Glassdoor Launches Social Network, But Can It Beat LinkedIn?

Glassdoor social network LinkedInThe Internet is a powerful streamliner. But job-hunting, as millions of unemployed Americans know, is still an inelegant online experience, with separate sites for job searching, company reviews, and professional networking. But Glassdoor has its eyes on the prize: a one-stop shop for all your job-seeking needs.

Over three years, Glassdoor has become a treasure trove of inside data on over 150,000 companies. (Full disclosure: AOL Jobs occasionally posts articles from Glassdoor and vice versa.) Employees anonymously post reviews, ranting or raving in uncensored terms about their employer's benefits, bureaucracy, salaries, dress codes and anything else. Two years ago, the site added a job search engine into the mix and (like every other website and your mom), Glassdoor has now gone social.

As of Wednesday, users can sign into Glassdoor and connect it to their Facebook accounts. When job-seekers search for open positions, they can read the scoop on those companies, and also see which of their Facebook friends, and friends of friends, have ever worked there.

"What job seekers really want is all the answers on one page," explains Glassdoor co-founder Tim Besse. "What's the job, what does it pay, what is it like there, and who do I know who could help me?"

Taking On LinkedIn

By introducing a social element, dubbed Inside Connections, Glassdoor is taking on LinkedIn, the king of professional networking. It's unlikely that Glassdoor will steal the crown, at least not yet. On LinkedIn, users can see all the employees who work at a company, and any tenuous connections they have to them. Although LinkedIn won't let you message anyone except your direct connection (unlike Facebook, which lets you message anybody), users can opt to "get introduced" through a mutual connection, or request a connection with a short explanation attached. Glassdoor, because it's working through Facebook, limits your visible network to second-degree connections.

More seriously, the success of LinkedIn proves that many still prefer to keep their professional lives separate from the college-party-photo, wall-post-from-your-mom bedlam of Facebook. Glassdoor only imports users' basic work histories, but if you meet someone and want them to be a Glassdoor connection, you have to make them a Facebook friend, and let them see that college party photo, and that wall post from your mom.

Facebook Goes Professional

Glassdoor isn't the first site to try to turn Facebook contacts into professional ones. BranchOut is the most popular one right now, with 2.5 million unique monthly visitors, according to AppData. This app, like Inside Connections, pulls limited information from your profile -- your work history and education in this case -- and so frees you to network without all that embarrassing personal stuff getting in the way.

But BranchOut still shows prospective employers your entire Facebook network. Anyone discomfited by that level of disclosure can opt for Monster's Facebook app BeKnown, which lets users choose which friends they want to list as contacts, and those friends have to consent to be a part of that list.

Inside Connections isn't the best place to expand your professional network. LinkedIn, with nearly 100 million unique monthly visitors (according to comScore data), still rules on that front. But for Glassdoor, expanding your network isn't really the point. It's about leveraging the network you already have for professional connections you didn't realize exist.

"It turns out, if you're in jobs hunt mode ... maybe that family member, or that guy you partied with in Berlin, can help," says Bessie.

Getting The Kids On Board

This is especially useful for many young people who don't have LinkedIn profiles, and who find the idea of crafting a professional persona intimidating, or just plain weird. Those students and new graduates probably have hundreds or thousands of Facebook friends, and on Inside Connections "they hit that Facebook Connect button, and they're doing something to build that professional network," Bessie explains.

But it's all those company reviews that really make Glassdoor stand out. "Nobody really does what we do," says Bessie. "We basically pioneered that." Seven million people already visit Glassdoor every month, adds Bessie, for exactly that reason.

If there's any demand to tap the professional potential of Facebook networks, Glassdoor is poised to dominate the space. They have gritty insider details on an wildly comprehensive list of employers, including all the companies at Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Fortune 500 and the S&P 500, as well as the less white-collar sector. "We have as many baristas on the site as we do software engineers," says Bessie. And that's something LinkedIn can't say.

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