Sunday, November 30, 2008

Job seekers tap social networking Web sites

Want a job? Consider contacting your online friends.

Professionals are increasingly turning to social networking Web sites like LinkedIn, Plaxo and Facebook to search for their next job.

Recruiters say they have been increasingly relying on such sites as a smarter way to keep track of talented, prospective employees — particularly those who aren't looking for a job yet.

Such virtual connections won a job for software developer John Hagewood, 47. A recruiter had contacted him last year through his online LinkedIn profile even though he hadn't been looking for a job.

Hagewood didn't reply at first. But when his company's sales took a dive, Hagewood responded to the recruiter, who gave him a job as a manager at VitalChek Network, a Brentwood company that issues vital records for government agencies.

"Honestly, I think it was God's will," Hagewood said.

There are some similarities between traditional job-listing sites and social networking sites: Users can post a resume, and employers can hunt for prospective hires electronically.

But networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook allow people to keep in touch with friends, co-workers, old college friends and former supervisors.

Users can search for acquaintances via e-mail addresses. Once a colleague is found, they are linked together on a virtual network.

Those networks can be helpful over time. A user can quickly inform dozens or hundreds of friends on Facebook or LinkedIn that he has been laid off. An old college roommate might send a quick message back that his company is looking for new employees.

Joining virtual groups, such as an alumni group for a college, on the Web sites can help. Dan Ryan, a consultant at Brentwood-based The Human Capital Group, said he won a new client recently because his online profile was on his college fraternity's Web site.

Sites' use rises with unemployment

John Williams, a regional vice president at a firm threatened by job cuts, said LinkedIn has given him solid leads on potential jobs.

The site also shows profiles of individual job recruiters.

"You learn more about who is actually out there looking for jobs, versus just posting your resume and waiting for the phone to ring," Williams said.

The popularity of online social networking has skyrocketed in recent months. New membership on LinkedIn, a 5-year-old Web site that has more than 31 million members, has increased 36 percent in the past six months, a jump company officials attribute to rising unemployment.

"As of late, a lot of people have been reflecting on the stability of their careers and been thinking it's time to make that investment," spokeswoman Kay Luo said.

Surveys show that many companies have begun to rely on online social networks as a hiring tool.

Nearly two out of three executives in a recent survey said social networking Web sites will be useful in their hiring efforts in the next three years, according to Robert Half International, a staff ing services firm specializing in accounting and finance that polled 150 senior executives from the largest U.S. companies.

About 35 percent of the executives surveyed said they also would use other social networks such as Facebook or MySpace to look for candidates.

There's "no question that with this recession and the increased number … of people unemployed that we're going to see more and more use of social networking sites to facilitate job searches," said John Challenger, CEO of workplace consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

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