Job hunting? Try using your connections online
A new job search engine called Simply Hired offers you away to search for job openings, but adds an intriguing twist: It lets you peer into your own personal contact database to see if you have a backdoor personal connection to the companies listed that maybe you didn't know about.
Here's an example of how it works: When type into Simply Hired that we (randomly) want a job in "software" in "Sunnyvale." The first job opening that popped up was at Align Technology. We then click on the LinkedIn icon at the bottom of the listing, to see whether we know anyone who works there. This links us to our (Matt's) LinkedIn account, which found Matt is only two degrees away from "Michael Wenderoth," a product manager at Align -- meaning, amazingly, that we have a mutual connection though a third person. We're struck by this because Matt's not like many social animals in the valley -- he doesn't have many LinkedIn contacts (a miserable 29 in fact). Yet the fact that we have a mutual connection, through someone named Hunter Walk, and that we didn't realize this before the search, is a powerful one. It means there's a good chance we can forward a job inquiry through Hunter to Michael, and that he'd read it carefully -- that is, if Hunter gave us a good recommendation.
UPDATE: We just saw this post by Fred Wilson, another analysis of how LinkedIn can be useful. The point about keeping your contacts on LinkedIn limited to your trusted sources is a good one. That way you can be assured the reference system will work, which is why we tend to ignore LinkedIn contact requests from people we don't really know (helping explain our paltry list of contacts). Though there are other strategies on this. People in sales work, who need to get to a client source regardless of the trust involved, may want to sign up as many LinkedIn contacts as possible.
And while we're on the subject of relationships, check out Wilson's posting on the "no conflict, no interest" subject we wrote about recently. We didn't know the "cliche," as Wilson calls it, came from Kleiner Perkins' John Doerr.