I love LinkedIn. But I do not trust LinkedIn.

For recruiters, it’s obviously a key tool, and clearly a brilliant invention that is part of a seismic shift in the way recruitment works. I wish I had invented it.

But I believe, that for agency recruiters, LinkedIn is not your friend.

Don’t get me wrong, we need to use LinkedIn, and become better at scouring its database for the nuggets that reside therein. We also need to use it for developing client prospect lists, and be sophisticated in building our personal credibility, profile and brand, via status updates and group discussions. That much is a crystal clear, to even dumb old me.

But I do start to get uneasy when LinkedIn is accused of illegally accessing users’ personal email accounts without permission, and subsequently ‘harvesting’ email addresses, which it then uses to send multiple emails that appear to be endorsed by the LinkedIn member. In fact US members of the site have filed a class action complaint, now before the courts. (For the record, LinkedIn deny these claims vigorously.)

Sure, that makes me nervous. But what worries me much more even than this, is that it is obvious that LinkedIn does not care about staffing companies. And I do not trust LinkedIn to act in our best interest. In fact they are doing quite the opposite, right now. While LinkedIn sells its recruitment packages to agency recruiters aggressively on one hand, seducing us to partner with them and eschew other forms of sourcing, they quite blatantly sell the same service to corporates using (and I quote from their marketing literature) lines like…

“We will reduce your agency spend and reliance”

They don’t even try to hide their disdain for our industry, as witnessed by the very blatant threat in their IPO prospectus, which read;

“We believe our solutions are both more cost-effective and more efficient than…… hiring third-party search firms, to identify and screen candidates.”

But even this does not cause me sleepless nights. An enemy identified, with its plan exposed, is possible to beat.

This does though.

I can’t help think that LinkedIn, being as smart as they are, know that 90% of hires are made directly, without agency intervention. They are also fully aware, indeed part of, the trend, for corporates building recruitment strategies that bypass agency recruiters.

It’s obvious then that the real market for LinkedIn is the corporate hiring manager, not agencies at all. That is where 90% of their potential market is after all, and it’s where the market sentiment is too.

Jeff Weiner CEO of LinkedIn laid out the plan as recently as December 2012

“Our vision at LinkedIn is to digitally map every economic opportunity in the world (full-time and temporary); the skills required to obtain those opportunities; the profiles for every company in the world offering those opportunities; the professional profiles for every one of the roughly 3.3 billion people in the global workforce”

The underlining is mine. Is that not clear? They want to own vacancy and job seeker matchmaking, globally. Temporary and permanent. Do you think their plans include keeping third-party recruiters in the game? 

I think not. Recruitment agencies will be road-kill as far as LinkedIn is concerned.

Add to this the fact that LinkedIn is adding new members at the rate of 2 per second. No typo there. That’s two new members – per second!

So if you were in the LinkedIn Boardroom bunker, would it not be clear?

Use agencies as a cash cow while we build our global database, but at the same time deftly seduce corporate hirers as well. Then, when our database is so compellingly strong and filled with the cream of global talent… BAN agency recruiters from our platform altogether!

That’s right. Ban agencies altogether.

Then, what a compelling sales pitch LinkedIn would have for their corporate client base. Their real target market.

“Mr/s. Corporate client we have the largest database of talent on the planet, and no recruitment agencies are allowed to touch them.”

This last part is unashamedly a conspiracy theory. I have no hard evidence to prove that is what LinkedIn plans. No one told me this.

However it is true that I made these exact statements at a recruitment conference in Sydney recently, to an open-mouthed audience listening in horror as I painted this doomsday scenario. And an executive from LinkedIn was in the room when I said all this.

And he was the next speaker at the conference. And I hung around to hear what he would say. Thought it might be entertaining.

It was. But not in the way I thought.

This is what he said;

“I agree with 95% of what Greg Savage said. Now on with my presentation”

No denial. No explanation. No comment at all.

Makes you ponder doesn’t it?

Do you trust LinkedIn? Have your say below.


The Savage Truth UK Masterclass in London is on November 22nd. Join us please.


Views: 3975

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on October 29, 2013 at 12:08pm

I think we can absolutely trust in to do everything possible to benefit LI- increase its near-monopoly power, I raise rates/charges, and lower services whenever possible.



Comment by Rob McIntosh on October 29, 2013 at 2:05pm

Greg - All I can say is that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Comment by Candy Bradford on October 29, 2013 at 2:22pm

It's basically the same story that was told about Monster and CareerBuilder taking over as the primary recruiting tool for companies.  Yes, they make it seem a way to skip using a recruiting firm, however in my 34 years of recruiting I still haven't seen anything that can compete with Direct Recruiting.....just don't lose your skills to pick up the phone and call directly, LinkedIn will never be able to replicate that.....

