Why Real Recruiters Rank LinkedIn #1

Sep 1, 2011
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

Let’s get real here. Anyone who thinks LinkedIn is in the doghouse when it comes to recruiting the best talent isn’t a real recruiter, or they don’t know the difference between active and passive candidates, or they think sourcing is recruiting. So I’m going to use this article (and this webcast) to set the record straight.

First, let me first define a real recruiter:

  1. They have excellent relations with the hiring manager and the hiring team. As part of this, 100% of their candidates they present are interviewed by the hiring manager, and none are bad.
  2. They understand what it takes to maximize quality of hire, and achieve it on every assignment.
  3. They thoroughly understand real job requirements and why the job is important to the company. As part of this they can convince their hiring managers that using traditional job descriptions minimizes the opportunity to hire top performers.
  4. They are subject matter experts when it comes to knowing the company, the industry, the compensation ranges for the positions they handle, and the competition.
  5. They prepare sourcing plans and programs based on how the best talent looks for work, especially passive candidates.
  6. They are comfortable picking up the phone and talking to real people and getting outstanding referrals.
  7. The best candidates consider these recruiters great career advisors and proactively refer other top people to them.
  8. They can accurately assess competency and job fit on multiple measures including how the hiring manager and the person will work together.
  9. They maximize their first contact to final close yield (candidate opt-out rate) by recruiting at every step in the process.
  10. They can close the deal by emphasizing the career growth opportunity, not the compensation.

Being a real recruiter is less important if cost per hire is more important than quality of hire, and your management team is comfortable with hiring average people. However, if you want to implement a raising-the-talent-bar strategy, or facing a situation where the supply of talent is less than the demand, you need a real recruiter to pull it off, and in most cases they’ll need to target passive candidates. (Here’s a “real recruiter” competency model we created, if you’d like to rank yourself or your teammates. You need to score at least 35 out of 50 points to be considered a “real recruiter.”)

From a “let’s get real recruiting” standpoint, LinkedIn has a major edge over its current rivals. This is important since 82% of the professional fully employed categorize themselves as passive candidates. With real recruiting in mind, here are my top reasons why LinkedIn has a significant edge over Facebook, Google+, and those newbies who think they offer a better solution.

It’s about strategy, not tactics. Hiring top talent is not the same as filling positions with good people. Unknowingly, most companies employ a “candidate surplus” hiring model to fill their open positions, even the most critical ones. These means their hiring processes are designed around the idea of getting lots of people to apply, with the hope that a good person emerges. A talent scarcity model is totally different. In this case the hiring process is much more focused, designed around the concept that great talent is much more discriminating and a career opportunity discussion/decision dominates every step, from first contact to the final close. When viewed from a quality-of-hire perspective, LinkedIn’s advantages and options in the hands of a recruiter who actually recruits, rather than just screens, are far superior.

LinkedIn is a network, not a list of names. As mentioned in an earlier article, LinkedIn is not just a list of names to find and send emails. Instead it’s a 360° dynamic network of smart connections. Compare the flat list of Facebook to a clumsy hub-and-spoke distribution system (a one-to-many network) vs. instantly connecting everyone with everyone else by one degree of separation. This is almost equivalent to a point-to-point (everyone directly connected to everyone else). It’s this multi-level interconnectivity that allows a recruiter to Cherry Pick, PERP, and hopscotch (some advanced recruiter networking terms, see point 4) around his/her first degree connections and find a slate of pre-qualified candidates with a few phone calls and emails.

The short summary: a network is for networking, and real recruiters know how to network. On this basis LinkedIn is far ahead of its rivals.

Sourcing is not recruiting. If you have an excess of top talent to choose from who apply to your ads, you don’t need real recruiters. Microsoft was in this enviable position in the ’90s and Google claimed this space in  the ’00s. But selecting from a pool of top applicants is not recruiting; it’s screening and assessment.

Equally important, getting a list of names is sourcing, not recruiting, no matter how clever you are at Boolean searching. For example, there was a recent blog about how cool it was to be able to find primary school teachers in Ireland using state-of-the art Boolean terms. As a comparison test, I found pre-qualified candidates for the same job by calling up three headmasters at private schools in Ireland whom I found using LinkedIn’s seemingly prosaic advanced search tool. Even better, these candidates were all pre-qualified (I asked who the best primary school teachers they would want to hire again were) and they all called me back right away because I mentioned the headmaster’s name.

Navigation and the UI is critical. If you’re going to use a network for networking, LinkedIn has no peers. It was architected with this in mind. Real recruiters are as interested in finding hot prospects as they are in finding a person directly connected to a hot prospect. Getting referrals who have already been vetted and will call you back is the key to maximizing quality (see point 3 for an example), time to fill, and recruiter productivity (number of searches handled). You can accelerate this benefit by asking your employees to connect with the best people they’ve worked with at all of their prior companies. This is a PERP (proactive employee referral program). Then, when you have a search, search on their first-degree connections (LinkedIn easily allows you to do this). This is a high-yield effort. You can also Cherry Pick these connections by asking your employees (or any of your first-degree connections for that matter) about specific people in their first-degree connections. While you’re at it, using LinkedIn you can easily hopscotch around any profile you find by clicking the “Search for Similar People” button, the “Viewers of this profile also viewed…” feature, and even a person’s Recommendations. A multi-point network like LinkedIn allows you to do this stuff instantly. No other social media provides this type of interconnectivity.

Sourcing passive prospects and sourcing active candidates are not the same, nor should the choice of tools be. At the root of much of the LinkedIn vs. Google+ vs. Facebook vs. whatever debate is the fact that finding and recruiting people who are not looking requires a fundamentally different process than the one used for screening and selecting candidates who apply for your jobs. LinkedIn is great for real recruiters who are willing to pick up the phone and network. If you have plenty of great people to choose from or you’re willing to settle on the quality-of-hire metric, LinkedIn is probably not the best choice for you. On the other hand, if you’re a real recruiter you know it was designed with you in mind.

Long before I became a recruiter (I was an engineer working on inertial guidance systems), my first boss asked me to explain how these two concepts relate and why they were important to understand and apply: “Energy = Mass times the Speed of light squared and you can’t push on a rope.” I guess I was slow, since it took me a few years to figure it out. For a good engineer, knowing both is essential. The same principle can be applied to recruiting. If you think sourcing is recruiting, or that LinkedIn is not the primary platform for recruiting, you’re stuck on only half the solution to any complex problem.

(Hint: it relates to the adage – to a person with only a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.)

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!