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Is LinkedIn Becoming a 21st Century Job Board?

by
John Zappe
Dec 21, 2010, 5:11 am ET

LinkedIn introduced a resume building tool a while ago that, even though it’s slick, simple to use, and creates attractive resumes, would be otherwise unremarkable.

Except that it’s LinkedIn offering it. And it’s a step better than what Monster and CareerBuilder offer. And, more to the point, it’s another step in the LinkedIn transformation from a business-oriented social network to … something else, like a job board for the 21st century.

The LinkedIn people don’t necessarily agree with that. Francois Dufour, senior director of marketing, LinkedIn Hiring Solutions, wrote to tell me that “LinkedIn is a professional network.” It’s “a platform for helping professionals manage their careers.”

“Whether you’re looking to hire or be hired, LinkedIn is becoming top of mind for a lot of people,” Dufour says in his response to my email about what LinkedIn is becoming. “Yet the reason we continue to thrive is that we offer so much more than a job board.”

True enough. Being public, a profile is a marketing and brand-building tool. Participating in groups and building a network furthers those objectives, as well as gives participants a place to get help with professional problems.

Traditional job boards have their discussion groups, but nothing even remotely approaching what LinkedIn has. Yet with what we’ve been seeing from LinkedIn over the years,  the camel’s nose is getting further and further into the job board tent.

Recruiters began sifting through the profiles years ago. So adding LinkedIn Jobs in 2005 was, as Jeff Clavier described it a “natural extension.” Since then, the network has refined its candidate sourcing tools, improved the targeting of its jobs listings, added company profiles in what might fairly be described as a response to Facebook and, in the last two months, LinkedIn has added Jobs For You and Referral Engine (which ERE wrote about last month).

Along now comes Resume Builder. Technically still in the experimental stage and without a release date (though it is fully usable), it’s another natural extension of LinkedIn. From what Dufour says, LinkedIn agrees. “We want the LinkedIn profile to be the professional profile of record, whatever the context – personal and professional brand-building,” Dufour writes in his email.

He rightly points out that, “We are a leading source of quality candidates for corporations…” Indeed the public nature of most of the profiles provides a higher degree of confidence in their accuracy than do the private resumes of a job board. And because of the value the professional groups and contacts offer, the sheer number of participants — 85 million a month ago —  is well beyond what any of the job boards has.

So Resume Builder — did I mention how cool it is? — is a good thing, right?

Not necessarily, says Gerry Crispin. Partner in the recruitment consultancy CareerXroads, he told my colleague Amybeth Hale that LinkedIn could end up rebranding itself as “the new job board of the 21st century.”

Should that happen, he told her, then professionals who want the business connections, but don’t want to be thought of as job-seeking, will go elsewhere.

“You want to find people who are actively engaged in work,” Crispin pointed out. “What you find out about them is that they’re looking to improve their capability on the job. It (makes) them great for recruiting. But if LinkedIn focuses solely on the recruiting aspect, it will drive those other people (non-actives) underground.”

There’s a thin line there that LinkedIn is walking. It’s adopting some of the best of what the job boards have to offer, and has so far done it successfully. But, as Crispin observes, it faces a risk if it becomes thought of primarily as a job-search site.

LinkedIn’s Resume Builder doesn’t tip that scale. The difference between resume builders on job boards and on LinkedIn are all about their reason for being. You use a resume builder on a job board for job hunting.

The LinkedIn tool is a convenience. It takes the profile you already have and turns into a resume.

It may be a subtle difference, but it is a difference that recognizes all of us (OK, most all of us) are passive one day, receptive another, and active the fourth Friday in a row that the boss drops a project on you that absolutely, positively, has to be done for the meeting on Monday.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

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  2. Ginger Graham

    I completely agree, LinkedIn should tread lightly. I’ve benefited from the C-suite in my company believing that LinkedIn is simply a great place to network and bounce ideas, and perhaps obtain some best practices, while I network with thier connections and dazzle them onto our team. If LinkedIn ends up with a Scarlet letter, they will frighten the herd and Recruiters will need to wait for the dust to settle…again.

    Can’t they just leave well enough alone?

