Thursday, June 2, 2011

Start-Ups Tag Facebook for Career Networking

LinkedIn Corp.'s splashy initial public offering of stock earlier this month underscored the company's status as a major professional network. But several start-ups are banking that the future of career networking is actually on Facebook Inc.

These start-ups point to Facebook's much broader user base: With 500 million users, Facebook is five times larger than LinkedIn.

But changing users' mindsets might be a challenge. Some Facebook users are loathe to mix their personal and professional networks, fearing some private information might damage their work reputation.
Recruiters, meanwhile, say that LinkedIn has already established itself as the most robust source for job-candidate information.

This month, BranchOut Inc., which makes a professional-networking Facebook application, said it raised $18 million in venture capital, bringing its total to $24 million. On the day of LinkedIn's IPO, Jibe Inc., which lets people use Facebook connections to bolster job applications, announced that it had raised $6 million.

Since January, BranchOut has gained more than 500,000 active users, Chief Executive Rick Marini said. The app helps users find Facebook friends at companies where they want to work.
Jibe CEO Joe Essenfeld said that its 200,000 active users have landed hundreds of jobs by sending applications through its service.

Mr. Essenfeld added that 26 large employers, including Inc. and MTV Networks, as well as 20 small businesses, accept résumés sent through the application, which lets users import connections from both Facebook and LinkedIn.

"Most people do not want to mix their professional lives with their personal lives," said a LinkedIn spokesman, Hani Durzy, in an email.

Even though the apps are gaining in popularity among Facebook users, right now LinkedIn is still the go-to site for recruiters trying to find suitable candidates, said Debra Feldman, a job-search consultant.

"They're using it over and above any other résumé databases, including their own," she said. That means that if someone isn't looking for a job but wants to field offers from headhunters, he needs a LinkedIn profile, she said.

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