How to Search For Candidates on Facebook

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you already know I am a fan of highly searchable, “deep” sources of human capital data. Unfortunately,  Facebook isn’t deep on professional data nor is it very searchable. When it comes to social media/networking sites, nothing comes close to LinkedIn when it comes to the “searchability” and depth of professional information that can be retrieved and analyzed. However, sourcers and recruiters can not and should not ignore the 130M+/monthly unique U.S. visitors to Facebook, so I am dedicating this post on how to search for them.

While there are actually many different angles you can take when attempting to search for talent on Facebook, I am going to focus on what I think are the 3 highest ROI methods: Coworker search, Profile search, and Yahoo’s linkdomain search.

Coworker Search

Using Facebook’s “basic” search interface, you can specify a company and search for “coworkers,” even if you’re not employed at the company you are searching for. Simply enter a company that you suspect might employ people that you would like to target. In this example, I’ll use Verizon.

Click “Search for Coworkers” and you’ll get over 500 results:

While it’s great that we can find “coworkers” at Verizon, through this kind of search we cannot control what these “coworkers” actually do for a living at Verizon, or where they live (how’s THAT for shallow and searchable?).

Leveraging Facebook’s coworker search is perhaps most effective with smaller to mid-sized companies that have fewer locations, as that would assist in narrowing down the location of the people and perhaps even roles to a limited extent. However, the intrinsic limitations of Facebook’s coworker leaves it to be largely a name-generation tool as opposed to a precision talent identification tool in my opinion.

Profile Search

UPDATE (1/15/2010) – Facebook has dropped their “advanced search interface” – making Facebook even more unsearchable than before, much to the chagrin of sourcers and recruiters. I’m only keeping the following paragraph and explanation for posterity, and a nod to what you could do with Facebook in the past. :-(

Moving on to Facebook’s “advanced” search interface, you get more fields to search, but you are limited to searching only your “networks and friends,” OR people you can “see” that live in the same area that you specified on your Facebook profile – even if it’s only in the “Education and Work” section of the “Info” tab of your profile. In my case, it’s Tampa, FL, because that’s the HQ location of the company I work for and I did fill this field out on my Facebook profile.

I personally think it’s odd that “Tampa Bay, FL” shows up under “Network” when someone views me in a search result. Rationale?

So beyond my network and “friends” on Facebook, I am limited to searching for people who specified the Tampa, FL area on their Facebook profile as where they work.

Notice I said “where they work” – it is very important to realize that many people do not fill in their address on the “Contact Information” section of their profile on Facebook (I didn’t), and if they do, they can choose to make it so that only the people they specifiy can see it (which probably won’t be you if they don’t know you and you’re not already “friends”).

Let’s leverage Facebook’s Profile Search to look for people who work at Verizon and have the title “Software Engineer” (limited to Tampa Bay, FL in my case):

Here are some of the results of the search:

As you can see – because they are not my “friends,” I cannot see any details about them, yet I do know that they all list Verizon as their current employer, they all mention the title “software engineer” as a job title on their Facebook profile (the yellow highlighting gives it away, although we can’t view the profiles to see the actual “hits”), and they all list Tampa, FL as their location somewhere on their Facebook profile as well.

I can send them a message or try to add them as a friend – and I’ve heard that some people get as high as a 60-70% positive response from well-crafted messages/requests.

Of course, when it comes to the results of my Verizon/software engineer search – I certainly don’t know what KIND of software engineers they are (Cobol, Java, C#, etc.) – which goes back to how shallow a source of human capital data Facebook is, and how difficult it is to try and search Facebook with any precision.

As always, searching for a single title such as “software engineer” is horribly limiting, so I highly recommend going back and changing the target title as many times as possible to flesh out a quasi-org chart of sorts to get more and different results.

Now, if you were to change the location specified on your Facebook profile to another metro area – you would then be able to search for and see people in the new metro area as well….

Yahoo’s Linkdomain Search

While it’s cool that Yahoo now inserts Facebook profiles into search results, I personally haven’t seen this as anything of significant value to sourcers and recruiters. It’s certainly a nice feature, but if you want to specifically search for and target people on Facebook, Yahoo has a much more effective search capability – linkdomain.

Yahoo’s linkdomain command allows you to search for and find websites/pages that link back to a specified site. For example, we can leverage Yahoo’s linkdomain functionality to search for websites/pages that link back to Facebook groups and pages.

Let’s look for websites/pages that mention groups, organizations, or associations, “accounting,” CPA, and “New York” as well as link back to Facebook: (group OR association OR organization) CPA accounting “New York”

This search returns nearly 12,000 results of pages that mention our keywords and link back to Facebook.

Clicking on the first result (, we can use CTRL F to search for and find the reference to Facebook:

Clicking on the link, it takes us here:

Leveraging Yahoo’s linkdomain functionality, we’ve found the Facebook page for the American Woman’s Society of Certified Public Accountants in NY, and its 49 members who have a Facebook profile. And that’s just the first of 11,600 results that yahoo returned!

Let your imagination and creativity run wild – using Yahoo’s linkdomain search functionality you can target Facebook groups of minority groups, industry groups, skill groups, etc.

For example: (group OR association OR organization) women engineers

Linkdomain Limitations

All is not perfect in linkdomain-land. Yes, 11,600 results from my CPA/Accounting search above is impressive – but when you click through many of the results you can see that there are more false positives than relevant results.

As you could see from the screen shot – some of the hits are job postings that happen to have a link to Facebook somewhere on the web page.  You could attempt to clean these up by adding -job -jobs to your Boolean search string on Yahoo.

Other false positives come in the form of any page that uses a “share this on facebook” type of feature.

In other words, some of the search results may not actually be relevant web pages pointing back to a specific group on Facebook as we found with the NYC AWSCPA we explored above – they may just be web pages that mention your keywords and happen to have a link to Facebook.

Targeting Groups and Pages

Of course, you don’t have to use Yahoo’s linkdomain functionality to “fish” for Facebook groups and pages – you can shoot straight for them if you like, experimenting with search terms:


Is it just me or does Facebook seem to delight in severely limiting your ability to leverage the 175M+ people who have a Facebook profile?

For all of it’s search fields, options, and parameters – Facebook remains one of the least “searchable” social networking sites out there for sourcers and recruiters.  Additionally, and most people on Facebook use it for personal rather than professional use – so it can be quite light in sourcing/recruiting-relevant human capital data.

However, Facebook’s “coworker search” can be useful for name generation, the “profile search” feature can yield results of local people who work at specific companies and/or who specific titles, and you can hit the proverbial “jackpot” by searching for Facebook groups and fan pages that have large quantities of target professionals by leveraging Yahoo’s linkdomain functionality.

As frustrating as it can be to search Facebook for candidates with specific qualifications and experience, and who live in a specific area – sourcers and recruiters simply cannot ignore the HUGE number of Facebook users.