For more than 30 years, University of Pennsylvania career services director Patricia Rose has helped anxious students find internships and jobs after graduation. In the age of social media, she says, job-seekers now must project a personal brand through a well-curated online presence, especially for positions in highly selective fields or the "gig" economy.
BeBee is an advertising-supported social network that wants to make online job search and personal branding easier for students and others.
The start-up seeks to differentiate itself from LinkedIn, the dominant professional social network, by emphasizing the user's personality and interests in a professional setting.
"The way you network like a human being is, you create a personal relationship with somebody and then you step to business," said beBee USA CEO Matt Sweetwood. "If you focus only on your resumé like LinkedIn does, it would be as repellent as walking up to somebody at a networking event and saying, 'I sell insurance.' "
Sweetwood will deliver the keynote presentation at RecruitmentQueen's third annual HR Summit of Bucks County and Philadelphia at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 28 at the Brightwood Career Institute, 177 Franklin Mills Blvd. Tickets are $10.
The Madrid-based social network operates in 17 countries and says it serves 11 million users. In Spain, its most mature market, beBee has four million profiles while its recently launched American site registers 140,000 users.
The firm hopes to get 108 million users by 2020. It expects to generate $85 million in revenue and break even in the third quarter of 2018.
BeBee's marketing contrasts itself with LinkedIn. Sweetwood said beBee's demographics skew seven to eight years younger and slightly more to women. He also points to beBee's higher share of monthly active users (45 percent) compared with LinkedIn's 24 percent.
"Sixty percent of employers used social media to check out applicants," Sweetwood said. "On beBee, employers will be able to find people who fit better into their corporate cultures and see if the candidate is well-rounded."
Job seekers can also exhibit a personal brand by taking an interest in a company or sector with likes, blog posts, and even video, all presented by beBee's newsfeed.
Social-media screening of job applicants is not without controversy. National workplace law firm Fisher Phillips partner Rick Grimaldi is not a fan of using social media for hiring employees.
While it can uncover important facts, it can also unearth characteristics that are law-protected, like a disability. "If you decide not to hire and they point to your knowledge of that characteristic, you could find yourself in trouble," he said.
Still, Reed Smith partner Joel Barras noted that as long as firms apply the same safeguards against antidiscrimination online as they do in person, they "are relatively safe to use publicly available social media content" in hiring.
Professional social networks such as LinkedIn stumbled in 2016. LinkedIn sold itself to Microsoft after its stock plunged 43 percent in February as investors soured on its growth prospects.
Yet Macquarie equity analyst Thomas White remains fairly optimistic about the industry and upstarts that would enter it.
"The disrupter would have to figure out how to drive deeper user engagement with the platform than LinkedIn was able to do," he said. "Social features are one way of doing that."
Fees are another point of contrast. While more than 80 percent of LinkedIn's business is fee-based, Sweetwood said the start-up will not charge users any fees. Bebee's Spanish unit expects to make $2.2 million this year from advertising, he said.
Even so, Penn's Rose remains unconvinced. "It's a nice line to include interests and hobbies at the bottom of the resumé," she said. "But I don't think employers will sort applicants for an interest in skiing, unless the employers are in the ski business."