As the recession turns workers of all industries into job seekers, many users of LinkedIn, the social network for professionals, have begun examining the service's free company profiles to see who recently joined (or left) organizations, prepare for interviews and learn about what skills particular employers value in prospective candidates.
Since LinkedIn Company Profiles launched nearly a year ago, more than 160,000 companies have established a profile page. If you're job hunting in today's struggling economy, LinkedIn company profiles can help you learn about companies on your short list in greater depth, according to career experts who have analyzed the service. Another bonus: a careful examination of LinkedIn contacts who have recently joined (or worked at) a company can help you determine if the organization would be a good fit, as you compare your own qualifications against the candidates hired.
After using the service and talking with experts, we've constructed a quick primer on LinkedIn company profiles and how you can start utilizing this resource right away for job hunting or networking.
How to Access LinkedIn Company Profiles
1. Log into your LinkedIn account.
2. Click on the " Companies" tab, located on the top (center) of your LinkedIn homepage, just to the right of the popular " Answers" tab.
3. Once the companies page loads, type in a company name (such as " GE" or " Microsoft") into the search bar. In the search results, beside the company you want, you might see a number inside a parenthesis, such as (41), which would indicate that 41 jobs are available at that company.
4. Once you're on the company page, look over to the right column for a "jobs" section to see if any positions are available.
Interested in a company? Learn who you are connected to there.
One of the most helpful features of the LinkedIn company pages: they list your LinkedIn contacts (known on the service as "Connections") who work at a particular company. This list will include your first degree connections (your immediate contacts on LinkedIn), as well as second degree (friends of friends) and third-degree (friends of friends of friends) connections.
"It really can help you network your way in," says Jason Alba, CEO of Jibberjobber.com, a career management firm, and author of the book I'm On LinkedIn - Now What?. "Even if someone is just two connections away, it puts that information right at your finger tips, and you can act on it by connecting with them directly and asking questions about the company."
Look at the comings, goings, movers and shakers
A company website wouldn't exactly want to broadcast the names of everyone who just joined or left the organization. But luckily for LinkedIn company profiles, users will keep you informed.
"The real value of LinkedIn is that it's a self-updating database," says Phil Rosenberg, president of reCareered (a career consultancy). "You can see who is coming in, and it might help you figure out what the company is looking for [in candidates]."
As Rosenberg notes, a LinkedIn company profile displays a list of new hires at the company (and links to those new hires' public profiles). This information is purely user-driven, as (presumably) employees who take a job at a company will update their profile information to reflect that change. That user profile information will communicate that information to LinkedIn company profiles.
"By looking at their background, it can give you some hints and clues as to potentially what the company's new strategies are," Rosenberg says. "It also shows how the company is trying to deal with its specific business problems."
LinkedIn also shows changes and promotions that have occurred at the company internally. This could be something as trivial as a minor title change, but could also be serious promotions or moves between departments.
The past employees section doesn't provide a ready-made timeline for when employees left the company. In order to piece that information together, you have to click on users' profiles and see what information exists on their public profiles. There's an upside to this feature, however: many of the people listed in the "past employees" section could be in your connections (1st, 2nd or 3rd).
"You can use that information to understand lots of things," Rosenberg says. "You can reach out to them to help you understand what the culture is, or maybe who you will be interviewing with if you score an interview. It's an excellent way to learn behind-the-scenes personality issues, so you can make a good impression."
Go to school on your company of choice
LinkedIn company profiles have another convenient feature: key company statistics gathered by Standard and Poor's Capital IQ. Down the right side of the company profile, look for a list of vital data such as revenue, headquarters (and key geographic locations), approximate company size (in employees) and primary competitors. The latter category may spur new ideas for job opportunities as well.
This data component shows that LinkedIn has interest in making company profiles a competing product to services such as Hoover's, experts say. In fact, when you consider the other social components (mentioned above) of LinkedIn company profiles, it might provide even greater user value than Hoover's.
"I think that LinkedIn companies could make Hoover's obsolete eventually," Alba says. "If you're a job seeker preparing for that interview, they're giving you a significant amount of information on LinkedIn that you now don't even need to search Google for."