Does LinkedIn’s effectiveness sit on a throne of lies?


I’ve always been a big fan of LinkedIn in any number of ways — as of this morning, I have 458 posts over there, although admittedly almost all of them are repurposed from this site and most are horrifically unpopular — and back in March 2014, I wrote a post about how LinkedIn drives 4x the traffic to your homepage as compared to Facebook. (I’m not 100 percent sure those numbers hold up still.)

Over time, I grew a little bit weary of LinkedIn on two specific fronts:

  • How recruiters use it
  • The efficacy of publishing on there

I think I’ve nailed this down to a few specific ideas. Let’s try and flesh it out.

How recruiters use LinkedIn

To be completely blunt, I often think recruiters are confused by LinkedIn. This makes some sense as many recruiters are housed within HR, and because many companies don’t treat HR respectfully as a business function, you sometimes see a slower innovation curve among HR employees than you would in, say, Product Marketing or something. I’ve had two semi-prolonged job searches in the past three years — once at the end of graduate school, and once now (although this one has only been going on for a few weeks if you count the holidays as a dead zone).

From those two searches, what I’ve observed about most recruiters/screeners is:

  • Oftentimes older
  • Very concerned with a standard paper resume, even though LinkedIn is far more dynamic and lists skills and references in the same place
  • Very concerned with job-hopping and time gaps
  • Oftentimes unclear on the role (poor communication w/hiring manager)
  • Oftentimes unclear on who you are, despite resume + LinkedIn

This all comes back to one central concept: technology straight-up murdered recruiting. We shoved a bunch of solutions at the HR space, but we probably didn’t properly contextualize any of them — or fully train people on them either — and now we have about 100 different sources coming into HR departments on any open position, and they’re probably drowning trying to keep up.

A few years ago when I was living in Minneapolis, I did a phone screen for a job. I saw that the recruiter had just looked at my LinkedIn profile, right? As I just said, I was living in Minneapolis. I get on the phone and she opens with:

“So, you’re based in Austin, TX presently?”

Where you live is literally the second line of your LinkedIn profile. She just had mine open. How is this so hard? I realize people get busy and overwhelmed, but can you show the candidate a bit of respect that you’ve done even the least bit of contextual research on them?

The efficacy of publishing on LinkedIn

Written about this before, if you’re interested.

The dirty little secret of LinkedIn: Active users

This is where LinkedIn is sitting on a throne of lies, I believe. As of late October ’15, it was reporting 400M users — which is more than the entirety of the United States — but only 25 percent were using it monthly.

That’s a huge drop-off — 75 percent of your users aren’t engaged monthly??!!? — but it makes perfect sense for a variety of reasons:

  • Unless you want to be known as a writer/thought leader, you don’t have a reason to visit that often
  • Unless you’re in the HR/recruiting space or actively seeking a job, you don’t have a reason to visit that often
  • As people worship at The Temple of Busy daily, LinkedIn doesn’t seem that important to them, despite what we might claim about the value of personal branding
  • Facebook is a place you curate and update things about your life for your actual friends; LinkedIn seems like a static professional network to most people

I’ve tried to add legitimate professionals on here — like, the types of people you would think would be very active — and it’s taken them 2-3 months to accept my request. With it, I always get this line:

“I don’t really go on here much.”

I worked at McKesson for 12 weeks in summer 2013. That place makes multiple billions of dollars. Every SVP I met there had a LinkedIn profile that:

  • Didn’t have a real picture
  • Had less than 500 connections

These are dudes slaying dragons and making tons of money, and they clearly give about 0.7 craps about LinkedIn.

Where’s the power in that?

What does this all mean for LinkedIn?

Nothing, really. They can still claim in speeches that they’re “reinventing the world of work” or whatever, and I’m sure the valuation will remain high and all that. Those are things that Silicon Valley and investors seem to care about.

To my mind, though, LinkedIn should be an active network of people attempting to showcase and define their career arcs, including:

  • Recruiters
  • Hiring managers
  • People with new ideas
  • People looking for funding
  • People with a ton of money
  • People who’ve had success and want to share tips
  • Mentors looking for mentees
  • Mentees looking for mentors
  • Etc, etc.

That’s what it feels like the power of LinkedIn could be — but too often when you go on there, it feels like a static mix of inspirational quotes, memes, work anniversaries, a couple of research links, and maybe an article or two of interest from a thought leader.

Anyone else have a different experience with LinkedIn?

Ted Bauer


  1. I view LinkedIn as a platform that provides the potential for all the supposed transformative and great things that they espouse. Ultimately, of course, it’s the user base that decides how/if all those lofty goals get accomplished. With LinkedIn, and the Internet in general, I feel there is simply too much content, which opens the door to the “paradox of choice.”

    A second aspect of LinkedIn is the number of settings one has to customize. Many people probably just get turned off from the amount of perceived aggravation of going through so many selections to get their “Goldilocks” experience from the site.

    Third, related to everyone wanting to be perceived as busy, all your first connections can see when you post content and other usage info. So, if you’re regularly “using” LinkedIn during the day, it’s more difficult to keep up the appearance of being so busy at the cubicle, which is a no-no in today’s bs working world.

    • That’s a good point at the end about busy. Ironically, people are totally transparent about posting on Facebook during the day — but I suppose that’s why people avoid their co-workers as FB friends oftentimes.

      I would love to sit in meetings with Jeff Weiner and Reid Hoffman and help them understand that while their valuation might be nice and they’re “worth” a bunch of money, their product really has no true usage in terms of shifting the world of work — and it COULD, if construed just a wee bit differently.

      • I can understand wanting to be an adviser of sorts, but I also think you can lead a horse to water…meaning the site could implement all kinds of intuitive and innovative changes, but it’s ultimately up to the users to put the effort in. There are so many technology changes/constant updates/accounts to maintain that LinkedIn engagement might be cannibalized by some other Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, etc.

        Maybe I’m just getting too old and cranky, but I keep creeping more toward being a Luddite each year. There’s too much shit to keep up with and things seem to be getting more complicated.

  2. OMG! So few active people, this is the problem! I have the same experience all the time. Reach out to someone, get connected 2 months later.

  3. Anyone else have a different experience with LinkedIn?

    No, same. i felt embarrassed to apologize when I reply with weeks of delay but you made me realize I’m just a typical user of LI. Most of what I receive are notification of pulse publication from people in my network. They publish like compulsively on pulse as it is was the sacred Graal of engagement. I don’t even read because the Ui consistently drag me into LI promoted posts as soon as scroll down.

    With the poor performance of G+ this leaves us with no better option than using FB for professional work. There at least engagement, a pleasant UI makes it less boring.

    What I skimmed from Reid’s address to employees after the large devaluation of the stock is nothing has really changed.If nothing changed, means nothing will change. Pure denial. Not very encouraging for the future of LI.

  4. Today I encountered two recruiters, one of which is the founder of a staffing company, making inappropriate and misogynistic comments on a photo of a woman. As a woman who has been contacted by recruiters on a regular basis through much of my career (and I often search for these recruiters on LinkedIn to confirm their legitimacy), I would want nothing to do with a company employing people like this, especially from a founder.

    While I 100% believe people should be able to share whatever they choose on their personal social sites, I also believe in personal responsibility and accountability. I like LinkedIn, but it’s definitely gone in a less professional direction and people are not impressed by that. That’s what Facebook is for.

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