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Utah Department of Workforce Services
Nisha Burke speaks during a meeting at her new employer, RizePoint, located in Cottonwood Heights. Burke was able to find the job through a pilot program developed by the Utah Department of Workforce Services and social media platform LinkedIn. The program helps connect job seekers with employers through social networking.

SALT LAKE CITY — A pilot program developed by the state and a popular social media platform to help job seekers find work is paying big dividends for many Utahns.

Last February, Nisha Burke, 46, found herself in the unenviable position of being out of work, an unsettling experience for someone who had a stable career in marketing and technology, she said. She immediately arranged for an appointment to meet with counselors at the Utah Department of Workforce Services to work on a plan for finding a new job.

On her second appointment, she learned about a pilot program in which job seekers received a premium account with well-known social media platform LinkedIn.

“As a user of LinkedIn, I was quite excited to have such a valuable benefit extended to me,” said. “It paid off really quickly, too.”

Though the price of a premium membership typically runs nearly $30 per month, the program provided the upgraded account at no cost to the job seeker.

After a few months, she caught a break and was offered an interview with a local tech company.

She started interviewing with RizePoint in late July and landed a position in August, Burke said.

“It was a traditional interviewing process that took a little time, but I think it was expedited by the premium (LinkedIn) membership,” she said. Through the platform, the RizePoint hiring manager was notified of recommendations from current employees who knew Burke and offered insights on the kind of potential employee she might be with the company. She believes those recommendations gave her an advantage over other candidates.

“I think it made all the difference to have that networking ‘tie-in,’” Burke said. “The LinkedIn membership gave me that momentum and incentive to really shine within the application process.”

She said the premium account allowed her to network directly with hiring managers or others who could expedite the application process. It proved crucial to her search, she added.

Having a more narrowly targeted pool of applicants helps to accelerate the process of finding the ideal candidate, explained Pete Johnson, vice president of People Operations at RizePoint, a corporate compliance and brand management software company.

“(The program) connects us to the right profile and shows us people that most closely align with our needs,” he said. “So much of the connecting with the prospective candidates, getting to know them and validating they are who they say they are can happen right inside the LinkedIn system.”

The program launched in June 2016, with 384 people enrolling in the first few months, said Michelle Beebe, director of Utah's Unemployment Insurance Division.

DWS data indicates approximately, 67 percent of Utah's workforce has a LinkedIn account and thousands of Utah employers use the platform to recruit new talent. The company said Utah is the first state it has partnered but more could follow if the pilot program proves successful.

Through the program, selected participants are provided a free, one-year LinkedIn Job Seeker Premium subscription to help them get hired by leveraging their professional connections, she explained. The program is currently scheduled to continue through summer 2017.

“Applying for a job these days isn’t necessarily enough, you’ve got to go the ‘extra mile,’” said LinkedIn spokesman Joe Roualdes. “We know how effective it is when you ‘network’ your way into (a candidate pool), you get the job.”

He said the program is aimed at educating employers and candidates about how important networking can be in finding better matches for job openings. The partnership so far has been accomplishing that goal, he added.

“This pilot has given (both sides) the opportunity to see success in their (respective) efforts,” Roualdes said.