Comment by Roni Zapin on October 29, 2013 at 2:31pm

Thanks for this Greg.  As a charter member of linkedin (and a small recruitment agency owner), I have watched this happen over time, and have been telling this to anyone that will listen.  I have been wanting to write a post about this, but yours was more articulate than anything I could have written (probably due to my emotion on the topic).

One of the my latest hot buttons: the fact that we have all entered all of our contacts information into linkedin across all platforms (which includes their addresses and phone numbers). Yet, when you do an export of your contacts, all you get back is their name, company and title.  Why does Location become Linkedin domain?

Comment by Edward N. Woycenko on October 29, 2013 at 2:40pm

LinkedIn was built on the backs of the recruiters whom they have consistently tried to put out of business.  If you take a look at the majority of profiles, the profiles are primarily job duty and responsibility oriented, most without any form of accomplishment.  If a company recruiting strategy is solely oriented to LI, then mediocrity might be the highest possible achievement for that organization.  In a study I did approximately 1 1/2 years ago, I set out to find whether LI was seeking to be a market dominant player in the talent acquisition business or whether they were primarily trying to monetize what they have already done.  After looking at 16 functional free market countries, including India and China, LI's market penetration was less than 1/2 of 1%.  When you combine that with the current path LI is embarking on, which is content driven, it seems obvious they are trying to be a variation of Facebook. Recent statistics indicate that 84.4% of people on LI have a free account and that 52.5% of people on LI spend less than 2 hours a week on the site.  If people were really benefiting from LI, don't you think that more individuals would be paying subscribers and be spending more time on LI?  In my opinion, the question on social media is: are the social media companies going to run out of money before people lose interest, or are people going to lose interest before they run out of money.  I believe these issues will be resolved within the next 2-3 years.  I am more concerned about the proliferation of mobile phone numbers without a directory than anything social media can do to recruiting.

Comment by Judi Wunderlich on October 29, 2013 at 2:51pm

Last February at the annual Staffing Industry Analysts conference, the owner of Elance.com was presenting, and at the end of his presentation he made a comment to the effect of "well you know LinkedIn will be going into the staffing business." Shock spread through the audience.

Not so shocking now.

Comment by Paul Alfred on October 29, 2013 at 3:17pm

Hmmm ... Yes LinkedIn provides a service for Recruiters and has a very profitable stream for the Corporate Market looking to save money.  If you pull LinkedIn out of the conversation since 2001 companies have been looking at reducing their cost per hire by building their own internal recruitment teams.

Some companies have been very successful.  Put LinkedIn back in the picture 2004/5 and the sourcing cycle is made easier with the utilization of Linkdin's social business network.  They are a business and we need to recognize that they will continue to find ways to drive revenues by providing value to yes "both" their markets.

Guess what, the Recruitment function is more than I found a guy with Technical Architecture experience- folks sometimes forget that great recruiters are still needed to identify, pre-close, prepare, present and close candidates on roles and one sec, close clients on on candidates " The why hire him" and " Why should I leave for 10k less" has to be addressed by experienced recruiters.  Solve that problem in the (recruitment cycle- outside of a company building their own internal killer recruitment team)  then and only then recruiters should worry.... Recruiters need to continue to provide superior value in the era of the Social Business Network that is LinkedIn ....

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on October 29, 2013 at 4:59pm

@ Judi, @ Paul: what if Li decides to start hiring recruiters and develop an RPO line?


Comment by Russell White on October 29, 2013 at 5:10pm
I agree with 95% of what Greg says! In fact nearer 98%! However I think LinkedIn would spectacularly fail if it were to ban third party recruiters. Although I understand the strategy if it were to ban us!

It is beginning to fail already, with people no longer engaging with the site and its services, moaning about erroneous approaches by in-house talent scouts and poorly trained recruiters, on top of the numerous irrelevant emails received everyday from LinkedIn itself.

As a 'job board', which LI categorically denies it is, it is inefficient and not very useful. As a social media tool as Greg pointed out its Privacy policy is flaky and there is no way users can control who can see the info they post. We recently conducted a survey about LI and found that only 20% of active job seekers found their job through the site, no worse a percentage then third party recruiters.

As a recruiter it is not my first place to go looking for talent. I have better sources. In fact when we recruiters are banned from LinkedIn we will see an uplift in activity as clients turn to recruiters who have reverted to methods used before it came into existence.
Comment by Paul Alfred on October 29, 2013 at 5:13pm

@Keith ... RPO's exist Keith ... This is a multibillion dollar industry for a reason. The recruiters that continue to provide A1 service and focus on a niche markets will be successful over the long term ... Look at recruiters who service the Skilled Trades industry .... LinkedIn does not have a foothold in this area and there are recruiters who thrive in this area just as example .... 


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