Watch out, your next job might find you
In recent years changes in technology have made it easier for active job hunters to find available positions. Using sites such as MyCareer and seek, job hunters can constantly monitor available opportunities. Now the same technologies, coupled with the growth social networking, are making it possible for companies to find the talent they are looking for.
The growth of social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, have significantly increased the amount of public or easily accessible information on individual careers and skills. I have a meagre 54 connections on LinkedIn but this allows me to access detailed information on over 4900 people who are connected to people I am connected to. Many professionals have hundreds of connections and as the number of connections increases the size of network increases exponentially. A typical LinkedIn page contains information on an individual’s last three jobs, recommendations posted by people they have worked with, and through status updates, information on what they have been working on recently. Importantly, because this information is digital, it is easy to search.
It hasn’t taken long for smart organizations to realise that this information provides opportunities to identify potential talent. One example is the career centre that SAP, a large German software company, developed with LinkedIn. The career centre allows SAP’s channel partners to identify professionals with specialised SAP related skills from their LinkedIn profiles. There are also a growing number of companies that are in the process of developing ‘middleware’ to help organizations identify external talent pools from data contained on social networking sites. One example is LinkedIn Recruiter but there are a range of alternative solutions currently in development. Given these developments, it is conceivable that in the not too distant future your next job might find you.
These developments have positive and negative implications for companies, employees and the recruitment industry. For companies, the technology that allows them to search information on social networking sites will make it easier and quicker for them to identify external talent pools regardless of whether these individuals are actively seeking new opportunities or not. By the same token, because this information is also available to their competitors, companies who want to retain existing talent will need to do much more to ensure that wages and conditions remain benchmarked to the external market.
For employees, there are also plusses and minuses. For the growing number of professionals who have non-linear career paths, moving from short term assignment to short term assignment, social networking sites allow them to create a 'narrative' about the skills and experience they have developed more easily than in a traditional CV. By the same token, employees will need to become much more savvy about how they present themselves using these sites. Many of my students, who simultaneously upload details about their big night out on Friday to LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter may regret the impact of this information on their "personal brand" later in their careers.
Finally, these shifts in technology suggest an uncertain future for the recruitment industry. Traditionally recruitment agencies have played the role of matchmaker putting together companies who need an employee with certain skills and attributes with applicants who possess these skills. A key point of differentiation in this industry has been the quality of the databases of information that recruitment companies maintain. In the short run changes in technology and the growth of social networking may allow recruitment companies to move away from maintaining expensive databases, thereby reducing the costs of doing business. In the medium term, however, these developments may do away with the need for anyone to play this matchmaker role all together. If the online date industry is anything to do by, there is still plenty of money to be made in recruitment but the industry will have to develop fundamentally different business models.
Nick Wailes is an Associate Professor in Work and Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney, where he teaches and researches in strategy.