Facebook launches searchable professional skills in its latest stealth attack on LinkedIn

Facebook have never been afraid to copy rival social networks. Seeing themselves as the sun in the solar system of social media, they’re always keen to add new features to keep their network fresh.

When the check-in based social media, led by FourSquare started to go big three years ago, it didn’t take long for Facebook to roll out their own check-in service. Similarly, noting the increasing popularity of Twitter amongst their critical early adopter market, Facebook moved to copy their hashtag feature. More recently, Facebook have began attacking the celebrity side of Twitter’s business, perhaps as overtly as bribing celebrities to favour Facebook.

Now Facebook have launched their next move against the worlds biggest business based social network – LinkedIn.

LinkedIn has become ferociously popular amongst recruiters and other such professionals. Acknowledging this, Facebook are now set to roll out their own “professional skills” option on their 1.2 billion users profile pages. So is this is a stealth attack on LinkedIn or just the next logical step for Facebook?

In truth, the reality as is so often the case, is probably somewhere between the two. We’ve been aware that recruiters and employers have been covertly using Facebook for sometime to ‘scope’ out potential hires. Such a move potentially allows Facebook’s users to fight back by choosing to present useful information that could actually help them get fired rather than taken off the shortlist.

So how does it all work?

The new professional skills section appears within your profile page. You can find it by navigating to your about section, within work and education. This now allows you to add your own skills, such as marketing or accounting. Once entered your skill becomes a clickable link through to a page which aggregates other users who share that skill. This page also showcases your friends who have the same skills, and as such your friends who’re most likely to become your colleagues one day.

This is all quite in keeping with the Facebook core-experience. What’s less so is the next part – the bit that begins to rival LinkedIn directly.

The aggregated skills pages also lost new people that you may know who have also expressed an interest in the skill that you’ve imputed. So hypothetically, I could input ‘web development’ as a skill, which could immediately link me to recruiters and potential employers who are seeking that skill.

In a way, this makes Facebook more useful to recruiters than LinkedIn, which is a development which is sure to concern the latter who have long been the best-friend of the recruiter

Facebook have at least 5x more users that LinkedIn, and thus offer much broader reach for any potential employer. Now all the potential employer needs to do is punch in the desired skill in order to see up to 1.3 billion potential hires

Of course, it’s never that easy. For one, Facebook is relying on its users adopting the new feature, which is far from guaranteed. For one, the feature was rolled out sometime last week in a covert manner, so most users are simply not aware of it. Secondly, Facebook users do not associate the platform with job seeking, and many chose to distance themselves from their profession on there. For many, Facebook is socialising, Twitter is celebrity and news, and LinkedIn is work.

However, with the world still suffering from the poor economic climate that has gripped it since 2008, and great jobs at a premium, whose to say that job seekers won’t add their skills? It seems a no brainer, especially considering the cost of jobs boards like monster jobs. Some recruiters are said to already favour Facebook over LinkedIn and this can only help push that balance of power.