Most job seekers have the best shot at finding a job through their friends and contacts, given that nearly a third of external hires are found through referrals, despite the myriad ways for companies to find job candidates. That suggests that despite the millions of résumés fired throughout the Web during the past couple of years, job seekers' time might have been better spent pinging their friends for opportunities where they work.
Online job search sites are fully aware of this conundrum—that job searching has largely shifted online, but hiring still relies on old-fashioned relationships—so they're finding new ways to enable both methods.
You could find your next job through a long-lost high school friend with whom you reconnected on Facebook. At job search site SimplyHired.com, a partner of U.S. News, job seekers can log in to their Facebook accounts and allow Simply Hired to access work history details from friends' profiles. The site then lists all of your friends and their employers. Click on their employers, and you'll see any job openings currently listed on Simply Hired. You can send a message to a friend directly about the opening. The site also shows you which companies employ the greatest number of your friends, the cities that friends are most likely to live in, and jobs at companies you've indicated a preference for in your Facebook profile. Simply Hired isn't the only search engine offering a chance to find a job through Facebook friends: Indeed.com has a Facebook application that allows users to look at openings where their friends work.
"The basic idea here is that when you search in the offline world and you start a job search, you usually go to a number of your friends and say, 'Do you know of any great companies? Are there great jobs at your company that you know about?'" says Simply Hired chief executive officer Gautam Godhwani. "That's been the way that a lot of the hiring has been done in the past. ... And I think that's what you're seeing here—you're seeing Simply Hired take what has traditionally been a very effective offline process and bring it online." Simply Hired earlier launched a LinkedIn application that would allow users to see whether they had connections to employers they were interested in.
A Facebook integration may not have made sense in the early years of the site, when it was largely the domain of college students who were there to socialize. Today, with nearly a half-billion users, Facebook is personal branding turf for middle-aged professionals and Gen Y up-and-comers. It's a place where businesses tout new products and track down job candidates. Despite all the privacy controversy, most users still choose to include personal and work histories and details on their profiles. "I think we're moving into a new era of job search which is much, much more personalized," Godhwani says. "The basis for that is users today have a lot more information about themselves online."
The company has monitored the privacy debate closely, Godhwani says. For one thing, the Simply Hired integration leaves no trace on your profile, so your Facebook friends won't know you're looking for work. Also, the privacy goal for most users is control, and Simply Hired's integration is opt-in only.
Accessibility is an area of ongoing development among job search engines. Job search site LinkUp.com is currently awaiting approval from Apple for an iPad application that would allow users to search for jobs, create job alerts, and E-mail job openings to friends—similar functions as LinkUp's smart-phone applications, but it's much easier to apply to the jobs directly on the iPad, thanks to its size. The goal for LinkUp is to transform as job seekers transform—"accommodating their usage patterns and their behavior patterns and their technology adoption," says chief executive Toby Dayton. (Disclaimer: G.L.Hoffman, the chairman of LinkUp's parent JobDig, is one of U.S.News' On Careers: Outside Voices bloggers.)
LinkUp has found that users are spending between 10 and 11 minutes, on average, on its smart phone applications, Dayton says. These are job searches that are not likely being done at home, in close proximity to a computer. Instead, the mobile application allows people to search for jobs anywhere, anytime: "when people see a company or a brand and something triggers an idea in their head, " Dayton says. They might be at a party, where they meet someone who works for a company they're interested in. They can do a job search immediately, then save their search for later. "Ideally, that application allows people to improve their search and think more comprehensively about the kind of jobs and careers they want—the kind of companies they want to work for, the kinds of roles and responsibilities that are going to bring satisfaction to their lives," Dayton says.