What Facebook’s Graph Search Means to the Recruiting World

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Jim StroudI’m on the waiting list to play with Facebook’s new toy – “Graph Search.” Despite that fact, I have been a voracious reader in hopes of getting a thorough understanding of its potential as a recruiting tool.  So far, I must say that I am very optimistic, but my glasses are not rose colored. As such, I wanted to drop a few notes on what I like and will most likely expect concerning this in the near and far future. (Now if you would allow me, let the speculation begin.)


Graph Search is Facebook’s new and improved way of searching the vast amount of data on Facebook. Or to quote Facebook…

Graph Search is a new way for you to find people, photos, places and interests that are most relevant to you on Facebook.

Let me first say, I do NOT like the name “Graph Search.” Although I get the name and how it applies, I think everyone will call it “Facebook Search” and that Facebook will eventually follow suit. Just my 2 cents there.

From what I have seen the interface is easy to use and the results are instantaneous. Facebook even suggests search terms as you type, a la “Google Suggest.” Based on what I have read, the “wow” feature is the photo search. You can find photos that you’ve commented on or liked, which is cool, especially if you want to find photos that you prefer stay buried or deleted.

social graph facebook
But I digress, I don’t want to get into all it does from a general perspective. I want to view it from a recruiting perspective. And from that angle, me likee.


In some of the articles I read, recruiting was front in center in the minds of Facebook execs. This is something I am sure makes Monster and LinkedIn nervous. Consider these sourcing tips from Zuckerburg himself.

One of my favorite queries is recruiting,” Zuckerberg said. “Let’s say we’re trying to find engineers at Google who are friends of engineers at Facebook.” He typed in the query and found, not surprisingly, that there were lots of people who met those criteria. Each one was represented by a little rectangle of information — their profile photo, along with snippets of key information like where they went to school, where they live, and the names of the mutual friends.

The excitement over how Graph Search (Ugh! I hate that name.) could be used for recruiting was further echoed by Lars Rasmussen, co-creator of the Graph Search (grr…) search engine.

And suppose I want a job at Pinterest — which I don’t, for the record — and I want someone to introduce me there,” he said. “I can search for my friends who are friends with Pinterest employees.”

Another thing that appeals to me about Graph Search is that it works best with long tail searches. The more detailed the searches, the better the results. For example, instead of searching on “java programmers restaurants NYC,” in Graph Search my query would be, “What restaurants are liked by java programmers in New York City?” Get it? (And by the way, if a certain restaurant is popular with the folks you want to hire, why not have a meetup event there? Just a thought…)

social graph search facebook
I also like the built-in intuition I have been picking up on in the articles I read. For example, if Facebook thinks you are doing a recruiting query, it will present a few facts about each candidate’s work history on the results page. Most significant, each result has a search button allowing you to refine each set of results further. For example, if you were to look for java programmers who like coffee in New York City, you could further refine your results by limiting it to java developers in New York City who work for Company X. (Wink)

Consider this as a search query, “Photos java developers like in Austin, TX.” When Facebook returns those results, limit the results to people who work for Company X and then look at who is tagged in those photos.

Here is another (simpler) possibility, search “People who work at Company X” and then refine the search by job title. Voila! Want to find even more? Howzabout searching “Pages liked by people who work at Company X?” From there, I look at the comments and potentially reach out to people active on those pages.

I also read that one could create a page for a query and Facebook will auto populate the search results. Could this be a form of automated sourcing? The mind ponders, the mind ponders…


Today? No. In the future, ohhh yeah.

Overwhelmingly, the response to Graph Search has been positive. And again, I have yet to put my hands on it personally, but I am slightly skeptical. I do believe that it has the potential to change the game, so to speak. But it will not be an overnight thing as I think others believe. Let me layout a few thoughts around that.

# Facebook Search (yeah, I know, graph search) lets you search Facebook better. All the demos done (that I have seen) have been done by Facebook employees and power users who hang out with other Facebook employees and power users. In other words people who live and breathe social and tech, not the average joe. The average joe does not like and comment on everything as say, I would. The average joe has yet to completely fill out their “About” page, so I cannot find them on a graph search if there is no data to find. Make sense?

And this is NOT to say that there is insufficient data on Facebook About pages to search on with a variety of tools, I’m just saying that there could be a whole lot more data. If Facebook were to gently suggest to its users to fill that page out, I would do cartwheels (or, something similar, as I do terrible cartwheels).


