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April 20 2011 Posted by: Mark Fidelman in: Enterprise 2.0, Miscellany

Why BranchOut is a Better Recruiting Solution than LinkedIn (Hint: It’s Social)

“50 percent of people who believe in objective morality have received a
speeding ticket, compared with 60 percent of people in general.”

Based on a survey of 348 people who believe in objective morality and 547
people in general – from Correlated.org

Correlated.org is a new site that helps discover unexpected correlations between seemingly unrelated things. It’s fascinating how they develop the correlations and it is quite unique.  In some respects, Branchout is doing the same thing.  Just not as overtly. 

Yet it is clear Branchout is gathering information about people from their closest friends and relatives. How they plan to use this information remains to be seen; but privacy issues aside, they’ve obviously created a distinctive social experience for employers and employees.

So as someone who hires a lot of people I naturally wanted to compare LinkedIn and Branchout (on Facebook) to determine the best solution to find an ideal candidate. 

When compared to the LinkedIn experience, Branchout has a decidedly strong social advantage. Some might argue that Branchout has taken the experience a bit too far, but let’s reserve judgment for later. First, I want to show you the differences. 

Let’s start with our first comparison example: Branchout’s Social Polling

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To some, this question may seem intrusive, even offensive.  Yet Branchout has made the experience feel like more of a trivia game where the participant receives points for answering the question.

Cleverly, Branchout allows the participant to share the answer with the selected friend which accomplishes two things. First, once notified, it may cause the selected friend to join Branchout. Second, there is a small but powerful social recognition effect that takes place once the selected friend is notified of their peer’s decision.

First comparison example: LinkedIn’s Polling

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As you can see, LinkedIn takes a more traditional approach. The only social component to the polling is the "invite your friends" and "share" features. I do not want to diminish the importance of the tool, because it is beneficial. Yet the purpose of LinkedIn’s polling is not to reveal more information about a job candidate, it is about gathering intelligence on a wide range of topics.

Second Comparison Example: Branchout’s Social Tests

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The Branchout Career IQ test is an example of another social activity that is extracting information about the participant in order to augment the user’s profile. I did not think the test was difficult (which explains the inflated results); but the brilliant idea here is the ability to invite your friends and compare results.

Key recruiting benefit: Introducing a competitive angle while learning about the test taker is a smart idea. It also gives potential recruiters the opportunity to learn more about their potential candidates.

Second Comparison Example: LinkedIn’s Skills and Expertise

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In contrast, LinkedIn provides the ability to add preset skills and expertise. There is not a aptitude test; one can simply add these skills ad infinitum. While the tool is intelligent enough to point out relevant people, companies and jobs; the tool is exceedingly unsocial and does not allow the recruiter the opportunity to learn more about individual candidate qualifications.

Third Comparison Example: Branchout’s Badges and Endorsements

 

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Badges are the new virtual reward system of the business world. Branchout recognizes and is capitalizing on this trend by ostensibly allowing friends to reward other friends with proficiency badges. The genius idea about this approach is that Branchout is leveraging social networks to profile users by utilizing a unique social construct. How? Just enable people to award their network with topical virtual badges. 

Branchout’s endorsements are straight forward but social.  After I endorsed Marc Benioff, the solution offered the ability to promote the endorsement via Twitter or Facebook.  The psychological payoff is mutually beneficial for everyone involved (especially Branchout). 

 Key recruiting benefit: Learn more about your candidates traits. Build social profiles based on how your candidate’s social network views her.

Third Comparison Example: LinkedIn’s Endorsements

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As one can quickly see, LinkedIn endorsements are much less social. Moreover, while Branchout encourages people to endorse their connections (via a status bar), one must proactively solicit endorsements in LinkedIn.

This led Jermiah Owyang to write, “I question how honest and authentic recommendations are when the system primarily has features that vet out unwanted reviews. In nearly every experience I’ve been in, a former colleague or someone I’ve worked with requests a recommendation, this means they are expecting a positive review.”   

While the same criticism can be made for Branchout, the addition of badges creates a tacit recommendation system that is much less direct. It is also telling to see which badges a person has or has not received.

Fourth Comparison Example: Branchout’s Leaderboards

 

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For me, leaderboards have always provided the opportunity to shine amongst friends and community.  They also promote competition while providing relative value.  For instance, if Charlene Li above wanted to be more popular on Branchout than Marc Benioff, she could engage her network to provide a groundswell of support to vote her up into the lead.  

What’s smart about Branchout’s approach is their leaderboards are constantly suggesting that one can do better. In fact, enticing the user to do better than their friends. Moreover, If you’re competitive like me, it irritates me that fewer votes than Chris Heuer.  Alright, maybe not Chris but the rest of them for sure. 

Key recruiting benefit: Learn who are the most influential, popular and social people for a particular industry or niche. 

Fourth Comparison Example: LinkedIn’s Leaderboards

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As you can see, the LinkedIn leaderboards are more of a user bank statement.  It displays what you have, but not how you compare to your friends.  There’s not a competitive, social aspect to them which produces indifference and apathy.

I suspect these pages offer little value for LinkedIn members.

Fifth Comparison Example: Branchout’s Employment Analytics

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While Branchout only displays analytics about who wants to work with you (apparently I’m not so popular yet), one can see in the future how Branchout will enable the ability to discover how people have voted for you in a variety of categories.

Key recruiting benefit: Learn how candidates are being judged and compared on a detailed level.  In the future, this information may provide ad hoc social personality and performance assessments. 

Fifth Comparison Example: LinkedIn’s Employment Analytics

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While less social than Branchout, LinkedIn does provide some particularly useful analytics around  user profile views.  For example, If I were to click on the 20 people “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” link in the first image above, I’d be taken to a screen that displays a detailed list of people that have reviewed my profile for that day. If you are a recruiter, this allows some transparency into who may be interested in one of your positions.   

In Summary

While LinkedIn has long been the preferred choice for recruiters and job seekers, Branchout’s social approach may start to usurp LinkedIn’s dominance. Taking a social approach to hiring is smart. After all, who knows more about potential candidates than their friends and coworkers?

P.S. For a exceptionally enjoyable read on LinkedIn’s recruiting strategy and their planned IPO, please read Byron Hobart’s (Business Insider) take on the matter. 

Bonus Comparison: email letters

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You be the judge.

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