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Social Networking and “Fit”

Dr. Charles Handler
Feb 3, 2009, 5:52 am ET

Like it or not social networking, the next logical extension of the connectivity provided to us by the Internet, is here to stay. We are still in the relatively early stages of exploring the various applications of social networking. While many of these tools are aimed at younger generations for whom connectivity is an essential part of living, it hasn’t taken long for folks in all manner of business to begin exploring how social networking can add value for them. Employment branding, research, sourcing, and networking are all greatly facilitated by anything that provides connectivity between persons who share similar interests.

As a relatively early adopter and a futurist, I have been doing a lot of thinking about how social networking may impact the world of pre-employment assessment. The first real application that we will see is the use of social networking to help provide accurate pictures of the culture (also called work values) within an organization. This type of matching is a big part of what we speak about when we discuss the “fit” between a person and an organization.

Matching job seekers’ cultural preferences to the culture of an organization is hardly new. However, the ability for individuals to provide data that can be used to create aggregate profiles is a game-changer when it comes to the concept of using culture matching to help facilitate fit. Most commonly, fit has been explored as a diad between one individual and a referent group within the organization. While these matches may be meaningful, they are somewhat static and one-dimensional.

One of the most exciting things about web 2.0 and social networking is the ability for large numbers of people to make evaluations or judgments about something in such a way that a relatively “true” aggregate picture of that referent emerges. This sort of thing has the flexibility to quickly account for changes in the aggregate as it is continually evolving. These aggregate profiles also keep things very honest and often provide a very good source of information for those looking into the relevance or value of something to them personally.

It is not hard to imagine how collective data about an organization’s characteristics, values, and culture could have major value for those who are thinking about working there. There are already a number of websites where one can get honest (albeit sometimes biased) narrative about what it is like to work at a company. Those of us who design tests know that there is way too much left to chance when using open-ended narratives as the foundation for decision-making.

But what if everyone involved filled out a standardized questionnaire that was designed to measure various aspects of culture?

This would allow users to speak a common language, to be calibrated to one another when they are making their judgments. There are two companies (, and that are providing the ability for users to complete a culture/work values questionnaire as part of the matching and searching process. Both of these companies are still exploring the possibilities here and I won’t go into detail about either one of their business models or current functionalities. Suffice it to say that they are both on the bleeding edge of using culture profiles to examine fit.

Both of these companies have two sides to what they do: the seeker side and the organizational side. Usually the organization is in control of the aggregate profile that is created to describe it or the various workgroups it contains, and the seeker is in charge of creating a profile that captures their values. But what if persons who currently did work, or had worked, for a company could use a standardized process to provide their input about what it is like to work at a company? And what if job seekers could match their profiles to these aggregate profiles as part of the job search process and be given feedback about their level of fit? All before even applying for a single job?

This would provide very valuable information. While the company profiles may not be “authorized,” that does not mean they don’t capture the truth. The truth is a very real force that companies can also leverage for their own internal purposes. The more data that is behind a profile, the more one can infer truth in what that profile says. Imagine a time when there are solid, data-based profiles about the values of many major employers, and job seekers can use this information to look for a good “fit” as one of the first steps in a job search. Perhaps they can even begin networking and conversing with others who are currently or have been employed at that company.

It will be very interesting to see what happens with the concepts I have discussed here. Certainly there are issues that will need to be worked out, as well as limitations. However, the concept I have discussed here is going to continue to evolve and will eventually provide a good deal of value to job seekers because it will provide them with information that they can use to make better, more informed choices. Internet job-searching has traditionally provided the job seeker with little control, information, or feedback about their job applications. This is going to be one of the biggest changes we are going to see as a result of the newest wave of web technologies.

The concept I have discussed here will also benefit those making hires because it will allow potential candidates who may not fit to think twice about applying, therefore pre-empting the need to deal with their applications or to hire a poor fit. I would also hope that organizations would take a good deal of interest in what their aggregate profiles on the open web look like and use that information as a diagnostic tool from which strategic initiatives may stem. There is presently tremendous opportunity for corporations to begin creating their own internal aggregate fit profiles for use in helping to understand themselves and make personnel decisions according to the fit between an individual and almost any aggregate or group.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not offer my usual caveat. Employment tests of any sort do not tell the whole story. They merely offer relevant information to help facilitate informed decisions. Anyone who has ever had to make an important choice can tell you the value of relevant information to the achievement of the outcomes they seek.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. What’s the opposite of Twitter? — RPO Consulting

    [...] Imagine if a job seeker could evaluate each prospective employer by using a database that aggregated the social networking profile information of all of that companies employees. The information for every employee with any kind of online profile (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc) could be shoveled into a great big database and a Meta Corp0rate Cultural Index could be formed. Song preferences, schools attended, locations visited, restaurant choices, product mentions, favorite TV shows, etc could all be added up and collated and presented to an aspiring applicant before any online application or resume were submitted. The applicant could then decide for themselves if this was a place where they would feel comfortable and welcome, or if they should pass and go to the next opportunity. If Twitter is at one end of the scale (What are YOU doing?), this is idea is at the other end (What are ALL OF YOU doing?). That is an amazing thought and one that Dr. Charles Handler suggests in this piece for ERE.Net [...]

  2. Karen Dempster

    What an excellent article – I very much agree (I really hope that is not just what makes me say it is excellent!) As a HR/L&D Strategic Futurist with a Psych-Behavioural/Org-cultural flavour, I find so many recruiting and organisational improvement hints in the choice, informational sharing style, variations and activities of individuals within these networks that they “paint a picture” very well of “fit” or “potential fit”. They also paint a useful picture of potentially unknown value adds, and areas of potential challenge or risk – all of which makes benchmarking and assessment design a natural and intelligent output. It is an exciting world Charles, don’t you agree? Regards from Melbourne Australia,
    Karen Dempster Creating Change

  3. Colleen Aylward

    Exactly the point of, the total online profile of a candidate that combines a professional Assessment test with the resume and the video interview, plus endorsements, links and social network info all on one screen — so that “fit” can be determined way upfront by the employer — before time and money are spent on including the candidate in the process.

    I also like the flip side that you mention, which would provide the job seeker a view into the corporate culture to see if he/she wants to invest time and money into the process with a particular employer.

    In both instances, we are talking MUCH richer content than the entertaining use of a marketing type video (e.g. video resume or company branding video).

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