A New Kind Of Hookup

Most people are familiar with social networking Websites like MySpace.com and Match.com. The sites, popular with a range of users–from teenagers looking to make new friends with similar interests to singles searching for soul mates–have become an accessible way to connect to others.

Social networking sites also are proving to be a vehicle for employers seeking the right job candidate. Small and large companies alike are using online networking to do research, form relationships, and fill positions. One popular site is LinkedIn.com, a Mountain View, California-based firm that has signed up more than 350 companies to broadcast their job listings to more than 10 million registered users. The business owner looking for a full-time accountant to serve as CFO, for example, can visit a Website like LinkedIn, scroll through posted résumés, peruse an individual’s postings, or even check out a competitor’s site for potential candidates.

Social networking sites are also a good place to do “subtle” background checks, says Brian Drum, president of executive search firm Drum Associates Inc. in New York. “Employers can go to these sites and see what people are saying about themselves,” he says. (See “What You Look Like Online,” Powerplay, January 2007.)

In identifying prospective job candidates for his clients, Drum searches the “free and open information” available on a site like MySpace. He keeps an eye out for anything that might reveal the person’s character, or perhaps hinder his or her ability to perform reliably. “Sometimes all we find is meaningless chitchat,” says Drum, “but once in a while we’ll turn up something useful, like an unflattering picture or a piece of information that really shows what the person is made of.”

Human resources expert Lou Adler, CEO of the Adler Group in Irvine, California, and author of Hire With Your Head: Using Performance-Based Hiring to Build Great Teams (Wiley; $29.95), sees the value of recruiting and screening candidates via social networking. Take a manufacturer in need of a new product marketing representative. A quick search on a site like MySpace for the words “UCLA MBA” and “product marketing” might reveal seven graduates (and their contact information) currently working in that field. He adds that a recruiter could call these folks and find out where they’re working and whether they’re satisfied with their jobs and salaries, and then boil the list down to one or two candidates and start the recruiting process.

Gautam Godhwani, CEO of Mountain View, California-based SimplyHired.com, which operates a network of job sites, including MySpaceJobs.com, says recruiters approach online social networks in a variety of ways. Some advertise positions directly on the sites, others link their own Websites into the networks, and some create profiles of their job openings. The Cheesecake Factory, for example, has created a profile on MySpace in which it posts all its job openings and other information, Godhwani says.

According to Shane Henderson, president and CEO of Dallas-based JobBurner.com, companies put themselves out in cyberspace by creating blogs, contributing to interactive chat boards, and developing Websites (within social networking sites) that