Why LinkedIn isn’t the recruiting powerhouse it used to be

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LinkedIn is at the heart of a fundamental shift, one which is little-known outside of recruitment circles but which is already changing the way top talent acquisition executives find and pursue promising personnel—and threatening the primacy of “the world’s largest professional network” in the recruiting space.

For the TLDR crowd: LinkedIn might have been a recruiting sweetheart in the 200s, but it has lost some of its lustre.

B2B News Network spoke with Kathy Razvan, whose two decades of recruiting experience include talent acquisition leader at Mixpanel and senior recruiting manager at Salesforce, about how leading recruiters are increasingly turning to tools other than LinkedIn, which is seen as less innovative and effective as new challengers arise.

As recently as last year, the narrative in the business media was still largely about how LinkedIn was disrupting the world of recruiting. According to a 2013 study from the Society of Human Resource Management, 77 percent of employers reported using social networks for recruiting—up from 56 percent just two years earlier. Among recruiters using social tools in 2013, fully 94 percent said they used LinkedIn.

However, Razvan said the number of top recruiters using LinkedIn has “absolutely” declined from those peak figures from just a few short years ago.

“LinkedIn was a great tool when it came on the market and as a recruiter I used it quite a bit,” she explained. “But now there are more and more tools coming on the market and technology is moving at such a fast pace with passive candidates being so bombarded by inexperienced recruiters on LinkedIn that top talent is moving away from LinkedIn. It’s still being used… but when I’m interviewing recruiters and I’m asking them what is the most innovative way they have reached passive candidates, I hear them talking about other ways besides LinkedIn.”

The rise of LinkedIn was a mixed bag for recruiters. Applicant data once stored in private databases became available to the public, practically eliminating the need for old-school headhunters who once served as exclusive middlemen between companies and candidates.

However, this abundance of data has also encouraged less experienced recruiters to engage in “mass-blasting” of prospects based on simple searches that often result in inaccurate and inappropriate targeting. This has turned off countless passive job seekers who may have been attracted to a given company if properly recruited.

Razvan said that from a highly-qualified prospect’s perspective, “nothing ticks me off more than getting an email from a recruiter saying, ‘we looked at your resume and your LinkedIn profile and think you would be an ideal CIO candidate.’” The only problem is, Razvan has no CIO experience.

“The only reason why they sent me that is because they put me in a word search for CIO, and because I have recruited for CIOs in the past, they mass-blast me,” she said. “Any junior recruiter who bombards people by doing a simple word search is going to turn off good candidates who by now are not accepting LinkedIn invites, or they’re no longer on LinkedIn at all.”

New players? Github and Entelo

Which lesser-know social platforms are top recruiters using to find and woo top talent to their firms?

Entelo, which bills itself as “a new and better way to recruit,” has emerged as an innovative alternative to LinkedIn.

“With Entelo, you can plug in a passive candidate’s email, phone number and everything you need on how to reach them directly instead of going through LinkedIn,” explained Razvan.

“If you need software engineers, you can find them on GitHub,” Razvan added, referring to the popular social network favored by software developers and engineers for creating, collaborating and sharing code and open source projects.

StackOverflow is another technical recruitment tool which has challenged LinkedIn’s primacy.

In addition to competing social networks, “there are so many other platforms you can use” to find top talent, said Razvan. “There are boolean searches you can do now, there are people who write white papers and book reviews you can search,” she said.

All of this led Wired to write of LinkedIn’s “death by a thousand tiny competitors” as far back as 2014. But it does not mean that LinkedIn’s days are numbered, despite a recent disappointing quarter.

Keep in mind that it’s still a useful tool, Razvan said of LinkedIn. “As a recruiting leader I would still purchase it, I would still use it because a lot of people still use it for research and for making connections. I still use it myself. When I am looking for a job now, I don’t apply directly. I go on LinkedIn and find out who is the head of talent for the company, or who is the CEO, and I email them directly.

“LinkedIn is still a good tool but it’s definitely on the decline and there are more tools than ever now available to recruiters than there were three or four years ago,” said Razvan. “Every day there is a new tool coming out.”

Photo via serplogic.com

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Brett Wilkins

Brett Wilkins

Brett Wilkins is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for U.S. news. Based in San Francisco, he is the editor and publisher of Moral Low Ground and is a Yahoo! Featured Political Contributor.