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LinkedIn Earns Cheers For Its Useful (and Free) Talent CRM

by Oct 18, 2011, 6:28 pm ET

LinkedIn said there would be surprises at its Talent Connect conference in Las Vegas this week. The company didn’t disappoint.

During a keynote session this morning that had more in common with a Hollywood spectacular than sober recruiting kickoff, CEO Jeff Weiner wowed the audience of 1,800 with Talent Pipeline. Now it might be that the biggest applause — and some actual cheering — came when he uttered the magic word Free, as in free for those licensing LinkedIn Recruiter. But, those cheers would have been equally appropriate for the product itself.

Weiner left the driving to his VP of product, David Hahn, who tour-guided Talent Pipeline on five massive screens, demonstrating its ease of use, its utility, and a little less obviously, its potential to replace the most basic of ATS programs in use.

Hahn said the development of Talent Pipeline was driven by the challenges talent specialists face in managing pipelined prospects over many months. And not just prospects sourced from LinkedIn. Talent Pipeline, declared Hahn, is the single place to manage all your talent prospects, whatever the source.

What’s particularly special about Talent Pipeline is how it connects prospects and information. Any old ATS will take applicant resumes and sort them into a searchable database. More sophisticated systems provide notes fields, calendaring and scheduling functions, automated messaging, and the like. What Talent Pipeline also does is to pull information from a prospect’s LinkedIn profile, match up their connections, essentially building a portfolio private to the recruiter and tracking all activity between the prospect and employer.When a prospect in Talent Pipeline updates their LinkedIn profile, the recruiter is alerted. In the rare event that a prospect isn’t on LinkedIn, a profile-like portfolio is built from the resume employment history.

With the introduction of Talent Pipeline in the coming weeks, recruiters will see an “Add” button on their dashboard. That’s how the CRM gets started. If it’s a prospect sourced from outside LinkedIn, say a job board, the Add feature uploads the resume and the record is created. It is, pretty much, that easy, from what Hahn demonstrated.

LinkedIn’s product team obviously did its homework in designing the features. One example: Prospects can be tagged to make searching more precise. Keywords may still be a recruiter’s instinctive search tool, but the tags make it possible to organize candidates in ways that best suit the user. So while Hahn tagged his demo example of a software developer as “android” and “mobile,” there’s no reason a recruiter couldn’t decide to tag a prospect more granularly or use tags to create special groups of candidates, say “hot” for a candidate ready to make a change.

There’s a lot to like about Talent Pipeline, and if anyone missed its potential as a management tool, Hahn began his presentation by noting that despite all the sophistication of modern ATS platforms, they can all be a little clunky when it comes to managing prospect pipelines sourced from social networks, and elsewhere.  He’s certainly right that an ATS isn’t going to pull in network connections, build portfolios, and offer referral opportunities. On the other hand Talent Pipeline isn’t going to replace the more sophisticated systems, those that can handle reqs and authorizations, distribute job postings, manage the corporate career  site, and similar, higher -level functions. But then, LinkedIn’s primary focus was on a tool to manage prospects and pipelines, and that it seems quite capable of doing, especially since the price is right.

This first iteration has only limited messaging capability; that capability comes via LinkedIn Recruiter, so companies that opt to buy just the standalone version will have to find a way to communicate with their prospects. Exporting some of the data is possible, but not all of it, Hahn said.

That it can replace basic ATS platforms is an added benefit, though, Hahn said, it’s not a likely outcome. True enough in most cases, but Talent Pipeline as part of Talent Recruiter can easily rival the simplest systems. A few more bells and whistles, and LinkedIn could have an ATS product to offer.

Talent Pipeline begins to roll out in November as a beta product to select customers. It’s expected to become generally available in the first quarter of 2012. No price has yet been set for Talent Pipeline alone.

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.