A resume and a detailed cover letter can provide volumes of information about a candidate’s personality and her readiness for the job. But when you’re faced with a stack of fifty resumes and only five available interview spots, you may benefit from an additional source of data that can help you make smart decisions and narrow the field. Enter social media. As you factor social profiles into your interviewing and hiring decisions, keep these considerations in mind.

Use Caution

Before you take this step, recognize the risks you incur to your company and its reputation. For example, simply opening a profile and discovering that the resume in front of you belongs to someone who is confined to a wheelchair can create a host of problems that you didn’t have two minutes before you made this move. Ensure that you know what you are looking for when opening social profiles, and take great care to not allow any bias to enter your evaluation.

Make Intelligent Use of the Information You Find

The HR world is full of sad stories like the one about the manager who opened a candidate’s profile and found pictures of her wearing a backpack and trekking through a remote part of the world. The manger rejected the candidate, since the photo made her appear “frivolous, unfocused, and out of touch with corporate culture.” This brilliant and talented marketing professional was later hired by the company’s competitor. A huge loss for the organization, based on nothing but a foolish Facebook review. Don’t miss out on great hires who cavort with their friends, wear unprofessional clothing, or have a life outside of their jobs. False impressions lead to self-defeating hiring decisions.

Use Social Profiles to Find Cultural Matches

If you’re ready to keep these warnings in mind and move forward with your social media search undeterred, use what you find to identify signs of a strong cultural match. If your office is populated with outdoorsy types, for example, then a candidate who likes camping, hiking or surfing might fit in well here.

For more information on how to work social media profiles into your candidate search, reach out to the Des Moines employment professionals and workforce specialists at The Palmer Group.