LinkedIn has become one of the hottest networking tools for professionals since the invention of the telephone. It's also a recruiter's best friend.
In one easy-to-navigate site, a recruiter looking for an expert with specific skills can find good matches through a key-subject search. An unsuspecting target may not be looking for a new job when, suddenly, an interesting proposal comes through the door.
That has some companies worried whether their employees are supplying too much information.
Noel Wagner, director of talent acquisition for the Achilles Group in Houston, estimates that she fills about 90 per cent of her clients' openings for professionals through LinkedIn.
"I'm online with LinkedIn all day, every day," said Wagner, whose firm acts as the human resources office for small and medium-sized companies, including start-ups. She can search by job title, geography, company name, industry and key words such as hard-to-find engineering or accounting skills.
"You have to be connected to a lot of people," said Wagner, who has about 10,000 connections. That wide network essentially means that if someone is on LinkedIn, she can find his or her profile.
From the candidates' perspective, the detail they post on LinkedIn — as well as on Twitter and Pinterest — is a stealthy way to find out about new opportunities.
It's more efficient than putting the word out to a few friends that you're on the prowl. It avoids the risk of your boss seeing your resume posted on one of the big job boards, Wagner said.
Some companies, however, have had second thoughts about whether they want their employees to post all that detail. Wagner said she has seen some companies, especially smaller ones, limit that information to such basics as name and job title.
But there's a flip side to LinkedIn. While companies don't want to lose their best employees, they also have products and services they're trying to promote, she said. They see how useful it is in generating revenue.
Jay Aldis, an employment lawyer with Bracewell & Giuliani in Houston who represents management, said his clients are more focused on how to control trade secrets and other confidential information that pops up on their employees' social-media accounts such as Facebook.
LinkedIn hasn't hit the radar screen but maybe it should, said Aldis. The marketing department at his own firm, for example, is always encouraging its lawyers to provide detailed information on their expertise and accomplishments.
They're thinking about the clients, said Aldis. But there are also recruiters looking to hire lawyers for other firms and as in-house counsel.
"Our people could get scooped up," he said. "It would be easy pickings for recruiters to zero in on a specialised skill."
Aldis noted another odd juxtaposition that could become evidence in "non-compete" cases. The agreements, which have become increasingly popular, are designed to prevent key employees from going to work for a competitor. While many companies require employees to sign them, they also encourage their employees to tout their marketable skills on LinkedIn.
It's a disconnect, said Aldis, who has made non-compete cases something of a specialty.
Tony Pannagl, managing partner of IS&T, an information technology staffing firm that manages the IT departments for some of its client firms, said some companies are instructing their employees not to reveal the company name on their LinkedIn profiles to prevent poaching.
Others have rules to prevent confidential information from getting out. He used the example of a company that wants to keep its new software application under wraps.
"It may not be the secret Coke formula," he said. But it's still competitive information.
While Pannagl doesn't limit his own employees' LinkedIn activity — after all, he wants them linking with potential job candidates — he lets his employees know they should provide only general information on their own profiles.
That means no client lists, no mention of the jobs they're involved in and no confidential client information.
The New York Times