Hiring strategies shift toward social media

By Galen Moore (Source: http://www.masshightech.com/stories/2009/08/10/weekly14-Hiring-strategies-shift-toward-social-media.html)

Online job boards may be in the midst of a jobless recovery of their own: As the beginning of a turnaround appears to signal the return to hiring, recruiters and hiring managers say they’re posting fewer and fewer jobs. Instead, they’re headhunting at every level of the organization, using online social networks to spot and recruit candidates from temporary workers to executives.

Just as sites like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com replaced print classifieds, online social networks appear to be replacing job boards as channels through which hiring happens. The job-board giants are retooling their approach to respond to the trend, and a crop of online startups is looking to capitalize on it by combining traditional job postings with social networking tools and other information sources.

“The job boards are being used less and less by employers as a global source of new candidates,” said Elaine Varelas, managing partner at Boston-based career counselors Keystone Associates.

Instead, hiring managers are using niche-oriented social networks, such as trade group discussion boards, as well as sites such as LinkedIn.com or Waltham-based Zoom Information Inc.’s ZoomInfo.com to engage in headhunting practices previously reserved only for top executives, she said. The number of competing sites have proliferated, including Plaxo, Wink, Spoke, Doostang, Visible Path (now owned by Hoovers), VisualCV, Bebo and countless others.

At least three new Boston-based web services aim to take advantage of that trend.

Ben Margolis, a developer at Cambridge-based 2008 MITX award winner ISITE Design Inc., built an online application called WinBread to help job seekers manage word-of-mouth job leads and formal job applications in the same place. Last month, recruiter Keith Cline launched Venturefizz, a site designed to combine job boards with news, Twitter feeds and blogs. In the same week, recruiter Tom Summit added job postings to his online startup directory, Genotrope.

Genotrope maps the interconnections between companies and allows job seekers to find job postings at companies that fall within their professional network. Summit said he is seeking relationships with hiring companies in which they agree to pay Genotrope if they hire a candidate who applies through the service.

Melissa Lawrence has used the service to fill positions at Cambridge-based ITA Software Inc., where she is human resources director. While general-purpose job boards have become commoditized, her company’s online social graph has become a better tool, she said.

In July, Monster Worldwide Inc. (NYSE: MWW) cut 160 employees, and announced plans to hire 80 new employees for a new Cambridge research and development facility. That team will be focusing on how to add social networking capabilities to Monster’s site, said company spokeswoman Janet Swaysland. That said, posting and searching job listings and resumes is still the best way to match jobs and candidates, Swaysland said. To improve that core function, Monster is integrating semantic search technology the company bought last year with the acquisition of Trovix Inc. for $72.5 million.

That wasn’t enough for WinBread developer Margolis, who started his own Boston job search last year. Though they have job search management, resume building and now, potentially, social media, job-board toolkits aim to create a walled garden, he said.

“WinBread is a way to keep track of all the opportunities you’ve heard about — whether it’s from a job site, or your cousin’s friend’s hiring,” he said.

A career counselor advised him, instead of looking for job postings, to start by making a list of 60 companies he wanted to work for. He built WinBread, a kind of CRM for job seekers, because he didn’t want to manage the process with a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.

ITA’s Lawrence said she advised the same approach for a friend who had recently lost her job: Start with the list of companies where you want to work, she said, and use online social networks to find opportunities — and help recruiters find you — before jobs even get posted.

“There are so many other ways to network and find jobs that aren’t just job boards,” Lawrence said.

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