Reid Hoffman: Recruiters Will Need to Adapt

Jun 15, 2009
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

The recruiting profession, just beginning its use of social media, will be among a handful of professions that will need to quickly adapt to the big changes happening right now in business, or be in big trouble, LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman told me after his keynote at today’s Social Recruiting Summit.

Recruiting, journalism, business development, and venture capital are among the fields that need to adapt the earliest, he said at the Summit, held at Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley. “If they don’t adapt early, they will be at a competitive disadvantage. If your business is based on talking to people you don’t know, you have to be very competent with these tools,” he says, referring to LinkedIn and others. “Those recruiters who adapt will continue to have successful careers. Those who don’t, won’t.”

“Don’t look at LinkedIn as a database,” he says. “That’s not bad, but radically incomplete.”

Recruiters need to use the site as a longer-term way of building relationships, he says. For example, he says, LinkedIn Answers allows recruiters to showcase their expertise so that when they eventually connect with a candidate, the prospective employee knows the recruiter knows what they’re talking about. “Build a relationship over time,” he says. “Part of the reason for taking part in LinkedIn Answers is you build a relationship with a lot of people, and it reflects on your profile that you’re not looking at candidates as a fresh piece of meat.”

“I don’t know how many recruiters think of themselves as establishing themselves and their network as a way to attract people to them,” he says. Hoffman says recruiters should ask themselves: “How do I establish my own brand in a way that brings people to me?”

We questioned Hoffman about whether LinkedIn is really “more passive,” if you will, then Facebook. In other words, aren’t people on Facebook mainly there to socialize, and not job-hunt?

“I don’t respond to a bunch of Facebook messages from people I don’t know,” he countered. “Most 40-year-olds don’t usually read their (Facebook) in-boxes unless they have kids.”

“A Little Absurd”

Hoffman believes the classified job-posting model, sometimes know by skeptics as “post and pray,” is “a little absurd.” Employers are gambling that the right candidate with the right the talent and expertise will happen to come along in the one to three months, or whatever it might be, that they have an opening.

“Most of the people I know who are really good never generate a resume,” he said in his talk. “Silicon Valley operates that way.”

Reid believes “every individual is an entrepreneur” now, which doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily hawking some sort of good and service — just themselves. In our conversation afterward, Hoffman said this free-agent type of workforce will change corporate training, too. Companies, he says, aren’t going to send someone to a four-week course if they know the employee’s going to bolt before the next leap year. So employees will, he hopes, use LinkedIn for training advice, asking their peers and mentors what they’ll need to learn in order to stay up to date in their career, as well as get the next gig they want.

LinkedIn is launching a new search system today, and is working on a number of other initiatives, Hoffman says. It’s going to make it easier for search engines to find company pages. And it’s “trying to figure out how to establish a good communications relationship with people and companies” — like a “follow this company” features for candidates to better keep up with prospective employers.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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