Reference Checks Exploit Networking Sites

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From a job-seeker's standpoint, professional networking sites like LinkedIn and Jobster are a two-edged sword, The Wall Street Journal says. The downside is that it has become fairly easy for a prospective employer to contact "job references you can't control." On the plus side, Web-savvy candidates may benefit by taking steps to populate their online networks with people who can be trusted to say good things about them.

"If your online profile is clean and you are connected to people through social networks who would say favorable things about your abilities, it may help you land the job," the newspaper says, citing Jason Goldberg, Jobster's chief executive. Goldberg describes the networks' impact on candidates as "kind of a caution and an empowerment."

Contacts gleaned from both professional networking sites and social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace let recruiters and hiring managers go beyond the traditional practice of speaking only with references supplied by the candidate.

"Such reference checking exposes job seekers to certain risks," the story observes. "Many site users routinely connect online to people they have only a glancing relationship with -- say, someone who simply works at the same company -- and there is no guarantee that the references will be favorable."

For example, the article quotes a headhunter saying he ruled out a candidate for sales director of a large company, after contacts he found on LinkedIn and MySpace told him the individual "was tough to work with and get along with."

But the Journal also cites a business development manager whose LinkedIn profile and associated network helped him land a job earlier this year. And LinkedIn Corp. itself quietly did 23 reference checks on Dan Nye before hiring him as its own chief executive in February.

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