It's funny when I tweeted about how I wanted candidates with a social footprint a subset of the comments jumped to "that's discrimination" and sort of missed the intent of my post. Now I'm not an attorney and don't even play one on TV but I'm confident that I'm not going to get sued for it.
But it did get me thinking about some of the people I've hired through the years, that turned out to be great hires, but that I almost missed out on.
The first one was a guy named Russ. He was somehow related to the town manager, who was my day to day boss at the time. Technically I reported to the Board of Selectmen but that was more on paper than in practice. Anyway he was highly recommended by the town manager so I interviewed him. He had a library science major, not computer science. Of course being much younger then my first thought was "Great he can alphabetize really quick."
He was very articulate, smart and though not trained in computers, understood them. But I was nervous about his relationship with my manager. "What if I do something and he runs to my boss every time we disagree?" was the thought running through my head... I ended up coming to the conclusion that I didn't care. If I can't defend my decision and be comfortable it is the right one it was an issue. So I hired him and he was one of the best hires I ever made. Last I knew he was in Atlanta running a consulting company and doing very well.
The second one was more recent. I had an opening for a co-op/intern/part time helpdesk role. I asked some of my peers if they knew anyone and a good friend suggested someone he knew that worked at Starbucks. He talked to her everyday and it turns out she was looking to get into IT and had just started her senior year. No experience but great customer service skills, likable and culturally a good fit.
Now somehow between HR, her and me we got the times mixed and she missed her interview completely. Absolute no show. Normally I would have passed and not giving it a second thought, I mean I probably had 100 resumes for this one role, but since she had a personal reference and my friend was confident she would be a good fit I went against my initial judgement and rescheduled.
As it turns out I didn't hire her. The reason is 5 minutes into the interview I realized she would be a much better fit for a web developer position we had so I grabbed the manager of web development and had him talk to her and he hired her.
So the point of my long winded story is this. Personal references are super important. I would put social networking second because it gives the hiring manager more insight into you as a person and your technical skills. If you want to compete on just your resume, go for it. You can get jobs this way, just like you can become a millionaire playing the lottery. The odds are probably closer than you want to think.
IMHO of course....