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At Social Job Sites, It's Who You Know

Part of LinkedIn's appeal is that it's not a job board.

May 11, 2005
Related Topics: Internet, Candidate Sourcing

V P of engineering jobs at enormous Internet companies aren’t normally filled via ads on a job board. But when executive recruiter Stephen Wachter was looking recently for a candidate for such a position on behalf of his client, Yahoo, he turned to LinkedIn’s new listings.

    LinkedIn has spent the past year or so building up its reputation as a site for business networking that’s not necessarily job-search-based, but now it’s using that reputation to launch a job site of its own.

    As company co-founder Konstantin Guericke describes it, LinkedIn Jobs is a "relationship jobs networking site" that’s meant to act a bit like an employee referral program. The site sells listings (for an initial rate of $95), like Monster and Craigslist do, but both applicants and employers can see how many degrees of separation connect them to one another as well as who they know at each other’s companies past and present and, therefore, who might provide a useful referral for the job or reference for past performance.

    (Following their own paid listings, LinkedIn searches still display listings from DirectEmployers. Guericke says that there will be more than a million listings viewable on LinkedIn by summer.)

    The company has also launched Jobs-Insider, a "browser companion" that tells its users what LinkedIn connections they’ve got within potential employers whose listings they view on major job sites.

    Wachter, principal of Osprey One, specializes in VP of engineering searches. When he advertised the Yahoo position on LinkedIn Jobs, he got about 50 responses, of whom "four or five are in the top 10 percent of VP engineering candidates, 10 were OK, and the rest were probably not up my alley. But no one was horrible," he says.

    "What LinkedIn provides for candidates is an opportunity to see a job that they wouldn’t ordinarily look at--they’re not going to look in the paper or scan Monster," Wachter says. "But if you’re connecting with some trusted friends in a network and there’s a tab on there that says ‘jobs,’ you click over, and there’s a guy doing a VP engineering search at Yahoo and that looks interesting."

    He ultimately filled the position with someone he already knew, but LinkedIn was what brought that candidate to mind.

    Wachter says he would probably not depend on LinkedIn for candidate sourcing, but he adds that "I think it’s a great supplement to a strong sphere of influence or network. It came up with new blood, frankly."

    Part of LinkedIn’s appeal to recruiters, of course, is that it’s not primarily a job board. The site’s users tend to be high-level people--RealNetworks’ Rob Glaser and Microsoft’s Bill Gates recently joined, Guericke says. And members constitute those sought-after passive job candidates.

    Since searches are more efficient for users with bigger personal networks, the job listings encourage job seekers to sign up as many professional contacts as they can. "If good people refer other good people, the quality of the network will stay high," Wachter says. "It’s an exclusive club right now, and it’s a strong club. The question is how to maintain that exclusivity and that degree of quality."

    Another company, Jobster, has designed recruiting software based on social networks, with input from recruiters at companies like Nordstrom, Pfizer and Boston Scientific. Firms that subscribe to the service will be able to target specific people within a recruiter’s network and ask individuals to pass along job postings to those in their network who they think would be good candidates.

    "The vast majority of people have rudimentary networking skills," says consultant and author Peter Weddle, CEO of Weddle’s Publications in Stamford, Connecticut. "When seeking to advance, networking is about an exchange of information. It’s not about building a Rolodex."

Workforce Management, May 2005, pp. 52-54 -- Subscribe Now!

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