Nov 23 2023

The Key to a Stellar Company: How OSINT Can Make Sure You Hire the Right Employees

Read how OSINT techniques can help you hire the right kinds of people.

“A company is only as good as it’s people”, a quote that’s perhaps a little cliche but one I would argue is now even more relevant today than when Kathryn Minshew, CEO of The Muse (a company with a valuation in the hundreds of millions) first said it. We all want to be part of a stellar company, but having good employees isn’t just about their qualifications. It is imperative for an employee to reflect their employer’s brand values, culture matters. This is especially relevant in today’s digital world with so many of us sharing our opinions on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and X (formerly Twitter). Therefore, to truly understand an individual, you need to understand their digital footprint. To avoid hiring an individual that has shared controversial or offensive activity, it is essential to carry out thorough pre-employment screening.

We only need to look at cases such as Savills and reality show franchises to see examples of controversy being unearthed. There have been numerous cases in recent years where an individual’s controversial social media activity has had a detrimental impact on their career, and their employer. In 2021, after England’s Euro 2020 final defeat, a Savills employee was accused of tweeting racial abuse aimed at Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka. The estate agent subsequently fired this employee after investigating his X posts following their missed penalties. Were the warning signs there already? Could an OSINT based social media vetting have helped Savills avoid this employee in the first place? It’s too late to answer those questions, but as employers you need to give yourselves the best chance to hire the right people. The people that will make your company a great place to work and a brand to be proud of.

Going to the extreme end of the spectrum now, there have been several occasions where the social media activity of individuals taking part in reality shows has resurfaced during their participation, which led to them being banned from any reunions or further interviews. This included a Love Island star being accused of animal cruelty after viewers found various Instagram photographs depicting him posing alongside dead animals and a recent Big Brother contestant being banned from any further association with the franchise after “racist and homophobic” tweets were discovered by fans. More pertinently, an example of when pre-screening would have been crucial was in 2017 when Jack Maynard was forced to leave I’m a Celebrity after it emerged he had shared racist and homophobic tweets in 2011. If the appropriate pre-screening was conducted on these reality stars, the backlash on the respective shows could have been avoided. These could have just as easily been employees working anywhere doing anything. Therefore, to avoid hiring an individual that has shared controversial or offensive activity, it is essential to carry out thorough pre-employment screening.

This is where NetWatch comes in…

Being the experts in OSINT investigations comes with the ability to effectively and accurately screen an individual’s online presence. Our team is made up of over 30 analysts that have the comprehensive knowledge of what needs to be looked for, and what this information means once it has found. Bias is an important factor when conducting employee screening, but our method and culture allows us to avoid its pitfalls. As a third party we always strive for impartiality and to present objective truths. NetWatch already has over 10 years of experience in vetting online presence using OSINT techniques and our specialised in-house software has finessed our services even further, making us the ideal choice in conducting pre-employment screening.

So what can we offer?

NetWatch have the tools to successfully identify and attribute social media accounts to a subject. In an age where people are using online aliases and nicknames, our analysts are experts in tracing the most elusive individuals. Additionally, NetWatch not only seeks to locate mainstream social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, X, LinkedIn and YouTube, but our team keeps up to date with new trends, unconventional accounts and foreign social media so that the most niche platforms are investigated.

NetWatch then analyses their activity and detects other accounts the subject interacts with. The connections being checked can be bespoke, but typically we would seek to ascertain whether the subject’s interests and values align with those of the client and/or specific role. NetWatch can also conduct a comprehensive review of the subject’s public posts and seek posts that relate to material which the client has highlighted as being of interest – along with any posts that generally indicate key themes such as dishonesty, criminal activity, or general values and behaviour of note – such as racist, sexist or abusive posts.

Deep web searches are also performed to identify any further pertinent information concerning the subject. This can include any news articles, personal websites and online forum posts that are available on a variety of search engines, not just Google.

All of this information is then translated into a detailed report with a risk rating in line with an agreed criteria, along with any relevant evidence attached in an appendix.

NetWatch have previously conducted pre-employment screening for corporate clients, including major high street brands, where as well as offering our typical OSINT investigations we conducted reference checks for hundreds of applicants. This streamlined their recruitment process so that only the most desired candidates were put through to the later stages.

NetWatch contacted numerous references to confirm applicants’ employment dates and roles, as well as determined any reasons for concern. This information was then used to evaluate the level of risk via a red, amber and green system. From this, several referees shared positive feedback and provided specific details regarding candidates’ strengths and their reliability through confirming their employment dates. This is beneficial to employers as it can help ascertain a candidate’s career path, and it shows that it is just as important to identify the positive information when conducting vetting checks as shown below!

However as expected, numerous negatives were also identified in regard to the candidates we were vetting, including exaggerated employment dates, poor attitude, lying about the reason they left, disciplinary procedures, poor performance, long periods of unexplained absence, history of taking their employer to court and even association with a front company for an ISIS terrorist cell! It is essential that information like this is identified prior to the employees being hired so that these candidates are unable to negatively influence the workforce, recruitment resources are not wasted, and your company’s brand is not tarnished. By combining more traditional reference checks with our expertise in OSINT, we were able to provide a more complete picture of each candidate.

Pre-screening employees is an essential step to any company’s recruitment process. With many people using social media as a reflection of their personality and attitudes, it is imperative for companies to take this into account when recruiting. If companies such as Savills and reality show franchises had conducted thorough background checks, they could have identified the individuals who posed a threat to their brand and avoided hiring them in the first place.

NetWatch’s OSINT expertise can help you find the employees that will make your business a stellar place to work; by trawling through decades of social media activity, investigating any potentially controversial online interests and attributing accounts to even the most concealed people. Streamline your recruitment process and achieve your long-term objectives to maintain a strong brand and safe workforce by identifying those potential employees that might harm you.

Alternatively, employers that would prefer to perform their screening internally can use our Profile Finder+ tool, guaranteed to find social media profiles.

If you’d like to learn more about our OSINT employee vetting service or Profile Finder+ contact us here:

The Experts Use Profile Finder+

Profile Finder+ is the NetWatch created OSINT tool which allows you to locate social media profiles using only email addresses or mobile phone numbers.

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