Silp joins social recruiting frenzy with ‘passive’ approach

Social recruiting is a very lively field right now – perhaps even overheated. This makes sense: the more data about ourselves that we put online, the more there is to mine and serve up to interested parties like recruiters.

There are already dozens of companies trying to exploit this situation. Several, such as BranchOut, are effectively building networks within the greatest network of them all, Facebook. Others, such as, try to help job-seekers find their ideal placement. And now there’s another one, Switzerland’s Silp, which is hoping its own angle will be the one to catch on.

First off, Silp is passive – that is, it is not designed for people who are looking for a job immediately. Rather, it is for those who might be persuaded to move on to greener pastures once an opportunity arises.

Once such people have signed up, Silp extracts a mini-CV from their education and work history on Facebook, then combines it with publicly available data from other Facebook-linked services, such as Twitter, Tumblr, and GitHub.

When someone’s looking to hire, they post the job on Silp’s site. That’s where the social graph kicks in – the employer’s co-workers and friends get to see who in their extended network might fit the bill, and they recommend the job to them.

Right now Silp is only publicly open to prospective candidates. According to co-founder Dominik Grolimund, who previously sold his online storage startup to LaCie, only a couple of employers have so far been let in to pilot the service.

Grolimund said the early focus for the service would be the tech industry (as is the case for so many rivals), and the cities of San Francisco, New York, London and Zurich:

“We come out of the tech scene, so we know it a bit better, and we know this is where employers are really looking for candidates.

“We’re focusing on passive candidates, not people who are currently looking for a job – people who are either studying or happily working.”

Interestingly, Grolimund claimed Silp was “never going to be a job site” – he said services such as Monster already have that covered. As for building a professional network within Facebook, that’s also “the wrong approach” because people “don’t want to mix Facebook with professional stuff”, he added.

I think there is value in this approach. People are sick of creating new profiles, and I agree it’s usually a bad idea to have Facebook serve as the platform for your professional life. What’s clever about Silp is the minimal effort it seems to require on the part of the prospective candidate, and indeed the prospective employer – it’s making smart use of Facebook’s infrastructure without adding another layer on top.

The biggest problem is the sheer volume of competition. What Silp does is very close to what TalentBin does, for example. Some of these services may exploit the social graph more smartly than others, but it’s going to be pretty hard for recruiters to pick out the differences until this frenzy has died down a little.

The other issue is the type of jobs that fit with this scheme. It’s no surprise that companies like this start off by focusing on techies and marketeers – these are the people who plaster their professional selves all over disparate online services. Other fields are a lot less self-promoting and a lot more invisible to the social graph.

This idea will only really be validated when it’s regularly used to recruit accountants, architects and physiotherapists.