Is LinkedIn eating recruitment?

Having just read an excellent post by Michael Overall on (, along with some divergent opinions in the comments I thought I might offer my view of the effect of LinkedIn.

First, I do recommend you read Michael’s post – its a well written warning to agencies that LinkedIn is going to take their business and that its not the same as the old job-board Vs. recruiter argument that oft weighs in around these discussions.

Second, although I try to play a very active role in the industry to support our clients  in effect as a recruitment software provider we are more like an external observer than most commentators on the subject. The debate over whether LinkedIn is taking over recruitment for the future, changing the landscape forever or just a flash in the pan is a hot one and not one that will resolve quickly. What I do see is very valid arguments from both sides as each is adept at extrapolating their prophecy for the future, however while I do believe both have merit, there is a large piece missing from the argument.

As Michael notes, LinkedIn has demonstrated an ability to execute on grand plans to become a significant element of the recruitment industry in just under 10 years, I would urge all that read this, whether you take any of my points, heed this – LinkedIn has the ability to execute on any plans they might make on a massive scale. They are not afraid to try something new and get it wrong a few times first.

Whether it is the ultimate recruitment tool, business development database, or company and product showcase, LinkedIn will have a significant role to play in B2B services or recruitment going forward. Personally I don’t believe that LinkedIn is the recruitment panacea that it purports to be, but its definitely the best organisation in the world at promoting its recruitment credentials. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that LinkedIn is not an incredible achievement, nor am I suggesting that it has not been part of an enormous change that has happened. On this note – although unlikely, I wouldn’t  be surprised if LinkedIn was acquired in a bid to enhance the product and company search giving better results based on the influencers in your network.


Its just the advent of job-boards all over again, isn’t it?

Where the similarity in this is interesting is that both events gave recruiters access to more job seekers than before, but as we know more candidates is more work, not necessarily more results. LinkedIn has given recruiters access to more candidates than ever before, and for some company hiring policies this will mean lots of new recruits, but as always finding the real talent has not got easier.

To think that LinkedIn will not change the industry because job-boards failed to is misleading, LinkedIn has changed it already, however not by creating a service that replaces traditional recruitment as is the prevailing fear, but rather by encouraging more employers to ehnance their own in-house recruitment capacity.


More In House

The threat to agencies of LinkedIn is not that it houses all of the candidate profiles for companies to recruit from, it is that it encourages companies to develop their in-house recruitment teams

The change has happened in the executive suites, those in charge have heard of the success of LinkedIn in attracting 175m profiles and in response they’ve increased emphasis on bringing recruitment in-house – why not, if all the candidates they ever want are on LinkedIn, why pay agency fees? 🙂

For me, this change is the most significant one, and the one that will have the biggest impact on agency recruitment into the future. LinkedIn’s technology may not be in itself the disruptive wave crashing over the industry, but it most certainly has been a catalyst that has facilitated an enormous shift.



LinkedIn is still a poorly performing candidate database for most agencies, accounting for anything from 2%-10% of placements, but conversely is hugely successful for in-house recruiters like accenture and pfizer.

I believe that the reason why the stats for agency success versus corporate success are so different is not a reflection on Linkedin, but on the relationship between the hirer and the agency. We all know that in general the hiring manager or recruiter will only go to agencies as a matter of last resort, and we also know that when paying recruitment fees, clients tend to expect a rock-star while only paying for a roadie, and lets face it, LinkedIn is not full of rock-stars despite what we all write about ourselves 🙂

Add to this, the types of hire that companies are getting from LinkedIn – we know that Accenture has plans to hire huge volumes through LinkedIn, and they probably will, but many of these roles would not have gone to agencies anyway, they would have been hired through direct advertising or graduate fairs, employer branding & pipeline.

This I think is the where the argument of what LinkedIn is doing really is – in a world where technology offers greater efficiency, we see this efficiency comes at a cost in other areas including increased competition or higher expectations on the outcome. With this in mind, I think that LinkedIn is not just any tool, it is the essential tool for a recruiter, but on its own it will not change the industry, just the challenges that recruiters face.


What next?

Embrace it, build your network, profile and recommendations, but don’t expect to suddenly make all your placements using LinkedIn. You wont find a more useful business development tool, so make sure your team leverages this.

Invest in your database, its proprietary, its validated, it contains contact information collated from years of recruitment. It allows you communicate individually and in bulk with your candidate base, keep in touch.

Refine your service offering – what is it that makes you better? is it your network, your reputation, your brand, your industry knowledge, your understanding of the client culture, your proces?

Get creative – if you can, don’t be afraid to try new services on your clients, innovate. If you’re going to review your charges, don’t just drop your fees, get something back in return – exclusivity/shared costs.

Standing still is not an option when the world is changing around you, adapt or die.


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One Response to Is LinkedIn eating recruitment?

  1. Michael Overell says:

    Hi Roderick

    Thanks for this measured, and thoughtful response. You make some great points. I particularly agree with your point about ‘More in house’:

    “The threat to agencies of LinkedIn is not that it houses all of the candidate profiles for companies to recruit from, it is that it encourages companies to develop their in-house recruitment teams”

    It’s not that LinkedIn is disrupting recruitment agencies on its own. But it has introduced a structural change in the way the traditional players (hiring managers, recruiters, candidates) think about accessing talent and opportunities.


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