The expansion of online professional networks has become one of the unsung stories of the ‘Web 2.0’ era. Professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn, Viadeo, and XING, do not command the column inches enjoyed by the likes of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but over the last few years they have signed up millions of members — mostly highly qualified executives from the worlds of business, government and the third sector.
The appeal of these professional networks mirrors that of consumer-focused ventures, providing a forum for likeminded people to communicate one-to-one, participate in forum discussions, expand their contact lists and build communities. However, unlike sites such as Facebook, members of LinkedIn, Viadeo and XING are primarily there to further their business and career interests rather than socialize.
Catch the recruiter’s eye
Professional networks such as these provide recruiters with a means to identify and contact talent — nationally or globally. Indeed, as our podcast interviewee, Peter Crosby, Chief Operating Officer, Viadeo Europe, points out, around 60 percent of recruiters are now searching social networks for suitable candidates.
Not only is this a way of identifying good people, it also saves recruiters money. According to a report in Computer Weekly (July 2009), Microsoft saved £60,000 on recruitment fees by avoiding traditional agencies and sourcing programmers with Assembly and x86 through the social network LinkedIn.
What’s your personal brand?
Anyone signing up a professional network will be asked to post a profile detailing their career to date. These career résumés are an ideal source of information for other network users, including recruiters. But posting a profile is just the first step.
Most members use professional networks to build an extensive list of contacts (thus widening your network with every contact made) and many go on to participate actively in discussion groups or offer advice to other members. In this way, every network member is building a personal brand based initially on their profile and enhanced by subsequent online activity. All of this can be of great interest to recruiters.
Meanwhile, active job seekers can post CVs or directly contact relevant managers.
The simple act of joining one or more social networks can significantly improve your chances of finding a job. The membership profile of the various networks to some extent reflects their origins. For instance, Viadeo and XING were founded in France and Germany respectively and their membership has a strong European focus, with a range of language options. LinkedIn — the biggest player with more than 65 million members — was created in the USA and remains dominated by Americans, although its international reach has grown enormously. Meanwhile, Tianji is focused on China and Asia.