The rise of the vertical reputation graph

By boris, January 26, 2016

When’s the last time you sent out or requested a CV? Chances are it was quite awhile ago. In today’s reputation economy, we evaluate one another based on what people have done and how we’re connected. What you’ve built is becoming more important than where you’ve worked and the school you attended.

If you’re a professional applying for a job or an entrepreneur applying for funding, here’s how the typical evaluation process looks today. Someone will glance at your CV/resume/bio, then quickly turn to Google to track down your digital footprint. They’ll look at your GitHub account (if you’re a programmer) and any other links. Then, if they like your work, they may seek out your personal blog/Twitter to figure out if you’d be the right culture fit for the company.

In this process, the CV and its lines of text are pretty inconsequential. They are artifacts of an older time, before the Internet made it so easy for people to share their work with the world.

LinkedIn seems to be stuck in the middle of the old and new reality. The company is trying to modernize its product with groups and Influencers, but it’s very obvious that the platform’s roots are in resumes and recruiting and all other activities are built on top of a resume platform. For many of us, LinkedIn has never been much more than a database of stale resumes.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a number of start-ups try to carve away parts of LinkedIn by being the “LinkedIn for x” – where x ranges from doctors, teachers, finance professionals, academics, lawyers, engineers, etc. These vertically-focused platforms cater to the specific needs of their users, offering a close networking community around shared interests. They also give their users a better way to develop and curate their personal online brand beyond the LinkedIn resume.

One of the most obvious examples of the online portfolio is within the creative community. There’s no good way to share a portfolio of work on LinkedIn, which is why sites like Behance and Dribble have become popular among graphic designers, illustrators, photographers, web designers, and art directors.

Similarly, developers use GitHub as a public portfolio to showcase their best work, rather than a repository for half-finished projects. Recruiters and job ads now commonly ask for GitHub profiles. Spiceworks lets IT professionals add videos to help explain their experience to people without a deep IT background. On sites like Figure 1 (a V1 portfolio company) or Doximity (healthcare), ResearchGate (academia), and Casetext (legal), people are building their professional authority by helping others and answering questions.

LinkedIn still has the advantage of network effects and this won’t change anytime soon. However, the real threat for LinkedIn is that these hundreds of vertical platforms are becoming more and more relevant for their users on a daily basis than LinkedIn ever was. LinkedIn is the place where you dump your resume, while the vertical site is where you build your brand, spend your time, and actually network.

  • Interesting post Boris. We are a small, bootstrapped, Vancouver startup that has been successful in creating a vertical professional network of over 20,000 curated local freelancers (and 5000 employers) in 89 major market cities – When we started we read and heard from many that no one would take the time to create a new detailed professional graph from scratch, including Charles Hudson of SoftTech VC: But we had faith they would, and they have.

    Per your points above we make it easy for the freelancer to show their availability, best work, link off to all their other relevant online reputation platforms, and network with other freelancers and inquiring employers. We have so much more to do to create additional social engagement and stickiness.

    We’ve see similar recruitable “talent aggregation platforms” pop-up in many other verticals like gaming, 3D/VR, content and even tiny niches like drone operators. Since many reports are that a large percentage of careers in the next 10 years will be brand new professions, the vertical talent aggregation trend is sure to continue. The challenge for all of these platforms is first two-sided critical mass, then increased awareness and monetization.

  • Resumes are artifacts (no doubt github repos / dribbble portfolios / quora answers provide more useful primary data to evaluate candidates). And LinkedIn has never done a great job in verticals (healthcare, design) creating carve out opportunities. However…

    I’ve come to believe an *existential* threat to LinkedIn may be the rise of messaging.

    This thesis flowed from a conversation I had last week (major points included below), curious to get your take!

    1. People use distinct messaging applications with each of their social networks (Skype with grandparents, Facebook with friends, Slack at the office, Tinder with prospective dates, SMS with their spouse, etc.) – it seems to be the easiest way to keep channels (i.e. ‘Circles’ in the parlance of Google+) separated.

    2. One might flag Slack as the heir apparent, certainly they have the capital and attention, but Slack (currently) pivots around organization controlled groups (as do all their modern intranet brethren) – individuals *much* prefer to own their professional network / correspondence (holding onto one’s business relationships was a big part of what LinkedIn figured out / enabled), so there may be a window for a new entrant.

    3. LinkedIn’s current approach is painfully slow (InMail is long form, messages from contacts are commingled with InMail, connection requests are awkward, the newsfeed is a self promotional wasteland, etc.) with resume profiles the out of date atomic unit.

    4. One interesting thing about messaging is how quickly the network reassembles (perhaps explaining why Facebook felt so threatened by WhatsApp). People are not looking to set up yet another profile, the core reason social networks exist is to enable communication. Start with messaging and the network reforms around it.

    5. Why would someone use such a tool? It would have to be the fastest way to message someone. Whether it was someone you already know (automatically determining the recipient’s preferred channel) / are trying to reach / to get multiple contacts help with a request (think @ tagging). Plugging in one’s contacts would help build the global graph (and provide interesting data for mining). Messages waiting for the recipient is great ‘cheese’ to drive registrations / installs. Messages from people you know could be separated from and prioritized over those from non-contacts.

    6. Who doesn’t want to leapfrog email and tap into all the benefits messengers bring to the table (instant read receipts ala sidekick, rich media cards, location, context, bots, updates, etc.)?

  • James Clift

    Good post Boris. My thoughts (I’m currently running – which is right in the middle of those two worlds).

    I agree with most points, but the traditional CV is not going away anytime soon. It is just going to mean less. It is simple – when applying for a job you need a traditional CV, and some form of a portfolio.

    The CV still serves a few purposes:

    1) It is the first impression that encourages employers to look at your portfolio.

    When screening hundreds of candidates, it is still the standard (granted, perhaps not the most effective) method of separating the potentials and the non-starters.

    2) It is the profile saved in applicant tracking systems.

    ATS are ubiquitous (for workflow and legal reasons), and the CV is the standard profile in those systems. This is essentially all of the Fortune 1000, and a large % of SMBs.

    The CV is a summary of your accomplishments and work experience – nothing more. Under that definition, eventually it will evolve into a more dynamic profile that can pull from all those sources mentioned (Github, Dribbble, blogs, personal websites, videos, news sources).

    But no matter how awesome your online portfolio is, odds are you’ll still need a PDF output of that profile for most job applications. So why not have both?

  • bwertz

    Really great thoughts! When are you building something like this? 🙂

  • bwertz

    agreed – CV will not go away but will more be an entry point into a hiring process than core to the evaluation process…

  • bwertz

    Congrats on your traction – like what you have built to date!

  • Thanks Boris!

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