It is hard to deny the impact that LinkedIn, which rightfully bills itself as “the world’s largest professional network,” has had on the recruiting function. The network has forever changed the way organizations connect with talent, giving them unprecedented access to both active and passive candidates. But change isn’t always good, and in this case, it has been disastrous. Despite all the praise it gets and the many people who swear by it, LinkedIn has actually destroyed the efficiency of the recruiting function, making it more difficult to connect with qualified talent.
How recruitment use to be.
To understand the negative impact, it is important to recognize how things used to be. Companies typically leveraged headhunters and search firms as their primary way of identifying talent for mid-level, as well as senior-level, positions. The headhunters would interact directly with jobseekers to learn what they were looking for in their next job (minimum salary, willingness to relocate, desired industries, potential deal breakers, etc.) and include this key information in their private databases. Based on what hiring managers were looking for in their next hires, the headhunters would make the appropriate matches.
The result was a fairly streamlined process. Candidates would interview with just one person who could connect them with multiple employers. As detailed candidate information wasn’t publically available, headhunters served a crucial link, facilitating how companies found qualified candidates. With the rise of LinkedIn, much, but not all, of the candidate data that was previously stored in their private databases became publically available, diminishing the need for headhunters.
Challenges in the age of LinkedIn.
Today, most companies, including all of the Fortune 500, have transitioned the recruitment function in-house, with the belief that it is much cheaper and more efficient to hire an army of recruiters and have them scour LinkedIn to find the best candidates. Though they gain access to a seemingly infinite candidate pool, they lose the curation and filtering that headhunters provided. What good are thousands of potential candidates if they don’t respond, are uninterested in the position or turn out to be unqualified?
Instead of relying on a headhunter who could supply the company with pre-vetted, right-fit candidates, the move to LinkedIn means that recruiters are blinded when it comes to finding talent. While a candidate may have the perfect experience and skills for a particular job, he or she may turn down an interview request simply because they don’t want to work in that industry. Whereas a headhunter would have known this and not approached a candidate with the opportunity, corporate recruiters looking for talent on LinkedIn simply lack this insight. As a result, candidates are bombarded with offers for which they have absolutely no interest. Moreover, just because someone is on LinkedIn doesn’t mean they are a jobseeker. Recruiters often waste valuable time and effort pursuing individuals who won’t even entertain the idea of transitioning to a new job.
The experience is even more frustrating for the candidates themselves. Whereas a candidate would previously have had a conversation with a single headhunter about what they were looking for in a job, they must now have such conversations with each corporate recruiter who contacts them. The sheer number of contacts they get can be frustrating. As recruiters look for any and all candidates who are even remotely connected to the job they want to fill, it is impossible for them to know crucial factors such as the person’s salary requirements. As such, they often reach out to individuals who are over qualified or under qualified, instead of targeting those who are truly a good fit. As a result, candidates often ignore all inquiries, and for high-demand candidates, they shut down their LinkedIn profile completely and go dark.
The result is a vicious cycle; as recruiters find it more difficult to identify the ideal candidate, they send out more and more requests and receive fewer and fewer responses. Clearly, this strategy leads to frustration for the employer and candidate alike. But, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Making recruitment personal again.
What’s missing from recruitment in the age of LinkedIn is the personal connection. It was the deep understanding of candidates that made headhunters so successful. The challenge lies in starting the conversation. Rather than simply sending candidates random messages with text-only job descriptions, it will be much more effective to develop robust content that truly engages, like a welcome video from the hiring manager or pictures showing off the unique work environment. Provide enough interesting and useful information so a candidate has a reason to review the job and see if it is a fit. A text-only job description is dead on arrival. Candidates know they are boilerplate and mind-numbing. Instead of reaching out to any and all candidates just because their name shows up in a search, companies must target their messaging to those candidates most likely to respond.
Finding the right people for the right job has always been a challenge. Despite the rise of social networks and the changes they introduced, recruitment is still a daunting and resource-consuming process. To get ahead, companies must take a look at what worked in the past – namely, the human touch – and leverage today’s technology to make recruiting personal again. Employers now have a growing number of channels and tools to connect with talent; they just need to make sure they do it in a meaningful way that piques candidates’ interest and makes them want to join.