New professional network for students ‘turns the job hunt upside down’
by Amy Sandiford-Watts
We Connect Students is a LinkedIn-style website aimed specifically at students. By completing a detailed online profile including criteria such as university societies and sports teams, and taking a short personality test, students can make themselves visible to thousands of employers looking to fill job vacancies and internships.
The site was set up by 21 year-old Plymouth University student Oliver Dickinson, who believes it makes sense for students to conduct their job search on social networks as “everything we do is online”. Speaking about the advantages of We Connect Students, he says:
“Being a student myself, I grew incredibly frustrated at how outdated the job application process currently is. So we launched weconnectstudents.com, which turns the job hunt upside down; it enables students to by found by the employer, for the right job. Students create a free online profile which is 100% searchable, this means that an employer can find students who match their key hiring criteria first, and then invite them to apply to a job opportunity –full time, part time and internships.
This means that instead of a student trawling through pages of job postings on an open job site, spending hours filling in application forms and second guessing what the recruiter wants, a student is invited to apply for a job that has already been identified by the employer as being suitable for them.”
The site started with the idea of connecting pre-university freshers with people who would be on their course – a kind of Facebook for people worried about making friends at university, but luckily Dickinson ditched the idea in favour of connecting students with employers. Describing We Connect Students as “a combination of LinkedIn and match.com” (which perhaps doesn’t make it sound too appealing), Dickinson is evidently doing something right as the company is now valued at over £1 million and he managed to persuade Clive Banks, the Global Head of foreign exchange at BNP Paribas to quit his role and join the venture as his business partner.
He says the site saves students the time and disappointment of filling out hundreds of application forms that may never even be read, and employers the effort of trawling through an average of 83 job applications per vacancy. Mentoring will also be a key element of the site, giving every student the opportunity to network with people who want to help.
The site has a user-friendly interface – it essentially looks a lot like Facebook and Twitter. It allows users to create separate social and professional profiles, use their ‘dashboard’ (sound familiar?) to search for groups and events, and easily see a list of any jobs they have applied for or interview requests they have received. Whilst the site is still in development – try clicking on ‘Mentor of the Month’ or even ‘How to’ and you are met with the message ‘Sorry, this page is still in developement [sic] and will be released as soon as possible’ – it looks like it has great potential.
It obviously has a while to go (even searching for employers is ‘still in developement’) before it could be a useful job-hunting device, but We Connect Students is certainly worth keeping an eye on and – with more and more employers using social networks to screen candidates – could also be a great way of drawing attention away from the hundreds of inappropriate Facebook pictures that make up most students’ online presences.