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Blogs emerge as resource in job hunts

By L.M. Sixel

Blogs emerge as resource in job hunts
  • March 02, 2006

YOU check the want ads. You network. But are you blogging?

Job seekers in the know are reading employee blogs to find out about openings that aren't generally well-known.

In between comments on their aging dogs or the sleeping habits of their newborns, bloggers do a lot of chitchatting about work-related issues that can be a gold mine of information for job hunters.

Sometimes it's very technical stuff about projects, such as the blog entry from the Firefox lead engineer at Google that starts out, "A lot of people complain about the Firefox 'memory leak(s).' "

The entry generated 287 comments, many of which were illuminating to those of us (read: me) who have no idea what Firefox is in the first place. But if you want to work in software development at Google, I reckon it would be a good idea to know about memory leaks.

Here's the kicker: Sometimes bloggers mention job openings at their companies or others. Or they report they're changing jobs, which, to a careful reader, might indicate a position is opening up.

Also, companies are eager to recruit the people reading the blogs because they're likely to be the sort of folks they'd want to have on board.

Blogs find passive job seekers, said Jason Goldberg, CEO of Jobster, an online, Seattle-based job board with a built-in referral feature.

"At most every Fortune 200 company today, there are anywhere from a small handful to many employees blogging about key work initiatives," Goldberg said. Microsoft alone has more than 3,000 employee blogs.

While some companies prohibit their employees from blogging, others embrace it, he said. They want users communicating with engineers to pick up the street talk on software problems or supply difficulties.

Microsoft links directly to its blogs off the corporate site, said Heather Hamilton, whose official title at the company is staffing program manager. However, she describes herself as an "almost evangelist" for careers in marketing. It's a good way to get ad hoc customer feedback, said Hamilton, whose Heather's "Marketing at Microsoft" Blog gets hundreds of thousands of hits a month.

It's also a great way to put a human face on a company, said Hamilton, who recently blogged about the value of rating business schools and problems she had with customer service at a wine site.

While Hamilton doesn't suggest to employee bloggers that they mention specific job openings, a request that some might view as too heavy-handed, bloggers often do, she said. And they also often link to her blog if they think their audience may be interested.

To find some of the blogs, you can use a variety of search engines, including Google, Yahoo and Technorati as well as individual company Web sites. But be warned: It takes time to find some good hits.

Just like word of mouth
The vast majority of jobs are found through word of mouth. Blogging is an extension of that, said Tony Pannagl, managing director of IS&T, an information technology consulting firm.

Blogging can also make recruiting much faster, said Pannagl, who has seen firsthand how fast news can travel on a blog.

Pannagl, who hires information technology experts, received a call the other day from someone who saw an opening at BP mentioned in a chat room. The candidate asked Pannagl to pick up the phone and use his network to recommend him for the BP position.

Blog postings can also be more efficient than traditional job ads, said Pannagl, who uses blogs to find quality programmers and engineers.

The postings are often detailed, which gives candidates a better sense of what's going on, he said. People can weed themselves out pretty quickly if the job isn't for them.

It's also a way to schmooze electronically, said Hussam Hamadeh, co-president of Vault, a New York-based Internet and print career information publisher. And mentioning someone's blog when you meet them shows you're on top of things.

Use for tips
Blogs may be a good source of job leads, but many job seekers don't appear to be taking advantage of them.

When Jasmine Foster was looking for a job, she searched the Internet using individual company sites and big job boards.

While the 21-year-old is familiar with blogging — what 21-year-old isn't? — she thinks of it more as a way to talk to friends and plan social events.

"I hadn't thought of using a blog for a job," she said.

David Small, assistant vice president for student services at the University of Houston, said he hasn't seen students searching through blogs for job openings.

Instead, blogs are popping up as a new form of the old-fashioned job club where a group of job seekers share their frustrations on looking for work and trade experiences on how they handled difficult interview questions, he said.

As helpful as blogs may be in finding job leads, Small said, "I wouldn't be spending all my time hanging out in the blogs."

It's still better for students to focus on meeting with companies that come to campus and cultivating their network of real live people, he said.