What IT recruiters know about you -- whether you're looking or not

New tools let recruiters mine the social Web to discover and rate tech talent, even before anyone goes looking for a job.

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While people in other positions tend to have a smaller online footprint than open source software developers, there's still plenty to mine, these vendors argue, both in social media and in other areas, such as patent databases for engineering roles and PubMed in the healthcare field.

Congdon is a believer. "It will be interesting to watch the dynamics in the marketplace," he says: "In the future, your online body of work will speak more loudly in the recruiting process than will your resume and interviewing skills."

Different approaches

At one level, all of the vendors in this space do the same thing. "The base technical approach is not dissimilar to that of a public search engine," says RemarkableHire's Rothrock. But their approaches vary, as do the online sites that each crawls. And the tools are evolving on a monthly basis, both in terms of features and the number of sites on the Web that each monitors.

To identify potential candidates who are about to start looking for a new job, Entelo looks for "social insights" ranging from layoff announcements to changes to a person's social profile.

Gild Source's stock in trade lies in its rankings of developers' code stored on open source sites. "We predictively pull data only on developers," says Dr. Vivienne Ming, chief scientist.

Gild Source's service continuously crawls 65 social sites on the Web, including GitHub and Stack Overflow, where developers might hang out, answer questions and contribute code. It pulls in all of the data it finds, processes it, stores the results in a 20-plus gigabyte Mongo database, and assembles the far-flung data into more than eight million individual profiles that include both structured and unstructured data. Users of the service -- companies looking to fill jobs -- can filter results by categories such as location, degree or school, and can link back to code examples.

The results Gild Source offers up take into account how other people in online forums rank each person's expertise as well as Gild Source's evaluation of the code they've written for open source projects. It then issues an overall knowledge score as well as a ranking for specific skills and influence in the open source community.

For developers who don't contribute code to open source projects, Gild Source has developed predictive algorithms using Bayesian analysis. "We are deeply machine learning-driven," says Ming. "We can predict someone's skill level from the surrounding information. It's highly effective."

Help Wanted

RemarkableHire uses what it calls "social evidence" that people are knowledgeable in a particular skill by looking, among other things, for recognition by their peers and indications that they've provided the best answers to questions posted online. "We look for signals within the content that someone has expertise in a particular skill," says Rothrock. The company then provides skills proficiency ratings of one to four stars for each subject.

Joy Garlock, manager of professional recruiting at Gannet Digital Division, has been using RemarkableHire for the last few months to find and interview multiple candidates and extended two offers in the first month after signing up. (She declined to talk about the outcome of the offers.)

The candidates "weren't even looking," Garlock says. "This is an opportunity for us to be in their world as opposed to them coming to us."

TalentBin focuses on discovering talent rather than qualifying it, but the company does offer a "level of intensity" score in particular skills (such as the Ruby programming language) that correlate with the prospect's interest level in a given area, says CEO Kazanjy. He hopes to expand beyond TalentBin's core software engineering jobs to positions in engineering and healthcare by mining some 40 different online sources, including social media, vertical communities, online publications such as PubMed, mailing lists and patent databases. "This approach is extensible to any sort of knowledge worker," he argues.

The fledgling businesses have been successful enough to get the attention of at least one online job board. Dice.com, a tech-focused site, recently launched a similar service, called OpenWeb. That tool excels at the complex process of assembling the bits and pieces of data it gathers from across the Web into a master profile for each individual, analyst White says.

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