Tuesday, June 26, 2012

LinkedIn: the de facto standard for CVs

Intrigued by some recent commentary casting doubt on the value of Mother LinkedIn, and recognising that the best questions are often the simplest and most fundamental, I got to thinking about ol' LinkedIn - what's the point of it?

I've been a member of LinkedIn since October 7, 2009. 3 Mobile, where I was working, was merging with Vodafone, and there was no room left for our little IT department, so we were out. They weren't in any hurry about it though, and we had 4 or so months to get our affairs in order. HR offered us the services of some "outbridging" company, or some term like that, to help us make the adjustment back to the job market.

Around that time we become aware of LinkedIn, and we all set up accounts. Then Jade hit on a great idea. A couple of days before that, no less than the Queensland Regional Director for 3 Mobile, Tim Gallagher, had come to wish us well, thank us for the last few years, and offer to help us in any way he could. Well, how about a LinkedIn reference? He only had to write it once, and copy and paste it to each of our profiles with minor variations. Which he duly did. Bang! 4 recommendations. We weren't sure how much they were really worth, but there they were on our profiles, with his imprimatur. In contrast, the outbridging guy hadn't heard of LinkedIn, as I recall.

Flickr photo
FlickrLinkedin, by Socialmediamx

Now some might say that that recommendation is not worth a jot. Maybe no-one who has the power to hire and fire looks at that stuff. All I know is that before LinkedIn existed that offer from Tim would probably have petered out in a fug of nah, unlikely as any of us were to cite him as a reference 6 months or a year later. I also know that my current boss values those recommendations to the extent that he requested one from me recently, and I in return got him to reciprocate. Ditto with my erstwhile Team Leader at the Dept. of Communities, John Wilson. I'm figuring that much like any currency, if influential people behave as if something is valuable then that makes it valuable.

Around the time of being retrenched from 3 Mobile I was using StackOverflow quite a bit so I signed up for a 3-year SO Careers 2.0 profile for $29. I loved the idea that my job prospects should be associated with the hard evidence of my performance on a Q&A site. Not that I was some SO heavy hitter or anything like that, or that even if you have a decent enough score, I mean reputation, that it means that you're better than someone else. It's simply that a career profile site where one claims some expertise in things like jQuery or MVC3 by linking to answers one has contributed to is an irresistible idea. It is also sadly true - at least in Brisbane - that Careers 2.0 isn't on anyone's radar, that I know of anyway. But considering all the value that StackOverflow has given me over the years, I've never begrudged that $29 for a second.

Monopoly

When you're tasting the cold steel of unemployment you end up dealing with recruitment agents. You speak to them on the phone. They ask you to send them an updated copy of your CV. That's the stage at which I ask them "Are you on LinkedIn?" That's a bit disingenuous of me, because of course they are. It's like asking a gamer if they've heard of Steam. Naughty me. They respond "Of course." "Ok, in that case, my CV is my LinkedIn public profile." If we aren't connected, I can friend them up. It's all there at www.linkedln.com/in/ralphlavelle - everything you need to know about me. This is the single most valuable service LinkedIn provides me - this universal CV format. But for some reason recruiters seem reluctant to move away from the "send me the latest copy of your CV" model. Why?

I asked the excellent Michael Cant of Source Code Recruitment about this curious affection for Word documents, and he wrote: "I think it is difficult to tell in some cases what someone has done through Linkedin as not everyone completes their profiles. With a CV you get a detailed history...". Leisa from Zenus said more or less the same thing: "The reason is that most people don't put full CVs on to Linkedin...and we like to make sure we have all the details."

It goes without saying that nowadays if you're back out there on the mean streets, then you should tend to your profile (on all relevant job-seeking sites), give it a haircut and a shave. Why would anyone who's gone to the bother of setting up a LinkedIn account, and who's now looking for a job, faff around with a half-assed profile?

One Resume to Rule Them All

But notwithstanding the reluctance of agents to relinquish the file-based CV model, it's still pretty handy to keep a canonical CV on LinkedIn, from where one can clone a Word-based one. In Dialog, we had to prepare a bespoke CV, in Dialog's preferred format. Painful. And frequently I've been asked to tailor my CV for specific job applications. One ends up with a folder of CVs, of all different stripes, but with essentially the same information on each of them. And all periodically having to be updated with the same information. Which I did by loading up my LinkedIn one and seeding the others from that.

This to me is the very definition of efficiency - only one copy, publicly available, with all the latest information (or at least it's my job (pun!) to make sure it does), obviating the need for dino-nonsense like Word. I don't have Word on my computer, nor do I want to. It doesn't do anything I need. It's like a fat kid staring in your window. If we can all agree to modernise, we can trade in URLs, in addressable resources. LinkedIn's de facto monopoly means we don't have to shlep Word documents around anymore. Maybe.

All this, by the way, is to ignore the rather obvious fact that keyword-based searching resulting in your profile appearing on the radar of agents looking to fill roles is probably the best single service that LinkedIn provides. I just wish you could import it into your Seek or CareerOne profiles. Bu things are possibly about to change: Tom McGruther (Hays Information Technology) wrote to me: "(LinkedIn) has great value, especially to a recruiter, for sourcing people - but not necessarily for marketing them to clients. I heard they are planning to release their own recruitment software. It’d be insanely good if it comes out, it will change the whole ballgame."

My First Law of Conservation of Social Media Energy

In the end, I think it all boils down to my 1st Law of Conservation of Social Media Energy: if you don't contribute to a social network, to nobody's great surprise you will think it's crap. I know some people who complain about Google+ for instance. They barely post anything, and the people they have circled don't either. And to nobody's great surprise they dont see much value there. LinkedIn is obviously a good way to advertise yourself to recruitment agents -the fact that they find and contact you on the site shows this. So let's advance to the next step and use our profile as the commodity rather than as an ad, a teaser for our "real" CV.