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Five reasons to snoop on your potential boss on social media

Actors Rainn Wilson (L) and Steve Carell attend 'The Office' 100th Episode Celebration at the Calamigos Ranch on April 14, 2009 in Malibu, Calif.
Actors Rainn Wilson (L) and Steve Carell attend 'The Office' 100th Episode Celebration at the Calamigos Ranch on April 14, 2009 in Malibu, Calif.
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Job applicants are asked a variation of this question all of the time during the hunting process: "Can you tell me more about your philosophical interest in our company and its mission?"

It's a fancier way of saying "What made you apply?" but it's the most relevant question for a job recruiter or hiring manager to know outside of an applicant's experience. And while the applicant can cross her t's and dot her i's on social media, her resume, her website and portfolio, the one thing that applicants may need to do a better job of is scoping out who they want to work for. Reading the "About Us" page and a few articles won't get to the root of the person.

The perk of networking with other people is you get to know not only their job roles but their behavior. However, an annual networking event just won't give you the same information that social media will. So while applicants are picking a company apart on social media, it may be a good idea to do the same for the person you're applying to work with.

Five reasons to snoop on your potential boss:

Personality pattern: Neither a job applicant or a boss should have to transform into a totally different person to do a job. If that's the case, no one ever really knows them. While both people may be the most pleasant people ever to others, they just make clash with each other. Knowing and accepting the type of person you're dealing with can fix a lot of this beforehand. For example, Michael Scott couldn't be more different than Pam or Dwight from "The Office," but all three had the most oddly loyal friendship and productive workplace relationship in spite of it. Justin and Danny from "Undateable" may not seem like two people who can get along for five minutes, but they've progressed from friends to roommates. And none of these TV characters (minus Dwight) are unrealistic as everyday workers. You don't have to be a carbon copy of your boss to get along. But you two do have to be able to tolerate and hopefully like each other. And if Michael, Pam, Justin and Danny had their own social media accounts, you better believe their personalities would show through. (Dwight and Michael may make you block them.)

Volunteer conflict: For volunteers in the political and social realm, there's usually a passion behind doing free work. So if the company or boss is vehemently opposed to your views on these topics, there may be a frightening amount of conflict later. For example, if you volunteered for Organizing for America to help people sign up for health insurance but the company you're applying to only covers clients, companies and reports that are opposed to the Affordable Care Act, this can be a major conflict of interest. Not only will it be difficult for the applicant to consistently keep her opinion to herself but other volunteers and observers who knew this volunteer will question her credibility.

Communicating style: Twitter is a much cleaner platform without replies clogging up the way of original tweets. However, it may be a good idea to see what the interaction is like on "Tweets and Replies." For private accounts on Twitter or Facebook accounts, this may be more difficult to do. But if it's possible to see how your boss handles people who disagree with her or trolls or even how she represents herself within the company, this may provide a better understanding of her work style.

Follower pattern: The most conscious workers avoid getting too personal on social media. This is a good and bad thing. If their accounts are just full of links or FAQ-style responses, it might as well be an automated system talking to them. But what does tell quite a tale on people's accounts is who else they follow. In journalism, it's generally a good idea to follow both sides of any one issue. If Illinois Senator Dick Durbin gets a follower request then so should Illinois Senator Mark Kirk. Not everyone follows this open-minded style of social media following, but what they often do is show their personalities through other types of follows. Chances are slim that if a person is following Jenny Johnson she probably isn't using the hashtag #TeamBreezy. If a person is following the National Rifle Association then it's a pretty safe bet that the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence probably doesn't get too much love either.

Work habits: One of the simplest reasons to follow both the company's social media accounts and the bosses' social media accounts is to see how the company is represented. No applicant knows her work style quite like herself. If the position is digital but the boss has five tweets and no followers, chances are digital applicants will have to put in some work to help out on the social networking side. But if the boss has 5,000 Facebook friends, 1,500 Linked In connections and 40 Pinterest boards, she won't tolerate anything but the best for anyone working on a social media platform.

Social media is a gift and a curse for many in the job market. On one hand, it gives people yet another opportunity to judge a book by its cover. But on the other, it'll make more people read the back cover and buy into it.

Follow Shamontiel on Pinterest for all of her latest Chicago dating, sex, marriage and work relationship entries, or subscribe to her Chicago Relationships channel at the top of this page. Also, follow her "Let's Talk About Sex...Health" Pinterest board.

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