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Social network website reaches a hire level

LinkedIn uses its own who-knows-whom tools to recruit a CEO.

May 07, 2007|Alex Pham | Times Staff Writer

Dan Nye landed a job as chief executive of a hot Silicon Valley company without even dusting off his resume.

Nye was an executive vice president at Advent Software Inc. when Reid Hoffman, chairman of social-networking company LinkedIn Corp., came calling. Hoffman hadn't found him through a headhunter or a classifieds site but through LinkedIn's vast who-knows-whom online network.

Through the whole process, Nye said, "I was never asked to produce a resume, and I was never asked for a reference."

Nye's unusual route to the CEO suite started last fall.

Hoffman had been looking for someone to run the Palo Alto company he founded, which is like MySpace.com for professionals -- people can fill out profile pages, then connect for sales leads, expertise or job prospects. A venture capitalist he knew recommended Nye.

Turns out Nye had a detailed profile on LinkedIn, outlining his career with Advent, Intuit Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. Hoffman liked what he read and brought Nye in for an interview. Then another, then another -- about 10 over several months.

"It became increasingly apparent during each trip that he knew more and more about me," said Nye, 40.

Not until after he was hired did Nye discover that Hoffman had made dozens of reference checks -- without asking Nye for a single name. He found them through LinkedIn.

All Hoffman had needed were the names of the companies where Nye had worked and the years he was there. Hoffman ran that information through LinkedIn's member profiles, finding dozens of people who had overlapped with the prospective hire (members can also search by college attended and by job title). He fired off e-mails and phone calls to numerous people and talked extensively with 27 of Nye's former colleagues.

"I found out that really good people like working for Dan," Hoffman said. "It was important to me that A-plus talent would want to work with him."

As he weighed the job, Nye turned the tables on his recruiters. He studied up on LinkedIn through its own online tools.

"I was trying to decide whether I wanted to be part of this company," he said.

The LinkedIn approach carries some risks. For example, if a prospective employer calls a reference that isn't carefully chosen by a job candidate, word could get back to the candidate's boss that he's seeking another job. And recruiters could get peeved if the candidate starts checking up on them.

But it's worth doing to avoid taking the wrong job, said Guy Kawasaki, a managing director of venture capital firm Garage Technology Ventures Inc. who frequently uses LinkedIn.

"The greater risk is in going to work for someone who is, shall I say, sub-optimal," Kawasaki said.

Now a CEO in a position to hire, Nye said the experience made him rethink the standard resume-reference combination.

For example, resumes generally aren't verified and references aren't contacted until a candidate is nearly hired. The references are provided by the candidates, which Nye likens to "a loaded deck."

In the days before the Internet, the most a recruiter could find out from previous employers were the dates a candidate had worked there. Now with searchable databases of millions of resumes and profiles such as those on LinkedIn, and search engines such as Wink and Reunion.com, so much more information is available, Nye said.

"We now live in a world where it's just not hard to find out about people," he said.

alex.pham@latimes.com

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