How important a role are social networks currently playing in helping job seekers find employment?
Well, it’s very important. In fact, something like 60 percent of employers are now searching on professional social networks for candidates and they’re looking in advance of job interviews to see what your profile says about you. But the most crucial thing is that when they search Google, if they don’t find a professional profile, what do they find instead? And frequently, they find something that you don’t control and so the most important thing about a professional network is to have a profile, update it, keep it refreshed which means that when the employer does run the search they find information that you’re in charge of rather than information about you or those slightly embarrassing Facebook photographs that you wish you hadn’t posted.
In your experience does job seeking and recruitment activities represent a significant part of what goes on in professional social networks?
Yes. In fact it’s the biggest reason that people use a professional social network. Something like 40 percent of our members tell us that they are using our service either to recruit or to be recruited. But there’s a hidden number behind there as well because, of course, what social networks represent is not active recruitment but, in fact, passive recruitment which means that even though you can use our service, and we’ll talk about this shortly, for contacting recruiters, for advertising yourself, in fact what we tend to find is that recruiters contact you. And they contact you because they use our back-office recruitment systems to access more sophisticated search mechanisms to look for the right candidates and then they send the mail directly to the right candidate based upon the search criteria and the key words they’ve used. And the majority, almost 90 percent of our members, leave that box ticked which says I’m happy to receive job offers and suggestions from recruiters because, of course, even if it’s not the right job for you, you don’t regard it as spam; it’s kind of flattering and, of course, hundreds and thousands of our members have found jobs in that way.
What advice would you give to someone who is actively seeking employment through a networking site such as Viadeo or LinkedIn?
Ok, well there’s three things and I’ll start with the basic and the basic is that you must have your profile up to date. What you can now do, increasingly, is create a rich media profile. That means rather than simply transcribing your resume in to your professional profile, which is fine and is important, you can now, for example, include a presentation which you’ve done or perhaps you want to include in your profile a YouTube video of you speaking at a conference or perhaps; quite an exciting company we’re working with in London called Inspire Interns and work with recent MBA graduates; they do a 60 second video of you talking to camera. You can imbed that in to your profile which, number one, could be really interesting for the potential employer and, number two, is different and anything that’s different stands out and helps you go through that initial first sift where employers are looking for something that makes you stand out from the crowd. So, number one, obviously update your profile. Number two is to be active. If you are active on the network then people who search for you will find you at the top if the list. What does that mean? If you’ve got a complete profile with a photograph you’re going to come at the top of the search. If you answer questions in the expertise section on Viadeo then you’re going to come nearer to the top of the search and you’re going to appear to be active and knowledgeable. Ask for recommendations from previous employers or from a colleague; ask them to talk about you because it adds weight, it adds third party substance to your profile. And finally, I would suggest joining a community. If you join a community you start to network online with people who are based in your industry; you start to make contacts in just the same way you would in an offline event and, of course, the majority of jobs are got through third party contacts and your extended network, if it has 100 people in it, your extended network will be about half a million people. So, all of those people you’re connected to and, of course, for many of us that’s the way we got our job; it’s through connections.
Can you explain the difference between active and passive recruiting?
If you are actively recruiting then what will happen as the candidate is you’ll go and look for advertisements and will respond to advertisements. We have thousands and thousands of advertisements and people respond to them all the time and they’re very successful. What’s the game changer is that the recruiter can start to actively hunt for you so if your profile has the right key words, the right level of experience; let’s talk about a Digital Marketing Manager based in London. If you type in ‘digital marketing’ as a recruiter and you look for five years experience or more and you want to see a couple of marketing associations name checked in there as well and you want to be sure that they’re in the UK in the South East of England, you’re going to get the 30 million Viadeo members down to a much smaller sub section and then you can start to filter and filter and filter. And the guys that come at the top of that search will probably receive an e-mail from the recruiter; this is what we call passive recruitment. You might be in work, you might not be in work, but you have a good resume and you receive contact from the head hunter which enables you to organize and interview; organize a consultation. And we find that that increasingly is the way that people are starting to get recruited on Viadeo.
Is there a lot of cross border recruitment activity and do you need to be on a professional networking site to be noticed?
Yeah, well first of all I would go a step further and say that it’s important to be on more than one professional social network. Not doing so would be a little like advertising on ITV and not advertising on Channel 4; it doesn’t make any sense. You want to be in the place where the recruiter is looking and the recruiter looks in multiple locations. Talking of cross border, Viadeo is particularly strong in mainland Europe, in China, in India and in the emerging Nations. You want to be on LinkedIn though if you’re in America, of course you do, because that is where the recruitment is taking place. So, it’s important to be on a number. In fact, if you’re in the German countries then there’s another competitor there as well. I wouldn’t say for a moment that you should be on one Network but that you should be on multiple networks.
So, finally, is it important to have a presence on a professional networking site?
No question. The market in our view for professional networks at the moment stands at about half a billion professionals and right now about 70 to 80 million of those professionals are online which is about 15%. But it’s growing and it’s curving very, very rapidly. What we really saw in the financial crisis was, at that point, were people realized that the job market wasn’t so secure and had to do all the things they could possible do to maximize their potential and those people that have the professional profiles, those people that when you search on Google you find a professional description which is maintained personally, has connections, they’re able to hunt for jobs successfully online, those people have an advantage in the job market. However, it’s a good question because there are some industry segments, particularly in some of the emerging Nations, where it’s not yet essential. But it will be, there’s no question. And in order to be ahead of the game, particularly in the UK, the US and the English speaking world, in Europe, in China, in India, it’s absolutely essential to have a profile on a professional network.
Thank-you Pete for your time. Make sure you subscribe to the careers magazine to keep updated on new podcasts