LinkedIn and Third-Party Recruiters

I received the following email recently, forwarded from Jeff Allen (Jeff’s On Call!) by an upset recruiter:

Hi Jeff,

I’m a fan of yours and a subscriber to Fordyce. Like most…subscribers, I also spend a small fortune on LinkedIn every year. (Probably $3k-$50K depending on the size of the group). It appears that the sales folks at LinkedIn are aggressively going after our customers and trying to dis-intermediate us. I believe this is infuriating and unethical. Is there anything we can do as a group?

Please see the letter that one of their sales people sent to one of my clients. 

Hi [potential corporate customer], I wanted to give you a chance to speak with a product specialist here at LinkedIn Corporate. I noticed that [potential corporate customer] has hired candidates that were already on LinkedIn last year. We would love to speak with you further about 2011 and [potential corporate customer]’s hiring needs. I also wanted to make you aware of some of our corporate recruiting solutions & employment branding that might help [potential corporate customer] to:

  • Eliminate 3rd party staffing spend (LinkedIn’s network has 100 Mil members, 4Mil/mo growth)
  • Reduce time to hire for hard to find niche talent and increase overall quality of hires by tapping into passive candidates
  • Positioning [potential corporate customer] as an employer of choice & provide differentiation from competition

Are you available to speak next week, in hopes to show you how to better leverage LinkedIn for future hiring? I can promise you that LinkedIn Corporate Recruiting will change the way you recruit & hire.

All the Best, [LinkedIn representative] Sales Development SpecialistLinkedIn Corporate Solutions.

Jeff’s response:

Hi [Recruiter’s name removed],

Great hearing from you!  Knowing your professionalism, I can see why you are so upset.

Unfortunately, this is as infuriating as it is legal.  But then again, fighting back is legal too.

So we’re going to publish the e-mail verbatim (excising the name of your valued client and the LinkedIn “Sales Development Sepecialist”), since it speaks for itself. I encourage all Fordycers out there to let LinkedIn and others know just how they feel about this frontal attack on its best customers.

Thanks for being a fan — we’re all in this together.

As always,

Jeff

Recruiters —  I notice two things here:

  1. LinkedIn, as (now) a publicly traded company, is doing what all companies do — taking measures to make money. Whether or not their method of approach to this is honorable is what is up for discussion.
  2. This recruiter has developed a solid enough relationship with her client to the point that they actually shared this correspondence with her. How many of you have had clients share this kind of information with you? I think it speaks volumes of the recruiter whose client thought enough of her to share this. Good job!

For those who may not be aware, LinkedIn actually has two recruiting-focused products: LinkedIn Recruiter (for corporate recruiters) and LinkedIn Recruiter Professional Services (for third-party recruiters). So they are benefiting from both sides of the table.

Not only that, but LinkedIn also has an employee referral product called Referral Engine that was announced last year (apparently still in beta), which encourages employers to actively encourage their workforce to put a profile up on LinkedIn for the purpose of enhancing employee referrals through their professional networks. Yet at the same time, LinkedIn is actively, and aggressively, pursuing recruitment customers that will farm the very employees it has just encouraged employers to freely share their profiles. The nerve!

To add fuel to the fire, recently Tim Sackett, EVP of HRU Technical Resources, wrote an article discussing this very topic. In his article he wrote,

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Here’s LinkedIn’s marketing problem with their two products… they are both disrespectful to both parties. Corporate recruiters Listen Up – LinkedIn is giving you great access, because they know you won’t use it. That you aren’t as “aggressive” as the 3rd Party Recruiters. They know giving you full access is no big deal, because Post-and-Pray corporate recruiters won’t put the work into the database to really cause any issues with their membership. You are really the biggest joke of all this – LinkedIn doesn’t even see you as a threat to their membership database – so they give unfettered access.

3rd Party Recruiters, LinkedIn just wants to pick off the weak ones in the pack – the idiots who don’t get you can put together a simple boolean search string in Google and get the same exact access to LinkedIn information as you can get with their paid product. LinkedIn believes you don’t give a shit about your reputation, so they can’t give you full access, because you’ll go crackhead-crazy and contact every single one of their 100 million members to try and sell them a Java Developer job in Fargo.

After you have finished chuckling at Tim’s obvious passion in writing this and have absorbed all of the information in this article, take pause to think about the situation at hand. LinkedIn is offering two similar yet different recruitment services to two similar yet different potential customers — they are dealing from both hands. Basically telling the corporate customers that they can do a better job than third-party recruiters, and telling third-party recruiters that their product can do the job better than their corporate customers can. They are pitting potential client against potential client — threatening to take business from one and put it into the hands of the other. The message says, ‘If you’re not a customer… then you’re a target.’

So let me throw a wrench in here; maybe it’s just me playing devil’s advocate, but isn’t the practice of pitting competitors against one another something that we, as third-party recruiters, do when we are conducting business development as well?

You be the judge. I want to hear your your opinions.

Amybeth Quinn began her career in sourcing working within the agency world as an Internet Researcher. Since 2002, she has worked in both agency and corporate sourcing and recruiting roles as both individual contributor and manager, and also served previously as the editor of The Fordyce Letter, FordyceLetter.com and SourceCon.com, with ERE Media. These days she's working on some super cool market intelligence and data analytics projects. You can connect with her on Twitter at @researchgoddess.

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