LinkedIn: pros and cons

For recruiters with jobs to fill, LinkedIn is a monumental, ever-expanding resource. But it has its strengths and weaknesses.
HRM online


written on August 1, 2014

For recruiters with jobs to fill, LinkedIn is a monumental, ever-expanding resource. But it has its strengths and weaknesses.

As well as posting jobs on LinkedIn, an increasing number of HR professionals are using it to identify potential hires of the future. The platform obviously has its pluses, but it also has shortcomings and can raise serious trust issues.

Pro: reach passive candidates

LinkedIn says 80 per cent of its users are ‘passive candidates’ – people not actively looking for a new job. Such people are a valid target for talent recruiters and LinkedIn’s advanced search tools can help recruiters identify professionals with specific qualifications and experience. Inefficient steps in the hiring process can be skipped.

“Why would an employer go to all the trouble of writing an advertisement, receiving low-quality applications, then processing them before starting telephone interviews [rather than recruit from LinkedIn]?” says Sue Ellson, founder of Linked In Australia, a company (not endorsed, certified or sponsored by LinkedIn) that helps individuals and businesses use LinkedIn effectively.

Con: passives not interested

Unless a job is particularly enticing, contacting passive candidates en masse can be time-consuming with very little payoff. The theory that hiring will be much more efficient using LinkedIn than advertising on an employment portal, such as Seek or CareerOne, doesn’t always pan out in practice.

“You could contact 20 candidates who have the right profile for your company and they won’t get back to you,” says Yanet Isdale, head of talent at The White Agency. “As with job ads, it’s about timing.” Personalisation and brevity are the keys to minimising the time wasted contacting people who don’t respond.

“The top recruiters understand that short, relevant InMails get a much better response than a bulk mailout,” says Tony Ward, who heads LinkedIn’s talent solutions team in Australia and New Zealand. “They tend to personalise them and keep them to fewer than 100 words.”

Pro: view candidate endorsements

It can seem that everything a recruiter needs to know is right there in a candidate’s LinkedIn profile: not just their previous and current roles and a concise skills list, but also endorsements of those skills and recommendations from the candidate’s network.

Con: endorsement credibility

Endorsements don’t reduce the time HR professionals should spend checking references.

“A lot of people will just click endorse, endorse, endorse, but it really means very little unless users mean it,” says Raz Chorev, global marketing director at CXC Global. “LinkedIn is just a tool, just a piece of software, and it’s mainly driven by what the users are using it for.”

Although far from scientific, having a close look at endorsements to try to judge their genuineness and credibility can minimise the risk of being fooled.

“If users are not using endorsements in an authentic way, it’s pretty transparent,” says Chorev. If a network is a real network and not merely “a collection of names or numbers”, the endorsers will say how they know the profiled person and what they know is good about them.

Pro: useful for high-level appointments

Candidates who have the experience to fill senior roles will usually have fairly lengthy, detailed LinkedIn profiles (in part because it makes them better brand ambassadors for their own company on the platform) and well-established networks of contacts. HR professionals who are filling executive roles can take advantage of this.

“We have had the most success in filling middle- to senior-level roles using LinkedIn,” says Isdale.

Con: graduate/blue-collar weakness

The opposite is also true. Recent graduates haven’t had time to accrue experience and build professional networks. And blue-collar workers may have plenty of experience, but are unlikely to have spent time ensuring their LinkedIn profiles reflect it. For these roles, posting ads on employment portals is usually a better bet.

“We find that junior candidates often look at other job boards or go directly to the websites of the companies they want to work for,” says Isdale.

Chorev agrees: “I wouldn’t use LinkedIn for recruitment of graduates or temp staff, because they aren’t there. Most graduates will have a basic profile with very limited information, and it’s very difficult to verify that information because their networks are limited.”

Pro: self-updating talent pools

LinkedIn Recruiter gives access to more profiles, advanced search and the ability to build a talent pool within the platform.

“Many recruiters will harvest profiles from LinkedIn and put them on their own databases,” says Craig Shutt, director of Amplify Talent. “Rather than use an out-of-date agency database, LinkedIn Recruiter keeps track of people and updates their details.”

Con: pool building costs

The LinkedIn Recruiter tool is too costly for most smaller companies and those that don’t hire very often. The alternative is to stick to the free tools and maximise their effectiveness.

“Smaller companies can still benefit from using the free LinkedIn service, provided they complete their individual and business profiles,” says Ellson. “They should also continue to expand their network to increase their search results.”

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