With European Online Networking, Relationships Precede Business

In the first five months of 2006, 21 percent of the candidates coming to C?tenon Worldwide Executive Search came from blogs and online networks.

And consultants at C?tenon, which operates in Madrid and elsewhere in Europe, have used online professional contact networks and blogs in 80 percent of the searches they have done this year.

For C?tenon and others in the recruiting field in Europe, the use of online networking is rising. (JupiterResearch analyst Nate Elliott, who lives in South London, has even said that online networking is “looking very bubble-ish.”)

Sites used for recruitment networking in Europe include some of the same ones used across the Pond, such as LinkedIn. There are also Euro-centric sites, such as OpenBC, for example, which is particularly popular in Germany and was named “one of Europe’s most promising private companies” by Red Herring magazine. The French networking site Viaduc boasts 500,000 members. Another site is Ecademy, which says it is “building a serious business network” rather than a social destination of chat rooms.

Penny Power founded Ecademy 8 1/2 years ago. She’s charging members to use many Ecademy services, figuring that if people have to use a credit card with their name on it, it will weed out some folks “pretending to be people they’re not.”

The site is drawing experienced people; the average age is 46 and Power, speaking from her home in England, says, “It’s quite a wealthy network.”

Though many Ecademy members are in the United States, the majority are in the United Kingdom and the Benelux countries. Power says that European online networking online is “very different from the U.S. — what we find is that with European people, networking tends to be very subtle ? [they] build a relationship first and a friendship and the commerce follows. In America, there’s the LinkedIn-type approach — let’s not talk about one another until the business is done.”

LinkedIn, in her opinion, “is a fantastic tool for gathering contacts.” Her site, in her view, is more about belonging.

LinkedIn co-founder Konstantin Guericke, who is originally from Germany, doesn’t totally disagree. When it comes to focusing on chat rooms and events, Guericke says, “We’ve always kind of stayed away from that ? to be more of a tool.”

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The site has about 2.9 million registrants in the United States and about 2.2 million in Europe. Guericke believes that the 2.2 million figure is remarkable given that the site is in English and the company is based in California, without a ton of concerted effort going into expanding in Europe. “It is growing quite rapidly for us over there,” he says.

Guericke says that in Europe, “people guard their connections a little more closely”; as a result, site users may have slightly fewer connections on their LinkedIn web pages. Before agreeing to an online-networking connection, Europeans may be more apt to ask themselves, “How does this affect my reputation?”

Changes for Recruiters

Sylvain Boy, an operations manager at C?tenon, says that the growing European use of the Internet for networking is causing headhunters to “lose a great deal of their power over information.”

Says Boy: “While headhunters used to base their value on the fact that they could confidentially gain access to interesting, appropriate candidates for a position who were not actually job-hunting, these same candidates are now easily accessible through blogs and online networks.”

Because of this, Boy says, headhunters will increasingly have to spend their time on “other added-value services.”

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