LinkedIn and the Future of Recruiting

By Jerome Ternynck
CEO, SmartRecruiters

LinkedIn kindly invited me to attend Talent Connect, their first large scale customer event hosted this week in San Francisco. Here are some of my key takeaways.

A Crowd of Innovators:

This was not just a crowd of happy customers. It was clear attendees came to learn and to help. It felt as if the crowd was unified around a common quest: to make the world of recruiting a better place.

80 Million Users and Counting:

It took LinkedIn 477 days to reach the one million user mark, but only 9 days to sign up their most recent million for a total of over 80m users today. Their growth in the professional world is simply

Holding 80 million resumes is incredible. Holding 80 million up-to-date resumes is incredibly disruptive. When I left MrTed to found SmartRecruiters I immediately updated my LinkedIn profile. So LinkedIn has my current profile while every headhunter, ATS, job board, and independent database has become outdated.

If you’re still relying on old-school databases (including your own for that matter) you are hunting in a graveyard.

“The Source”:

The question of whether LinkedIn is going to transform recruiting forever is not a matter of “if” or “when” but “how”.

LinkedIn has become and will remain “The Source”. No more resumes, no more databases. Just standardized online profiles. We have entered an era of transparency. Transparency generates trust and it triggers good
behaviors. Now recruiting will have to be social again. And that is
great news.

After years of hunting, fishing, and farming, recruiters (and managers) will now have to start socializing with the people they wish to hire.

Views: 638

Comment by Jerry Albright on November 5, 2010 at 10:38am
Christopher - I've found a way to dig candidates out of just about every source known to man - except Facebook and Twitter. Some do. Most don't.

Linkedin is the most valuable tool that has come to the recruiting world in quite some time. I love it!
Comment by Paul Alfred on November 5, 2010 at 11:21am
For a while there Jerry I thought you hated LinkedIn.....
Comment by Slouch on November 5, 2010 at 12:24pm
Congrats Jerry on the deals.

Comment by Martin H.Snyder on November 5, 2010 at 1:08pm
The evergreen "Recruiters are finished" will never, ever, ever come true. Firms have a qualification view of people, while Recruiters have a market view of people. The two mindsets will never go away, and the market view is the more powerful and accurate one (duh). Firms will always need intermediaries because game theory says that input (recruiting fees) that changes game conditions (enforcing asymmetric information among players) is well worth the expense if the changed game conditions are plus-sum for most or all players, which they appear to be.

Moving from one tribe to a new tribe is always, always, always going to be a decision and process fraught with emotional and symbolic meanings that technology will be challenged to decode, but which skilled Recruiters handle automatically.

Now that we know that Recruiters are not going extinct, I can offer that I think LinkedIn is very disruptive and hugely valuable; so it's both a threat and opportunity to our business. If they offer ATS, they will get a lot of share quickly, esp. with low-complexity users, but an ATS (and I hate that term with a passion) is not just a database by any means, and thinking of ATS as mainly a resume store is a decade out of date.

A well used ATS has massive input from its recruiter-users to create/transform data into usable information, in arrays that LinkedIn could never replicate, unless it was providing the platform, which is a business challenge on many levels beyond just providing a tool.

If they don't work closely with major ATS companies (who matter because they have major customers), they risk missing chances to add to the value chain, which is never helpful.

They also have their own meta worries- if Facebook figures a clean way to provide a "professional" half and a "personal" half, LinkedIn will be the first and biggest casualty. How many online "platforms of record" does an individual need ? If the answer is about "One", LinkedIn better get busy with that value chain.

I think the two big lessons LinkedIn reveals today are that work is not social, (per se), and that of all the potential for 'networking' and 'social' media that LinkedIn first started with, clearly Recruiting has become its Raison d'être, which says a good thing about our industry.

LinkedIn could have been Facebook, which may change the kool-aid frame when you think about it. I think they should start working, hard, with everyone in the 'sphere to establish themselves as value drivers in each area: candidates, corporations, third-party staffing/recruiting industry, and HR service vendors, because all are interlinked in their own value chains.

The right model may be the financial world, which has similar complex crossovers among target value receivers and providers, with LinkedIn potentially a form of exchange or rating entity that seeks to provide value across the board and becomes indispensable by complex connections and arms-length dealings, rather than strict marketing success year-to-year in gathering eyeballs or playing fashionable favorites in deciding which partners to promote and which to suppress.