  3. Sarang Brahme

    John,

    I totally echo your comments here. I started using LinkedIn in late 2005. In initial stages I used to get surprised responses by candidates asking how did I got their details? It used to be sourcing secret – however, now LinkedIn has made that secret official. They’re themselves promoting as recruiters tool in various ways – be it resume builder OR recruiter’s login OR paid job ads etc.

    Worry is to me as a recruiter – if this becomes another job board; the competitive advantage of LI will be washed away AND this will be come just ANOTHER portal such as monster/careerbuilder etc.

    LI has to draw line in regards to recruitment usage and go back to basics. They need to advance this engine remembering why at first place they have started it.

    I hope LI is listening….

    Regards,
    Sarang

  4. Brenden Wright

    Completely agree with Crispin on this one. I’ve been using LinkedIn since it was born – but it is starting to feel more and more like another job board. In the beginning, a lot of skill was required to effectively use the tool and build contacts and networks. Now, it seems it is largely geared toward recruiting services and not just building and maintaining relationships. Still love it though…for now.

  5. Jeff DickeyChasins

    It’s really quite simple. The more that LinkedIn adds new features that are primarily tied to finding a job, the more the users (who are not stupid) will see that it is a job board. A different type of job board, yes, but a job board.

  6. Steven Rothberg

    I agree that this is more evolution than revolution. They’ve offered the option for a long-time to indicate what types of contact requests you’re open to and one of those is job opportunities.

  7. Omowale Casselle

    John,

    This is a great article that highlights the inherent tension between job boards and professional/social networks.

    I think more than anything else, LinkedIn recognized that talent and opportunity can connect in many different ways. For some, it is through advertising open positions. For others, it is about networking to connect with the right opportunity. For others, it is about being recruited for openings that they might not have even considered if someone didn’t bring it to their attention.

    Job seekers can also be at many different stages along the active-passive spectrum depending on their satisfaction with their current employer. LinkedIn simultaneously brings together all of the moving parts in a delicate balance.

    I’m certain that the LinkedIn team thinks long and hard about how to provide the right feature set in their product to ensure that it brings talent and opportunity together in a way that is most appropriate for each individual need. That is a really difficult challenge when you think about network dynamics and individual user psychology.

    It will interesting to see how LinkedIn continues to evolve over time. Given their large user base, they seem to definitely be meeting the needs of the customers they endeavour to serve.

    Omowale Casselle

  8. Steve Crumley

    I absolutely agree they are walking a thin line. The value of LI will crash if people perceive that it’s becoming a job board, and they get too much spam from recruiters on the site. I’ve voiced this same opinion to our account reps several times. They think they have it covered, but I’m not sure.

    The good news is that (at least so far) LI has not allowed recruiting agencies to purchase recruiter accounts. So, to send more than a few inMails, you must either have a connection to a candidate, or you are a corporate recruiter. Francois Dufour, if you change that practice, you will flounder and fail. TheLadders is in a very similar failing situation, primarily due to poor sales practices and not listening to their customers. Please Francois, don’t go there!

  9. Greg Noorigian

    I started using LI in 2006 and it was been a fantastic tool for finding passive candidates. Over the past year, it has become more and more commercial and I am extremely scared that our “secret tool” is going to get to big and executives will stop updating his/ her profile. I have filled roles all over the world using LI from my NY based office. If the candidates start to receive too many career requests, they will stop using the site.

    Lets how LI realizes what they are doing and will slow down the expansion.

  10. Carmen Hudson

    Great article John! I think jobseekers emerging from this economy are a lot smarter about networking. LinkedIn has established itself as the easiest way to stay in touch with colleagues and be discovered by recruiters.

    As with traditional job boards, the law of diminishing returns is at work here. LinkedIn recruiter spam is at an all time high. If it continues, members will opt out or not participate. Top candidates have no interest in being approached to “network” for irrelevant jobs by clueless recruiters.

    It is important that recruiters remember that, even with 85 million members and growing, LinkedIn isn’t the only place to find active or passive candidates. There are millions of blogs, twitter accounts and closed social network profiles to plunder!

  11. Dan Boersma

    The big problem with the resume builder is that it only saves the resume to a pdf file which is not able to be read properly by most applicant tracking systems.

  12. Jeff DickeyChasins

    Dan, seems like saving only to a PDF would be a big negative for most recruiters. Hmm.

