Talent Acquisition

Has LinkedIn Gone Too Far with Recruitment?

I remember when LinkedIn was a nice professional network, great for catching up on old colleagues and a source for professional introduction. The discussion areas were good, and the sharing of information, expertise and advice was fruitful.

Then, let’s be honest: Us recruiters took over.

We saw it as an opportunity to headhunt, without phoning and pretending to be 10 different names to 10 different people in the employer of our unwitting target talent. There were people sharing their career history and attributes on a public forum, and available to connect.

Well, actually (despite merely fuelling the short-term career cycle) I happen to think this is good news – we are more aware of our options these days; being headhunted (well) or identified for our skills and worth (well) is flattering to us, and we are better aware of our market position – we only have to say “No” if we don’t want another job. It’s when you have 10 offers a day that are ill-conceived, that the ‘flattery’ becomes an irritation.

So naturally LinkedIn have dived all over this with their embracing of the network as a career portal. No matter what they may publicly declare, their income potential is in recruitment & hiring and along came recruiter memberships and, in more recent times, the expensive professional recruitment access, where we get to contact anyone and everyone (it would appear that the words ‘Privacy Settings’ are no longer apparent).

And then there is job posting. It’s more accessible and relevant to the hirer, and most particularly, the direct employer. The cost of this isn’t too bad for a one-off, and hey – you get the reach of the whole network!

A no-brainer, right?

Yes, until it becomes too popular. Oh yeah, that thing. It SEEMS like a good thing, whereas actually… it just could be, a bad thing.

In our market research (for my specialism around social media talent, we make it our business to know the market as best as we can) we see social media roles advertised on LinkedIn. Last week, one role had 605 applications, another had 450, two or three others had 250-350 applications but most had around 70-100 – for a specialist role type, in a developing skill field.

Now if I was some job boards, I would be boasting about these figures. Maybe LinkedIn do, too – I rarely stop to listen. But actually, they are potentially bad news for LinkedIn. The demands for a targeted network of mutually relevant and known contacts that it strictly strives for us to maintain (if we pay a limited amount) is nullified by the openness of job advertising there – if you throw them a chunk of money. All of a sudden, rather like the days of paper advertising en masse and generic job boards like Reed, it is becoming a haven for the frivolous application. There is no way that the specialist job with 600+ applications has 600 people in the WORLD that can specifically do the job – but it was an attractive employer, and so the job seeking masses rush in.

It has been commented on a number of occasions by clients and friends within my industry that the quality of the average LinkedIn application is poor. The ‘Apply With LinkedIn’ option does nothing to help as it fosters lazy and commitment-less approaches, plus if it’s THAT easy to apply, often anyone will. What have they got to lose…? It’s no surprise that there are so few recruitment agencies advertising via LinkedIn.

So we’re coming full circle: like back in the newspaper days when the value of the good recruitment professional was highlighted by the desperation to filter out the applying noise, let a professional do the short listing and save hours of wasted HR/Hiring time and more pertinently key time fulfilling the rejection communication cycle that all good companies must abide.

Social Media IS a great tool for hiring the very best talent in a targeted and well researched manner, but it isn’t and never has been simply an advertising portal. The minute we get sold that it is, we make steps to wreck the authenticity of the social network and miss the point of what term ‘social’ is all about. Sorry LinkedIn, you have forgotten this, and traded trusted professional networks into one of those ‘contacts-directories’ – a list of names, for us to pick off, if we’ve paid out the right amount of money.

Look. I use LinkedIn a lot. I like the essence of LinkedIn a lot. I wouldn’t say all this if I didn’t. Remember people only criticise the brands they in some way care about and want to improve. LinkedIn wouldn’t care what I say – they’re swimming in our money and their site is improving well from a user-experience perspective off the back of the increased income. But it’s changed. It’s rarely social, and it’s rarely pleasant. It’s very functional, and it’s becoming increasingly automated. Some good in that and some bad.

But it should never have been a job board, in my opinion. Trust, is a big thing. Already we see less people willing to talk and share there – my stream of 2000+ contacts is filled largely with recruiters, consultants and sales people, not often of insights, chatter and selfless advice/help. People don’t trust it as much, and if those application levels keep rising, they’ll stop advertising there too.

LinkedIn, I like you. But you’ve changed. Not necessarily for the better.

By Steve Ward

Steve Ward has been recruiting for over 20 years, and following running his innovative agency CloudNine for 10 years, Steve returned to consulting and now works as a Talent Attraction Strategist for growing companies, helping build effective employer branding and social communications strategies.