Has LinkedIn really made recruiting that much better? (Probably not.)

Sure, sure … I get it. It’s the world largest professional network, and in some ways, it can be a massive traffic driver (albeit one with some inherent contradictions too). If you’re applying for a job and you’re not on there, you’re pretty much doomed in the modern era. It has power and resonance, then … but has it really fixed any of the challenges of the job-match process, or just made them a bit easier for the recruiters to handle?

Here are some of the challenges that I’ve seen:

1. As this article notes very well, LinkedIn is kind of a jack-of-all-trades-but-master-of-none deal. It owns a piece of every aspect of the recruiting process and cuts across tons of industries, but on surface it doesn’t make sense given its name. Consider this: you make a connection on LinkedIn. Do you continue talking on LinkedIn, or do you move it off to your personal e-mail? Probably the latter. Then consider this: the most important thing to eventual hiring managers is face-to-face contact and personal context (often through references); LinkedIn is ostensibly the same thing as a resume (a list of accomplishments, in order), only with a headshot and some idea of “Oh, we both know this person” (with no guarantee that person really knows either of you). Resumes really don’t work in a modern knowledge economy with shifting roles, so adding a headshot (which can add bias, admittedly) and a “network of connections” (which may not be real) doesn’t actually better the process in the grand scheme of things. Does it?

2. This is a frustration of many job-seekers who use LinkedIn. I’ve experienced it a bit, but less so than some of my friends. They’ll go to LinkedIn to use InMail as a way to make contact with someone a few connections off who seems like they could be an asset (same field, same career path, whatever). The problem is that people who are either (a) content or (b) slammed at their jobs rarely check LinkedIn, so it can take 2-3 weeks to get even a simple response. It’s best used to track recruiters, but oftentimes recruiters like to “ghost” on there (or don’t like to directly respond regarding any type of open search), so that’s a fool’s errand too.

3. Facebook and LinkedIn accomplished the same mentality for people in different walks of life. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone about their life and you learn something big and they say, “Oh, I put it on Facebook… I figured you saw!” That’s a cop-out but almost everyone does it nowadays. (No one really understands the algorithm, which is to say, not everyone you’re friends with actually sees everything you post.) LinkedIn gave the same easy-out to people in business. If you try to connect/network with people, 6 of 10 will tell you, “Oh, connect with me on LinkedIn and we’ll go from there.” What exactly will happen from there? We’ll be connected on a mostly-static network of accomplishments and photos and inspirational quote posters? Will that ultimately better both of our professional lives? (I’m honestly not sure.)

4. Going back to a point above, there’s a generational aspect (and a human aspect) to this notion of personal connection mattering the most. How many times have you been hired sight-unseen? Probably less than two, if at all. Ultimately, then, all LinkedIn can do is be a small step in the process. Even if someone finds you on there, it’s still going to be phone screen, phone screen, in-person, in-person, offer. And none of that process will take place on LinkedIn.

5. On the personal front, I’m on there and I have about 1,700 connections (which is a lot, but also goes to the less-tangible aspects; there’s no way I’ve literally connected with 1,700 people during my nine or so years of working). I apply for jobs on there and I’ve probably gotten about 10-12 interviews (granted, off probably 300 applications) from there. I’ve had almost no success making tangible “Hey, I’d like to learn more about what you do” connections — I’ve tried, but I stopped after a slew of “Hey, I don’t really check this…” with no effort to give me an e-mail they do check. Overall, I like the site a lot for industry-news-gathering and potential lead generation, but I think it’s possibly even regressed recruiting — made it easier for the recruiters, sure, but made it far more superficial and devoid of context on the other side.

Ted Bauer