LinkedIn Recruiter – Is it the ultimate tool?

We’ve all heard the terms active candidates and passive candidates. Simply put, active candidates are those who take steps to promote themselves to employers and search firms whilst passive candidates are less inclined to do so. Whatever the reason passive candidates are not looking for a new job in the immediate future.

Interestingly it would appear that many recruiters have a healthy preference for these so called passive candidates and indeed are actively seeking them out. In my opinion, it really does not matter which category prospective candidates fall into, what you want is to find the best talent in the market - whether they are actively looking or not.

Approaching those passive candidates is where the LinkedIn sales pitch comes in. Although there are already millions of job sites out there, certainly too many to keep track of these days – these sites only typically allow recruiters to reach those candidates actively looking for jobs.

What LinkedIn claims to provide is to be the route to those passive candidates. Well, when LinkedIn started out it used to be a place for everyone to network. People joined LinkedIn for many reasons; to network with their colleagues, peers, business partners and friends. As recruiters we quite quickly understood the opportunity to access this pool of talent and enjoyed great response rates. As we all know, professionals with business development responsibility saw the same potential.

Here we are many years later and LinkedIn has made special search and approach accounts for recruiters and sales professionals one of its best revenue streams. But does the promise hold up?

We are all on LinkedIn. Or so we assume.

These days it seems almost everybody has a LinkedIn profile, there are virtually no websites without a link to LinkedIn and most companies now have LinkedIn pages. This understandably leads to the belief that everybody is on LinkedIn - but don’t be fooled. If you look up your country’s employment statistics and compare the size of the working population with the number of LinkedIn user profiles, you may well be surprised. Also never forget, in many leading economies such as Germany, LinkedIn is not the most relevant networking tool. LinkedIn is surely not that magical best global candidate database we all were waiting for, it may however hold part of this talent in its database. Speaking of which, this is where the problem really starts.

The short profile gap and the active long profiles.

What most people often ignore is that LinkedIn is a database and as we all know, you can’t get out what you didn’t put in. So when you search for candidates with experience in “employee share schemes” for example, you will only find candidates who have used these words in their profiles. The problem is, users who just use LinkedIn for networking typically have very short profiles, often just with their employer and job title. As a result, a LinkedIn user with the job title Head of Reward, who is actually a share scheme specialist, but has not mentioned it in his profile, will not appear in your search results. Very often LinkedIn users with detailed profiles like mine for example, anticipate that someone is likely to be looking for their expertise and want to be found – possibly active candidates?

LinkedIn created the oversell issue.

The biggest problem in approaching non active candidates is not in identifying them, it is getting them speak to you. Identification is a standard process called market mapping, sure LinkedIn supports market mapping tremendously, but here we are, same as fifty years ago, at the end of the market mapping process and we only have a list of people's names who we need to convince to speak to us. When LinkedIn launched its site it was great for just that, it was a site focused on networking. Hence, when I sent a user a message, I got a reply.

As LinkedIn is now driving huge parts of its revenue through solutions for sales reps and recruiters, many LinkedIn members get inundated with messages on a daily basis. This has had a direct impact on the efficacy of communicating via LinkedIn messages and guess what, people are responding less and less. The situation is already so bad that many senior leaders I know have decided to close their LinkedIn profiles. Most importantly, don’t forget you never know who will actually receive the message you just sent.

LinkedIn Skills - Don’t get hung up on questionable tools.

All the tools LinkedIn Recruiter is providing for recruiters depend on that famous - what you did not put in you can’t get out rule. Hence gadgets on the site such as ‘find similar profiles’ only work if the person you would like to find has mentioned enough relevant keywords in their profile. To counter that, LinkedIn has introduced sections such as skills and endorsements. See, I have thousands of LinkedIn contacts and I constantly get endorsements on skills from people I have never exchanged a word with – So how much quality is there in this data?

Is LinkedIn Recruiter the source for passive candidates?

Most certainly not. People need to be very active in LinkedIn to be found and have detailed profiles. We don’t need scientific research to understand that these people very often fall into two categories - people with business development responsibility and candidates who would not mind a call from a recruiter.

So what’s the conclusion?

Don’t get me wrong, LinkedIn is a great tool, but it is just a tool amongst other great tools such as traditional market mapping, referral schemes, staff referrals, candidate databases, advertisement and so on. I believe in the mix of all available tools.

It is okay for you to decide to purely focus on LinkedIn if you remain conscious of the disadvantages with the data and search quality and accept that you will in most cases only be accessing a part of the total market you are conducting a search for.

Also with all of the above in mind, one could argue that LinkedIn is just another tool helping to access active candidates. I also wonder, what the outcome was if one conducted a survey asking what people think the purpose of LinkedIn is.

What is your take on LinkedIn?