“I’d say the hardest candidate I ever had to place was for a job in Germany. The company I was recruiting for didn’t have an office there!” says Laura Molony, who has been working in recruitment for almost 5 years, most recently as a recruiter for PSC Biotech. Laura uses LinkedIn, in her own words, “all the time” for recruitment. It seems LinkedIn would agree with her assessment: she recently got an award from LinkedIn for being in the top 8% of recruiters around the world.
“It’s become invaluable, really. For this particular job in Germany, I had very little local support because of the language barrier, so LinkedIn was my main tool. In this job, the candidate would have to set up the new office, manage the people who were recruited for it at the same time as doing the work they were recruited for and doing some consulting on the side. On top of this, they also had to be fluent in German and English. It was a long list of asks!”
It might seem strange, that recruiting has now become heavily reliant on what a lot of people think is just another social media site. Laura assures me it’s far from that: “LinkedIn is perceived as being that place you go to when you want a job, and really, it doesn’t work like that. In order to be effective on LinkedIn, you need to be building a profile, making connections and ideally, creating content. You can write a blog or start a forum, all things that let your connections know you’re active and engaged. Finding a job is really only a small element of the site, from the candidate’s side”.
So what is LinkedIn anyway? What is the power of this site that so many of us have heard of and dismissed of as just a place to find a job? According to the LinkedIn Newsroom, LinkedIn describes itself as “the world’s largest professional network, with more then 530 million users in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide”. That’s a lot of people. It’s mission, is “simple”, apparently: to “connect the world’s professionals” making them more “productive and successful”.
As with any business, how to make money is a question that is always close to the forefront of any entrepreneur’s mind. In 2015, LinkedIn’s turnover was just under $3 billion (according to the Statistics Portal), and was bought in 2016 by Microsoft for $26 billion. Quarter 1 results for 2017 are looking good for Microsoft: sales are hitting around the $1 billion mark.
But how are they achieving this? When using LinkedIn, it doesn’t seem to aggressively push advertising in the same way that any of the other big social media sites do. So where is the money?
It’s simple really, according to Laura. “They make money because they don’t give the data out for free. Once you stop paying for a recruiter licence, the search tools that make LinkedIn so valuable go away, and you have to start asking for data manually.”
A recruiter licence, one of the ways in which LinkedIn make their money, is a powerful tool. It allows the recruiter access to the powerful search tool that LinkedIn have. “It’s a very advanced search tool,” says Laura. “It literally has hundred of parameters, such as country, location, profiles you have or haven’t seen before, year of graduation and skills profile, to name a few.”
If this isn’t enough, you can even create a custom filter. Every company that buys a LinkedIn product has a “relationship manager” who works with you to optimise your company on LinkedIn, and they can help you create the custom filter. Trying to get this data manually would be like trying to find one needle in 20 different haystacks.
Business solutions don’t end there: LinkedIn have an endless amount of ways for you to promote your business too. A recruiter licence comes under their “talent solutions”, but they also offer “marketing solutions”, “sales solutions” and “learning solutions”. These solutions are customised to the size and needs of your business.
These tools are essential: if a company is to reach out to candidates, they are inevitably going to end up on your LinkedIn page and it has to look good. “Good, clear and consistent branding is absolutely crucial,” according to Laura. Without this, a company doesn’t look attractive to a candidate, and you need to make it clear why your company is worth moving to.
Having said all this, there are definitely candidates that are better suited to being on LinkedIn then others. “It’s very rare for a recruiter to use their licence to look for entry level or trade jobs,” Laura tells me. “It usually ends in up with too many applications from under qualified candidates. Its definitely more of a targeted hunting tool for senior talent. In the end, you have to be able to justify the cost of your licence to your company by pulling in the big fish.”
So what advice would Laura give to people who aren’t “big fish”? Why should they be on LinkedIn? “It goes towards credibility and transparency really. If you can show your job and education history, and if you have public recommendations from previous employers, it shows your track record. It’s information that’s publicly available for companies to look at if you apply for jobs with them and it looks good to be on professional networking website and to be upfront with all this information.
Oh, all right then. You’ve convinced me! I’m not a big fish, but what should I do to improve my profile?
- Firstly, “put a short statement at the top of your profile.” This could be all the recruiter reads and you have to be clear. “Put in things like what you’re doing, what you’re looking for and what you want to do in the future. Say what you’re open to, for example ‘reach out for roles in press offices’, that kind of thing”.
- Always have dates on your previous jobs. It looks sloppy and makes you less trustworthy on a site all about transparency – “it’s all about the quality of the information”.
Describe what you did in your previous job! A job title might be vague, so let recruiters know what you did. Make it easy for them to see your skills.
- Have some public recommendations. “Recommendations are like public references” says Laura and they massively improve your credibility and transparency.
- If you like writing, or taking photos, or have any kind of hobby you could put on your profile, write about them! you can write an article for your LinkedIn profile, and it will create traffic and give recruiters more context into you as a whole. An aspiring journalist could put articles they have written on their profile.
“I wouldn’t have found a candidate for the German job if I didn’t have LinkedIn” says Laura. “Using LinkedIn meant I could select profiles and send them back to the employer to see if this was what they wanted. It cut the amount of time it took in half, because I didn’t have to get the candidates to the interview stage only to find out they weren’t what the company wanted. I could not have done it without LinkedIn”.
It seems that LinkedIn is really changing the way recruiting works. Instead of going door to door, you have a profile on a platform where you list your skills and availability. Instead of having to write your CV multiple times for multiple different companies, all of it is on your LinkedIn profile. Instead of sending in a sample of you work, it’s all on your profile.
I’ll be back in a minute, I just need to set up my LinkedIn account…