Is Facebook looking to challenge LinkedIn in job postings?
Facebook has struck a partnership with the U.S. Labor Department to help the unemployed find jobs.
The partnership harnesses the popularity of Facebook, and the Labor Department wants to expand it to Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking sites to provide resources to job seekers as the nation wrestles with a 9.1% unemployment rate.
But does the new partnership position Facebook to move beyond social into professional networking?
Pundits have long speculated that Facebook, with its more than 800 million users, would eventually use its social networking dominance to challenge LinkedIn on the job-recruiting front.
LinkedIn Chairman Reid Hoffman shrugged off the notion of Facebook as a competitive threat Wednesday at San Francisco's Web 2.0 Summit.
Asked whether LinkedIn would be held back by its demographic –- the average user is in his or her early to mid 40s –- Hoffman retorted:
"You mean, like someone who could give you a job?" Hoffman said.
His response got quite a few chuckles from the audience.
A year ago, LinkedIn Chief Executive Jeff Weiner said LinkedIn keeps Facebook away with keg stands.
"While many of us in college probably were at parties having a good time, doing things like keg stands, or being exposed to keg stands, I don't know that many of us would look forward to having a prospective employer have access to picture of those events," Weiner said during an onstage interview at the Web 2.0 Summit last year.
Or, as conference host John Battelle added helpfully, "bong hits."
In other words, LinkedIn's position: People want to keep their personal and professional identities separate. If Facebook is a place for your friends, LinkedIn is a place for your professional connections.
But does that hold true now that Facebook has begun to make it easier for its users to share status updates, photos and other information just with the friends they designate? And what of Google's ambitions for its social network Google+?
All of which is not to say that LinkedIn is not plugged in. It is coming off a successful initial public offering and boasts more than 120 million users.
And it has its own close ties to the Obama administration. President Obama made his case for his jobs bill in September in a town hall forum with Weiner in which Obama took questions about creating jobs and goosing the economy. The forum was similar to one held at Facebook in April.
Facebook downplayed the significance of rolling out resources for job hunters for the first time on Facebook.
"We are simply creating a central location for employment services for people who are on Facebook, because we want to connect job seekers to the resources available to them. This is not a competitive service, it's a public service," Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said.
-- Jessica Guynn
Photo: LinkedIn Chief Executive Jeff Weiner and President Obama field a question from the audience during a town hall meeting in September at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. Credit: Stephen Lam / Getty Images