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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Building a profile

"It's an algorithmic challenge" to correctly match up data from various sources and assemble those into accurate master profiles with high degree of confidence -- and that's part of the secret sauce, says Ming at Gild Source. It uses a three-stage process that ranges from evaluating common email addresses and user IDs to computer-based photo matching. While most matching can be done algorithmically, about 2% of the profiles still need manual attention, she says.

Megan Hopkins, director of human resources and talent at VigLink, a website link monetization service, used TalentBin to find Ruby engineers and quickly came up with a targeted list of potential candidates. "There's no weeding through crap to find good people," she says.

TalentBin scours many of the same sites as Gild Source but does not evaluate actual code attributable to each person. "There isn't [just] one good way to write something," Hopkins argues, and she worries that by focusing too much on such rankings she might exclude perfectly qualified candidates.

Hopkins has now expanded use of the service to include sales, product management, social media and analyst titles. She acknowledges that some titles may have a smaller social media footprint than does your typical software engineer, but TalentBin "still pulls enough information on people to get a good idea of who they are and what they like to do."

Hopkins also makes good use of the profiles of prospective candidates, following links back to their postings in places like GitHub, both to match up technically qualified candidates with her company's culture and to pitch them in a way that lines up with their interests. "Our response rate has been dramatically higher" than she had with LinkedIn Recruiter, the company's previous recruiting tool.

"We get more emails and messages back," Hopkins says. "There's nothing more frustrating than reaching out to people all day and then getting only one response back," she says.

There are some looming privacy issues. (See related story, above.) But for right now, however, those don't seem to be stopping anyone. The technology continues to gain traction with recruiters, and the sweet spot remains tech hiring, although some are already laying the groundwork to broaden into other roles and disciplines. Ron Hanscome, research director for human capital management at Gartner, thinks any expansion may be limited to other fields such as electrical engineering or law.

Consultant White is more bullish. "I see a shift toward using the technology across the board for every type of job opening," she says.

While the tools won't do all of the work for hiring managers, they can provide a good starting point -- a qualified list of potential candidates. But the tools do vary in approach. So, says Hopkins, "If you're going to invest in this you have to try them all."

White agrees. "If you do demos with three or four vendors you'll get a better understanding of what they do, how this works, and which works best for the jobs for which you're hiring."

Not only will this trend continue, but data itself will eventually become a commodity, says TalentBin's Kazanjy. "Eventually, all of this information will be available to everyone." But for now, it's an arms race between vendors as to who has a bigger index and whose algorithms are better.

This article, What IT recruiters know about you -- whether you're looking or not, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Robert L. Mitchell is a national correspondent for Computerworld. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/rmitch, or email him at rmitchell@computerworld.com.

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