I think its only a matter of time before someone writes an article saying that Graph Search marked the end of job boards and LinkedIn. In case you are of this opinion, allow me to offer a contrarian view. Facebook is slowly rolling out Graph Search and it will take a few years before its final vision is realized. From what I have read, there is no content being revealed that was not already public. If you know how to manage Facebook privacy settings, there is nothing to worry about. Be that as it may, there will be a section of users who will balk and complain that Graph Search encroaches on their privacy and double down on their efforts to hide their information.

As a result, they will run over to LinkedIn for its professional atmosphere and continue to post their information on job boards because (1) that is what they are used to doing and (2) promoting opportunities is the central purpose of job boards. Ironically, this will make job boards and LinkedIn more valuable because they will be a place to find people who DO NOT want to be found on Facebook. (Pretty much as it is today.)

To be clear, again, this is NOT to say that Facebook is not a good place for recruiting. It is a GREAT place to recruit, if you know how. (In fact, I recommend it.) However, there will be people who purposely hide from recruiters on Facebook and so choose alternatives. If you would like a bit of training on how to recruit with Facebook, send me a note. We at Bernard Hodes Group would be happy to serve you. Operators are standing by.


As I said, I do not have access to Social Graph yet, but I do hope to have access soon. In the meantime, if you are a recruiter or sourcer with access, please try out some of the ideas posted herein. I would love to know the kind of results you are getting. Cool? Thanks…



Over the past decade, Jim Stroud has built an expertise in lead generation strategies, social media recruiting, video production, podcasting, online research, competitive intelligence, community management and training. He has consulted for such companies as Microsoft, Google, MCI, Siemens and a host of startup companies. Presently, Jim Stroud is the Director of Sourcing and Social Strategy for Bernard Hodes Group. (The best job ever!)

Prior to Hodes, Jim Stroud has created and sold three online properties, managed an award-winning blog, published a weekly newsletter for jobseekers, a recruiter training magazine and co-hosted a popular technology podcast. Jim Stroud has also produced multiple web series devoted to such topics as: job search, recruiting, technology and language learning. Jim Stroud has been quoted by such publications as Globe and Mail, US News and World Report, Wall Street Journal and The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. Monster.com, Entrepreneur, Black Enterprise and The HR Examiner have all cited Jim Stroud for his digital influence. Jim Stroud also served as the EmCee of SourceCon, the premier global conference on sourcing for three consecutive years.

When not online, Jim Stroud suffers from withdrawal symptoms that can only be soothed by chocolate chip cookies and family time.

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  1. Jeanne Heydecker

    Great Article, Jim. I’m on the waiting list as well and plan to see how well it helps us recruit candidates. I’m sure linkedin will still be the gold standard since most people on Facebook don’t add their full resume into their profile as they do for linkedin. The results will find SOME, but not close to ALL qualified candidates. Also, I still don’t think the average user thinks about Facebook as a tool for finding work the way they use linkedin or job boards. If that changes, we may see a very different Facebook in the future. :-) Cheers.

  2. John Rose

    As always Jim great article. I too am on the waiting list, another great benefit (I can see) of the new Facebook Search (sorry Graph Search), is for Job Seekers. They are going to be able to search out (and correct or un tag) all those photos of themselves showing ‘questionable’ qualities and activities from college, school, Uni or Vegas, etc…
    This may not be what recruiters are primarily looking at it for, but it could help deliver a better positioned quality candidate who’s social presence is cleaner [and more boring, as we all know we recruiters like to find the low down on people:)]
    Keep up the good work, Cheers

  3. The Recruiters Lounge

    Thank you everyone for your comments!
    @Joel – Hah! I hear you.
    @Jeane – I think people will be too nervous to use Facebook en masse the way they use LinkedIn. Time will tell.
    @John – Thank you for the kind words. One can never do too little to protect one’s online reputation.

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  5. Joe Stublebine

    Jim, great article. Everyone who hasn’t recently updated their ‘Work and Education’ section of their Facebook profile should get back in there and dust it off. As this evolves, recruiters and sourcers (and 3rd party developers) will find clever ways to use the Graph Search to find those ‘hidden’ candidates. Once Graph Search gets legs as a sourcing tool for recruiters, Facebook may be inclined to focus more deeply on recruitment and try to take a bite out of the $9B recruitment spend that companies make every year.

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  9. Joe F.

    Mr. Stroud,

    Your suggestion on finding interests of candidates via FB/Graph search is appreciated. I am curious for an update, do you have access to the search? Also early in my experience I have run into the situation of having to recruit dually between FB and other sources. Have you run into this? Do you have any recommendations? – maybe for how to reach out to candidates professionally or venues of finding out more about their job experience, especially for passive candidates. Feel free to email me.

    Joe F.