tools.  Is Graph Search a good thing?  Will people feel like Graph Search is invading their privacy? As more people use Graph Search, will it cause people to be more cautious about what their sharing and posting, or even close their Facebook account completely?  Younger audiences, who tend to view their privacy differently, may feel it’s no big deal.  Older audiences who may feel a greater concern over privacy might resist any mix of their private and public data.  

It’s time to prepare now.  Don’t get caught with your pants down.  Literally.

About the Author:

Joe Stubblebine serves as Vice President of Corporate Outreach at  In his role, Joe is responsible for the development and execution of corporate outreach initiatives to increase awareness of the brand.  He has more than 14 years of experience as an entrepreneur and product and recruitment services developer.  Joe was the co-founder and CEO of, a robust regional career site.  Joe is an advocate for businesses to embrace social media as a tool to increase sales and engage with employers and customers. He is a frequent speaker on the topic.