I should have just posted this comment as a blog post itself...maybe I will. I'm kind of bored with blogging, I always liked commenting better. I like editing better than writing too ;-)
Comment by James Todd on November 5, 2010 at 1:50pm
Martin, I like the way you analyzed the issue from the market perspective. Jerry hits the mark with anectodal evidence (5 placement in a week, none via LI) that LinkedIn is not the dominant source of candidates some think it is. However, Martin allows us to see it issue from a broader perspective. Recruiters are market purists, they will use whatever works, any data source that associates a potential canddiate with an occupation, a location and provides contact information is going to be exploited by the community. The prices for those data sources are going to reflect the efficacy of the data source. When you see Job board prices plummet and LinkedIn prices explode then we can credit Jerome for his LinkedIn corporate sponsored prognostication.

However at the moment his statement "LinkedIn has become and will remain “The Source”. No more resumes, no more databases. Just standardized online profiles" is far from true.
Comment by Russell S. Moon III on November 5, 2010 at 2:05pm
Jerry you know how to get it done, sprinkle some of your magic dust (knowledge) on me.
Comment by Paul Alfred on November 5, 2010 at 2:18pm
So Jerry is the de-facto standard as to whether or not other Recruiters like Jerry ( Don't take it personal Jerry) have been successful or not successful with LinkedIn - So I made a few placements without LinkedIn in the last 2 months does this mean that LinkedIn can't be an effective tool in addition to traditional Recruiting tools .. ? The emphasis is on Tools folks LinkedIn still needs to be used in addition to or as a complimentary tool with Traditional Recruiting methods to maintain decent Recruiting Monthly Rev flow ...
Comment by Jerry Albright on November 5, 2010 at 2:18pm
Just for a little clarification - I was just throwing some recent data into the mix. Linkedin is a gift to recruiters no matter how you look at it.

When I start a new recruiting mission - it's my first place. But I don't always expect to find the person right there in plain view. Just punch in some keywords and you'll find hundreds of companies that employ that type of person.

Then go to and get the list of most people that work there - by department even!

Some times I'll go back then to LInked to see if I'm within a few degrees of any of the people and connect.

This is done along side other methods as well - split partners, my own database, possibly sticking the job on a few free job boards - all of it - all the time.

You never know where your next placement is coming from. That's what makes it fun!
Comment by James Todd on November 5, 2010 at 2:36pm
Paul, I think you missed the logic of what I said. Jerry's success does not disprove that Linkedin is not valuable, it just proves that it is not the only source that is valuable. Which is the statement made in the original blog. My point was that the market supports the same conclusion, Linkin may be useful, but it is almost definitely not the primary source of placements in the industry. If it was, the prices for other sources would have fallen of the cliff.
Comment by Gerry Crispin on November 5, 2010 at 2:38pm
Jerry Albright's point is so much more important than he will ever be given credit for (OK, I give you credit all the time).

In a world of 6 billion people, 80 million is as small a number as 4o million, or 10 million or 5 million etc. - It's not how many but how good and how current....and then speed becomes the factor. When the universe of prospects are not ALL recognizable on the database, there is enormous value in the added efforts required by recruiters to define and narrow the playing field.

Our culture (US) cringes when the gorilla in the room reaches 800 pounds... and Linkedin is 850 lbs. Monster has slimmed down as have half a dozen other gorillas in allied spaces. More to come.

Linkedin is useless in the hands of someone who doesn't truly understand what he/she is looking for. Recruiters are not all equal. not by a long shot.

Linkedin is useless if you can't recognize when you've found it. Most recruiters can only offer the 'Art' of the selection. For them, Linkedin is sufficient. Few recognized that principles surrounding the science of selection were set down a century ago and are still relevant today but are just now being adapted to new media. Linkedin isn't even in the picture.

Linkedin (and everything else) is still packaged 1-way i.e. employer finds quality talent. Until quality candidates have equally powerful tools to independently find managers seeking them (oops - recruiters) as easily and as naturally as recruiters find them, social media will not realize the paradigm shift potential its advocates claim it has.

We've yet to realize the potential imagined (and described) 20 years ago by Tim Berners Lee solved a simple problem for Physicists being able to communicate over a common platform. Whenever I hear 'graveyard' for everything except... I tend to go back to the beginning and remind myself just how fast things can change.

So Jerome, what else did you learn?


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