June 18, 2008

Networking Sites Link Job Seekers, Recruiters

By LaTina Emerson

When Sharon Johnston started her job search, she picked up a computer mouse before mailing out resumes.

After living in Detroit for more than 20 years, she has decided she wants to come back home to Augusta to be closer to her aging parents.

Ms. Johnston, who recently left her job as a human resources executive for a nonprofit organization, joined LinkedIn, a social networking Web site for professionals, to help her land a job in or near her hometown.

"I have three interviews in the next week, and they're all the result of my work through LinkedIn," Ms. Johnston said.

Through searching LinkedIn's profiles, she met Greg Criste, a recruiter at Spherion, a recruiting and staffing firm in Augusta, whom she will meet in person next week.

Job seekers and recruiters alike are increasingly using social networking sites and other nontraditional methods to make professional connections.

Angela Woodruff-Swarts, the president and franchise owner of Spherion in Augusta, said that she frequently uses social networking sites and blogging to find qualified job candidates for her 100 Augusta-area clients.

She blogs, or chats online, with potential candidates on various sites and is a regular at LinkedIn, where she searches for profiles of ideal candidates.

"Some of my recruiters use Facebook, MySpace and Plaxo, to name a few," she said.

While she still uses "traditional" recruiting methods, such as job fairs, trade shows and campus recruiting, she has learned to use a variety of techniques to find good candidates.

"It's a number of efforts combined that will bring forth the best talent. We don't rely on any one method," she said.

John Challenger, the CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. in Chicago, a global outplacement consulting company, said that nontraditional hiring methods have become common.

"It's an essential part of how recruiting firms, as well as internal recruiting departments in companies, search for people," Mr. Challenger said. "Virtually every recruiting firm today is using the social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Plaxo as a recruiting ground."

In the past, companies tried to build their own databases, but social networking sites are replacing these efforts because of their vast reach, he said.

For example, LinkedIn provides access to 20 million users, online resumes and information such as a person's alma mater.

Though the recruiting trend has emerged in the past five years, Mr. Challenger said that the number of people "who utilize these networks and can be found on them is exploding."

"The technology gives you the capacity to recruit and find the right people," he said.

Ms. Woodruff-Swarts said that when she participates in blogs she targets specific, work-related skills. For instance, if she were looking for a network programmer, she would visit technology blogs.

When she arrives at the blog site, she examines the ongoing conversation. If she thinks the bloggers are knowledgeable professionals, she either jumps in to join the conversation or asks if they might be interested in a career opportunity.

"I would start a conversation, and hopefully identify a candidate for what my client needs," she said.

Ms. Woodruff-Swarts added that she blogs in the evenings when most people are at home.

She prefers LinkedIn over social networking sites that target a younger demographic, such as Facebook and MySpace.

She finds candidates on these sites by doing a search for a key word such as "product manager" that might be listed in profiles.

If she finds someone who meets her search requirements, she contacts the person by e-mail or the contact information listed on their profile. In most instances, she tries to find candidates by networking with her own contacts on the social networking sites and asking them to introduce her to people who might interest her.

Becky Strickland, a consultant for Human Resource Matters in Colorado, warns job seekers against posting information on social networking sites that is too personal. Companies frequently use these sites, as well as search engines such as Yahoo!, to prescreen candidates.

Companies are also using alumni networks and branding to find better candidates.

Sylvia Jarest, the human resources manager at Electrolux, sought the assistance of CareerBuilder.com last year to implement some new recruiting techniques.

Previously, Electrolux had used job boards, recruiters and newspaper ads, but the appliance company was still having difficulty finding qualified candidates.

The online job site company posted jobs for Electrolux and assisted with "branding," or providing additional information about the company with the job profile.

"We're able to screen the candidates a lot quicker," Ms. Jarest said. Previously, the company had to wait for faxes or get candidates to apply in person.

Reach LaTina Emerson at (706) 823-3227or [email protected]

Originally published by LaTina Emerson Staff Writer Recruiters and job seekers are finding connections on social networking Web sites. Business, 15A.

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