Recruiters often seem confused by LinkedIn. That’s bad.

Recruiters are dumb on LinkedIn

I’ve written like a bazillion times about Human Resources (starting with this post), and a handful of times about LinkedIn (starting with this one), and here now, the two topics come together based off a few recent activities in my life. I really don’t think LinkedIn has made recruiting that much better, in the sense of: “The goal of recruiting is to match the best people to the right opportunities, for both person and organization,” and frankly, I don’t think that’s happening at a more rapid clip in the LinkedIn era as before the LinkedIn era. I might be wrong — some would argue I am — and in reality, the problem is more likely about the overall hiring process, which is a fuggin’ mess.

Here are a couple of aspects of recent LinkedIn interaction that worry me, though. 

1. I have a job now, so I’m not in the market for a job — and yet, I get a bunch of “Hey, I saw you on LinkedIn. Are you available?” e-mails and voice mails. Here’s the thing: if you saw me on LinkedIn, you would probably know I have a job and I haven’t had it that long. It doesn’t even require that much analysis to figure that out; it’s pretty much right there in front of you. I understand the mentality of a recruiter can still be “Well, there’s always a chance this person is available,” and that’s fine/great. But it seems like if you’re looking at someone on LinkedIn, you can glean a decent amount of information in about 10 seconds. It’s not rocket science, especially for someone like me, that throws up a lot of their life all over their profile.

2. The other day I got a message about doing this freelance thing, and the recruiter asked me for “a copy of my resume and some writing samples.” OK. That’s standard. Here’s the thing: we were talking via LinkedIn messages. I understand maybe she wanted a paper resume — it’s the same thing about people loving books instead of Kindles, in a way — but essentially, my resume is on LinkedIn. It’s right there. Just click my name and you can see where I worked, what I’ve done, etc. You won’t find that much strikingly different information on a paper resume. As for writing samples, everything I write posts to LinkedIn, and I self-publish on there too. So, uh, all writing samples are there too. Again, click my name and you can get all this stuff. It’s not rocket science. You’re actually adding a step by asking for it; you’re being less effective.

3. This isn’t a recent story, but when I was applying for jobs in Minneapolis, I set up a phone screen with a recruiter — again, through LinkedIn. She got on the phone and goes, “Your LinkedIn looks great! (pause) So you’re out of the Austin area, right?” Again … the second line of your LinkedIn profile says where you’re based. If you’ve been looking at me on there, it seems a reasonable assumption that you might know where I’m based presently. At least the state, no?

Here’s the bottom line with LinkedIn, IMHO:

  • It’s definitely a cool service for finding people and making connections above your pay grade.
  • In terms of recruiting, it made the process easier — but only for the recruiters. They can honestly be lazier now.
  • It didn’t make the process more effective.
  • You can make all the disruptive technologies in the world, but if the core people that need to use them don’t know the most effective ways to use them (i.e. find the people they need for the roles they have), the whole thing is kind of meh.
  • I can also tell you from a mid-size sample size (my own job search last year) that many recruiters are middle-aged women (another large subset is 22 year-old women). I can’t understand the latter not mastering a web search technology, but I can wholly understand the former not doing so (and not wanting to change their culture of phone screens, etc.)


Ted Bauer


  1. On your first point: I think most people would be grateful to receive unsolicited (legitimate, of course) job queries based on their LinkedIn profile. In today’s work environment, it behooves workers to view themselves as cowboys constantly in limbo, or at least prepare for that status. And, since everyone has a price, so to speak, you never know what opportunity may present itself — or when.

    On your second point: Obviously, the LinkedIn format is a template and as such, different people will fill in the blanks subjectively. There’s usually more than meets the eye with regard to people’s backgrounds, especially ones that are public. Asking for something that’s already available can be used as a tactic to test authenticity by comparing the two seemingly identical pieces of information — similar to attorneys asking a question to which they already know the answer.

    On your third point: A lot of people are slack (some even unknowingly, lol) and/or busy enough not to have updated their profile recently. Checking information like this is a good sign to me and shows conscientiousness on the part of the recruiter. I know people who haven’t updated their profiles in years, but still “use” LinkedIn to search for jobs (ironically) and/or communicate professionally.

    LinkedIn has created a pool of passive candidates that has added to the myriad of hurdles job seekers must face. On the other hand, if you use it correctly, it can be a valuable resource in today’s cutthroat working world.

    • I dunno. Sometimes I really do think there are really dense people in the recruiting world — which obviously makes it harder for the seekers — and that LinkedIn has given them the capacity to be lazier, but also less effective.

      • I agree about recruiters, I just don’t see the points above as the most acute evidence of the complaints.

        Things like lack of follow-through skills, re-posting the same job multiple times, lack of fundamental understanding about positions and corresponding personality fit, and the concept of “waiting for Jesus” all scare me more.

      • Have you ever wondered why the hiring manager doesn’t just do the process themselves? Recruiters literally NEVER seem to know what the job will entail, even REMOTELY. It’s mind-boggling.

  2. I could write many pages about my contempt for the way the entire job seeking/transferring/hiring process is handled. I think I know why hiring managers don’t just do the process themselves…they need a scapegoat in case something goes wrong — plus, they need to keep up the appearance of being too busy to do handle it (thus needing to fill a position in the first place).

  3. I don’t really agree with your first point, many people are looking for jobs regardless of when they started. So it’s not really outrageous for the recruiter to ask you if you were interested in a new job. Also people don’t always properally update their linkedin so it’s a guessing game who you should or shouldnt contact. Some people leave companies and never update that they are no longer with that company, so if recruiters went off the mentality of “well it looks like they are employeed so I should leave them alone,” then they lose “available” candidates.
    Also when they ask for your resume, remember they may report to some pretty old school people who do not care about linkedin, and needs that standard resume & writing sample. NO matter how many times you explain to them it’s the same ( maybe even better) information.
    but you are right, there are many people who happen to fall into recruiting and have no idea how to be anything other than very “basic” about it.

    • I hear what you’re saying, especially about how many people are unemployed right now. So maybe I was under-selling that. But I do think so many people become recruiters and just have no idea where to take it next to make the process logical.

  4. The concept of targeting “passive” candidates troubles me. We find ourselves in an era of mass unemployment – many people out of work who would theoretically make excellent hires – yet some thought leaders in recruiting have decided it’s a good idea to ignore these folks in favor of poaching employees from other companies.

    Meanwhile, many of these same recruiters have the audacity to chastise people for “job-hopping” when in fact by practicing this “passive” candidate nonsense they’re effectively contributing to the problem (assuming job-hopping is a problem in the first place, an idea I don’t subscribe to at all).

    • Dude, recruiters are oftentimes the worst on any number of levels. What’s a shame is that somewhere along the line, we sold a narrative of “HR has all these specialized skills that a hiring manager could never do!” — so a hiring manager basically uses HR as a cover-your-ass. Meanwhile, HR and the hiring manager all ask the same BS questions that don’t teach you at all whether a person would be a good fit. And because those two sides don’t communicate, well, oftentimes there’s no clarity whatsoever about the job either. It’s a gigantic puzzle.

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