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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

That Giant Scraping Sound: Li on Job Search

Forrester's Charlene Li offers an in-depth analysis of Yahoo Hotjobs' new free job listings component, and the job search field in general. (Bonus for reading: Dave McClure of Simply Hired weighs in with a comment.)

It still looks like early days for job search. The vertical players are innovating like crazy, and it will take years before user behavior shifts to take advantage of all that is out there.

In the meantime there is also the question of the "rise and fall" of certain online career- development-related fads, such as the Free Agent Nation sites that arose when everyone and his brother was "going solo," seemingly for the first time in history. We'll see a revival of some of the online communities that rose and fell.

Li makes the excellent point that there needs to be some reassurance for job seekers that the results they're seeing are viable job ads that might generate a response, and for this reason, praises the potential for formally marrying social networking with job seeking, as with a relatively unknown startup called Jobster.

But on that front -- gaining user adoption of social networking -- there is a snag, too. There are probably five or six leading social networking sites, and there is really only enough mindshare to support two or three. If your experience is like mine, you've tried a few (Ryze, Soflow, LinkedIn, Orkut, etc. -- am I missing any? maybe another dozen or so? :) ), but one of them seems to have all the momentum: LinkedIn. Indeed, after combing through a bevy of LinkedIn profiles last night, it struck me that the sole reason for many folks being part of LinkedIn is to expand their professional networks for ongoing career improvment. The most common situation for heavy networkers appears to be those with solid credentials who are currently underemployed or taking a semi-sabbatical to focus on child-rearing between successful gigs.

(All of which reminds me of a story. A project manager at a niche interactive agency contacted me several times in my role as search marketer par excellence to learn a little bit about how we manage search campaigns, so they could have us partner with them on some client projects. Nothing out of the ordinary. And I am not naive enough to be oblivious to the fact that sometimes, the process of sharing that info gives the other agency the idea that they can handle the project themselves. Unbeknownst to me, though, she wasn't really seeking services to improve the bottom line for the clients of the company she was working (part-time) at: she was in the middle of interviews for jobs related to search marketing, about which she knew nothing! Several weeks after our last talk, I was included in a bulk email to all of her friends inviting us out for drinks to celebrate (a) her birthday and (b) her great new job heading up search marketing for a well known company! The moral of the story? Maybe there isn't one. Or maybe it's that there is karma in social networks, and if you "use" your "network" solely for the purposes of self-advancement, without returning the favor, the celebration might not last long. If you believe in karma and stuff coming back to bite you in the ass, that is.)

So this is the wild card in the new world of job searching: not a discrete event where you start to search through listings from scratch, but a combination of search and a pre-existing social network that can help you not only in your search for what's available, but which might help you get a word-of-mouth referral to get an interview. For those fairly well-established in careers, who have some consulting or advising gigs to keep them going, the networking method is a more natural way of initiating research towards that comfortable fit. Even the names of two of the three major job boards sound creepy and impersonal to me -- "monster" job board? "hot" jobs?

There are only going to be so many online social networks that people use for this type of networking. From here, it looks like LinkedIn is gaining momentum, which makes Simply Hired's decision to partner with them seem all the more sensible. It would make sense if that partnership were strengthened.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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