How to X-Ray Search Facebook for Candidate Sourcing

I recently wrote a post on how to search for candidates on Facebook where I featured all of Facebook’s “built-in” search capabilities. Shortly after publishing the article, I received a question from one of my regular readers asking why I did not include searching Facebook using the site: query modifier (as Google calls it), also known as X-Ray search.

It was a solid question, and the answer is that I purposefully did not include it in my “searching for candidates on Facebook” post, as I wanted to focus on the highest ROI search methods.  I’ve taken cracks at Facebook with the X-Ray search technique, and I’ve never been very pleased with the results. Facebook’s site architecture certainly doesn’t make it easy to X-Ray like LinkedIn and Twitter.

However, while Facebook isn’t very “X-Rayable,” you CAN get SOME relevant results from searching Facebook with the site: query modifier. What you’ll see below is a series of videos (my first!) of me driving through my attempts to X-Ray into Facebook.  

No Diving Allowed – Shallow Data!

First – let’s review the 2 major limitations of searching Facebook:

  • Not every person on Facebook actually publishes location information on their profile
  • Many people on Facebook do not include occupational information on their profile
In other words, Facebook is a shallow source of human capital data – specifically location and occupational data. When it comes to searching information systems of any kind – if the information simply isn’t there, you cannot search for and find it. That means there are TONS of people on Facebook that you could source and recruit, but can’t, because many of them don’t make their location public and/or publish some sort of occupational information on their profiles.

Now Let’s Get to X-Raying!

Let’s try and search for people who may be accountants in the NY area. I’m choosing to shoot for a mention of “CPA” or the title “Accountant” – hoping Facebookers who are CPA’s/Accountants might mention one of these terms on their Facebook profile/page. I’m also going to shoot for “New York” or “NY,” hoping to catch all of the various ways someone from NY might mention that they’re from NY on their Facebook profile. 

X-Ray search #1 (“accountant” OR CPA) (“new york” OR NY)

Click the image to start the video application

Click here if you’d like to examine the 701 results yourself 

As you can see from examining the first 10 results of our first X-Ray of Facebook, you can get a wide variety in the types of results you will get returned in your search: people, pages, and groups; local and non-local results; and qualified and unqualified potential candidates.

Targeting “People”

Taking a hint from the URL of the first result returned by our first X-Ray search attempt:

– Let’s target pages that mention the word “people” in the URL in an attempt to avoid groups and pages and zero-in on people.  While Facebook groups and pages can be great sources of human captial, we have no control over where the group members or fans actually live – which is often a critical factor when searching for candidates in an attempt to fill or build a pipeline for specific positions.

X-Ray search #2 (“accountant” OR CPA) (“new york” OR NY) inurl:people

Click the image to start the video application 

Click here to peruse the 90 results  

Targeting the word “people” in the url definitely helped narrow the results down to individual Facebook members, and also produced a number of promising results, including people who appear to at least meet our basic qualifications (CPA/Accountant) and live in the NY metro area.

Digging Deeper Into Result #10

Click the image to start the video application

That was a good investigative sourcing exercise of exploring what appeared to be a dead-end or false positive result that actually led to uncovering a large group of 500+ fans of the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants. 


While Facebook still ranks as the least searchable of the “Big 3” social media sites (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook), it’s the biggest of the 3 by a wide margin, with over 175,000,000 people and growing rapidly. As such, if you’re a sourcer or recruiter – you simply can’t ignore Facebook’s vast repository of human capital.  One way of tapping into that talent pool is by using the X-Ray search technique.

It’s easy to get spoiled by X-Raying LinkedIn or Twitter. In comparison, X-Raying Facebook can be frustrating. However, as I’ve shown you – while you will run into your fair share of false positive results of people who are not qualified for your needs – you CAN find and locate candidates on Facebook who are likely to be qualified for AND live in the same metro area as your hiring needs by leveraging the site: query modifier and the X-Ray search technique.