Tried and Tested . . . But Tired: How an Over-Reliance on LinkedIn Hurts Recruitment

It’s dangerous to overly-rely on any technology. GPS won’t work in many mountainous regions, and has been known to steer people over cliffs! Spell check on your Smartphone can make you seem like a dummy if you’re not careful. And, if the internet is down, never mind streaming that new flick you’ve eagerly awaited.

Likewise, LinkedIn has limitations. And those individual recruiters or organizations using this platform more or less exclusively as their go-to tool for recruitment are at a distinct disadvantage when trying to hire the best and the brightest. This is not a personal gripe. LinkedIn has been useful to me personally and professionally as a way of staying connected with current and former colleagues and clients as well as building my network since its founding in 2003. Fifteen years have elapsed since then and LinkedIn has become far more sophisticated since it, in 2005, introduced features squarely aimed at recruiters.

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But, like any tool, LinkedIn has drawbacks that we need to recognize. Most of my concerns emanate from the demographics of the site, as reported by LinkedIn:

  • 70% of LinkedIn users are from outside of the U.S.
  • 133 million users are from the U.S.
  • 3 million active job listings are on LinkedIn
  • 40 million students and recent college graduates are on LinkedIn
  • Users are 57% male and 44% female
  • After the U.S., India, Brazil, Great Britain and Canada have the greatest number of users
  • 13% of Millennials (15-34 Years old) use LinkedIn
  • 28% of all internet male users use LinkedIn, whereas 27% of all internet female users use LinkedIn
  • 44% of LinkedIn users earn more than $75,000 per year

The Implications

If you are hiring for a position in the US – 133 million users may seem like a lot but really isn’t if you consider the overall size of our labor force and the total number of job openings. Doing the numbers seems to indicate that there are far more jobs being posted than job-seekers, particularly since many LinkedIn users aren’t on the site as a way to search for a job; most still use it as contact database for their personal and professional network.

Additionally, it’s a tool used by several professions for applications beyond recruitment: sales professionals use it for business development purposes and research firms use it for due-diligence. So, if you agree with the premise that there are more opportunities posted than there are active candidates on LinkedIn and are still relying on it as your talent pool, you’re short changing yourself.

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If you are intent on hiring millennials – note that the majority of them are NOT on LinkedIn. That really excludes a whole generation of employees. Millennials still tend to populate other social media sites like Snapchat, Pinterest,Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

If you are hiring for certain professions – note that many industries and roles, such as candidates with technology backgrounds, don’t use LinkedIn. In scenarios such as this, using a search firm with deep expertise in a variety of tools is your best bet for finding candidates with elusive skills. Most recruiting firms are investing in training and research that includes LinkedIn — but they also utilize dozens of other tools including, but not limited to, deep internet sourcing and research proprietary databases, association/conference lists, diversity and veterans’ organizations and highly specialized job boards that cater to functional roles.

If you are wondering why you’re not getting a response to your postings on LinkedIn – consider that:

  • Many professionals are ignoring your entreaties because they are simply getting too many of them from all too many recruiters OR
  • Your target candidates are getting skittish because of all the scams on the internet these days OR
  • That a high proportion of people (estimated at 70%) using LinkedIn are not active job seekers but rather passive job candidates and they find your Inmails intrusive. Many LinkedIn users have their InMail notifications turned off so they won’t even receive an email notifying them when someone sends them an InMail. The only way to know whether you have InMail is if you log into LinkedIn and check your notifications. Considering that only 40% of LinkedIn users login daily, the chances of someone receiving and replying to your InMail in within a day or two is very low. That’s why savvy recruiters use LinkedIn as a research tool but employ a personal approach to get the attention of an in-demand executive, like sending a direct email or and — oh, wait for this! — a good old-fashioned phone call!  As recruiting has become ever-more transactional, I’m still a believer that a bit of wooing can go far to entice a passive candidate to consider a move.

If you’re questioning why your recruiters just can’t seem to find candidates – suggest that they cut back on their use of LinkedIn and use other channels to recruit. Frankly, there is a tendency for LinkedIn to make corporate recruiters lazy when they assume that it’s the only place to find candidates. The mistaken assumption is that posting an opening on your website to attract active talent, combined with a posting on or a search of LinkedIn plus a bit of research will generate hires. Wrong.

Hiring an external firm that has perfected deep research and is accustomed to working multiple sourcing strategies simultaneously adds an additional layer of coverage in the market for top talent and that is likely to generate value.

Sage Advice

My advice – and precautions – about using LinkedIn can be summed up as:

  • Use it wisely, but not exclusively.
  • Recognize its limitations. Don’t be lazy.
  • Investigate the new tools available and adapt the ones that best fit your hiring needs, by function and by position.
  • Finally, think creatively. Don’t be lulled into thinking that LinkedIn is the be-all, end-all tool.

Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor

Contributed by J. James O’Malley, partner at TalentRISE. Jim has spent 25 years on both sides of the table, developing HR and talent solutions to align leadership, talent, and business needs. He joined TalentRISE in 2012 as a partner and can be reached at

TalentRISE | 20 N. Wacker Drive | Suite 4120 | Chicago, IL 60606

P:  312.878.4104| M: 312.479.3367

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This is absolutely spot-on and relevant right now. As a business advisor I’m working with a search firm CLIENT and one of the items we’re dealing with is using LinkedIn vs. the phone. My first question is always, using LinkedIn how?….


As an aside, from a candidate perspective, LinkedIn’s recruitment advertisement technology is flawed (partially LinkedIn/partially client).

Recruitment ads stay up forever and a day, and old ads are often attached with the LinkedIn button “be an early applicant.” There is no ad management on either side (client/LinkedIn).

In addition, aggregators are ruining all boards. Most recruitment ads can be found on twenty different boards.

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