  13. Keith Halperin

    LI long ago and repeatedly “crossed the line” with us recruiters, by making it necessary to go around the roadblocks that LI has put up over the years.
    IMHO, if you want to use LinkedIn most effectively and affordably:

    1) Do a Google search to access ALL its public members or
    2) Get a $60/mo. tool which allows you to search these same members, gets phone numbers (and wherever possible) calculated emails, or
    3) get an $11/hr virtual sourcer to do the same thing.

    Then contact the person directly using that information.

    Keith keithsrj@sbcglobal.net

  14. Dan Boersma

    Reply to Jeff Dickey Chasins: Not sure if you are agreeing with me or trying to be snide. Most companies (and recruiters) use Applicant Tracking Systems. Incoming resumes are digitize or parsed. PDF files are not always able to be parsed. I know this because I am a co-founder for an ATS company, ResuWe, and our developer built a free resume optimization tool. I see the benefit of being able to share your resume via LinkedIn (think Jobvite Share but for an individual) and the resume builder tool is very easy to use. However, a resume needs to be in Word to be compatible with most Applicant Tracking Systems.

  15. Jeff DickeyChasins

    Dan,

    Absolutely did not mean to be snide. I agree with your assessment.

    Jeff

  16. Emanuel Contomanolis

    I agree that LinkedIn is pursuing a perfectly logical evolutionary step in its development and brand positioning. I also agree it needs to tread thoughtfully. If its a professional network that ALSO offers effective “job search” features then I think they are positioned well. The job board paradigm is changing and it remains to be seen what that next generation will actually look like. LinkedIn is also expanding offerings for the college/university student population – see their recent announcement about the Career Explorer tool launched in conjunction with PWC – which again suggests a potential emerging strategy regarding positioning LinkedIn to “emerging professionals”.

  17. Matt Gill

    Seems it’s easier to attract job seekers to build the user number than any other category but the outcome will ultimately be monster and the LI value will be gone.

  18. Morgan Hoogvelt

    I agree with the majority of the group. LinkedIn has been and continues to be a great recruiting tool. I too have been a user since its birth but now I see it being turned into a regular job board in some parts. I think like all great bandwagons – it is great for now and until the next best thing comes around.

    Morgan Hoogvelt

  19. Maureen Sharib

    What will the next big thing be, Morgan?

  20. Jim Sullivan

    LinkedIn is just a tool, like many others most recruiters use. It will always evolve and become what it feels will drive customers to their site. The resume builder is just another tool that they have come up with to help drive business to their site. The current economy is also driving them to be more “job hunter focused”.

    But let us all remember that no site contains all possible candidates and if that is your prime recruiting tool, no matter what their format, you are missing out on some of the top quality candidates that don’t necessarily want to be “found” on “social sites”.

    Yet as they are evolving they are also trying to make it more difficult to connect (without jumping through hoops) to get to the potential connections you want to speak with for wahtever reason.

    I still will use LinkedIn as will many of us, to get to some people that we can network with to get our positions filled.

    Hope everyone has a great start to the new year and continued success through 2011 and beyond!

  21. Heather Huhman

    Hi John,

    Great post and observation!

    Dufour is exactly right; “whether you’re looking to hire or be hired, LinkedIn is becoming top of mind for a lot of people,” just like any social networking site (like Facebook and Twitter), talent community (like Cachinko) or search engine.

    However, I’m concerned that LinkedIn may lose the trust of their 85 million participants and cost employers their ability to pursue passive candidates if they move from a “professional profile of record – (for) personal and professional brand-building” to a job board!

    Passive candidates will surely go elsewhere and LinkedIn will no longer be the “leading source of quality candidates for corporations.” Job boards are known for false and misleading advertisements — and spammy e-mails. Yes, job seekers still use them, but at least with job boards, they know to expect these things. With LinkedIn…not so much.

    What’s next? One-way communication that stops at your 1st level network? LinkedIn needs to continue to focus on communities, building professional networks and brands – or else the participants will look for an alternative talent community.

  22. Morgan Hoogvelt

    I wish I could forsee what the next big thing will be. But I think it will be somewhat of a hybrid of all the networking/career/social media sites out there. Something that puts people in touch in a more direct line with recruiters and companies alike.

    Once I think it up, I will gladly share with the world!

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