Headhunter’s Lament: Why Don’t Job Seekers Use LinkedIn Correctly???

Maybe you've heard before that employment recruiters use LinkedIn in the same way that web surfers use Google: to search for the information they need. In the case of recruiters, what is needed are candidates that match the profile being sought. I am one such recruiter.

Sounds simple, right? Well in reality this is fraught with problems, most of which could be solved to the benefit of the job seeker and recruiter at the same time in a simple way. You see, if I can’t find you, then you have no visibility for the job that I know about.

First, let’s take a step back. LinkedIn is a large (more than 100 million members worldwide) professional networking site. It is free to use, and for anyone seeking work now, or expecting to do so in the future, this resource is simply gold! I won’t recount the features here; anyone that wants more detail is welcome to read this article: http://jobsearchinisrael.blogspot.com/2009/12/linkedin-tying-it-all-together.html.

People use LinkedIn for a variety of reasons. I am addressing now those of you who consider job search one of the objectives for maintaining a LinkedIn presence.

Recruiters use LinkedIn in two general instances:

A candidate sends a CV, and the recruiter would like to check for even more detail about them than can be found in the confines of a short document. In this case, the recruiter will do a LinkedIn people search on the specific person of interest, and view their profile. If you don’t have a LinkedIn presence, or your profile is weak (no detail, recommendations, achievements…), then this is a lost opportunity for you the candidate to impress the recruiter.

The recruiter has the job requirements for a specific role, and is searching for qualified candidates. Again, if you don’t have a LinkedIn presence or it is weak OR you haven’t included your contact details, then you are missing an opportunity to be available/reachable to the recruiter.

This is a case where recruiters and job seekers have identical objectives, to be known to each other. I, as a recruiter, am ready to do my part, but if you the job seeker don’t do yours, then you will remain invisible or undervalued by me, which doesn’t serve your purpose. We would all be better served if LinkedIn morphed into an international comprehensive CV/resume bank, up-to-date and in real-time. It has the potential, but job seekers can use it much better than they do today.

If you are searching for work and are not on LinkedIn (and you reading this sentence), I cannot understand your logic. LinkedIn is free! Maintaining a LinkedIn profile does NOT indicate to your current employer that you are seeking employment (in fact, your boss/colleagues are probably already using LinkedIn) – there is no risk! I can’t find you if you’re not there! You can’t use the power of networking if you don’t have access to others on LinkedIn. For all of you that may know job seekers that don’t have a LinkedIn profile, please send them a link to this article!

If I find you on LinkedIn, and you match my requirements, but I have no way to reach you, then the opportunity is once again lost. In LinkedIn as it exists today, if two people are connected directly, then it is possible to send a message within LinkedIn to the other person. Also, if two people are in the same LinkedIn group, then it is possible to send them a message within LinkedIn (although this became more difficult on LinkedIn recently, and requires inconvenient steps). However, many of the people that I find interesting are not connected to me nor do we share a group. You as the job seeker don’t want to leave this to chance. In your profile, include your contact details (email, telephone, whatever you want) in the summary and/or personal information area. If you don’t make it easy for me, then I am going to go on to other candidates.

Let me give some recent examples that I encountered of candidates being poorly served because of lack of effective use of LinkedIn. These are the results of various searches I did on LinkedIn for candidates based in Israel that meet different professional criteria:

The huge majority of these candidates of interest that I found that match my profiles did not have contact details in their LinkedIn profile, and I had no way to contact them. What a shame!

The person was not connected to me closely on LinkedIn, so I didn't find them in my searches.  The results of searches default to being sorted by relevance, which is some combination of search criteria match and closeness of LinkedIn connection to you.  If everything else is equal, the closer connections appear first, then people that share groups, and finally everyone else.  So, if there are many people that match my criteria, and we are not closely related nor do we share a group, then probably I won't find you.  Think of this as LinkedIn candidate SEO.

For people that I can contact directly via a LinkedIn message, either because we are connected or share a group, or because contact details are contained in their profile, oftentimes this email address is one that is not checked often by the person, a special-purpose LinkedIn email account. If you don't use an account that you check every day or two, in many cases the opportunity will no longer exist.

I found candidates on LinkedIn that might have met my search criteria, but the information that they provided in their profile was so scant that I couldn’t understand much about them.

I do candidate searches outside of LinkedIn as well because of the lack of universal accessibility. I found a number of prospects in this way. I then looked for them on LinkedIn, to try to understand why I wasn’t able to identify them directly. The results:

A number of candidates had no LinkedIn profile at all.

Some candidates gave their location as USA/Switzerland… on LinkedIn, so I had no way of knowing they were located in Israel.

Candidate's LinkedIn profiles were out of date, not including new skills they had acquired nor new jobs that they had held. 

People did not have the critical keywords in their LinkedIn profile. For instance, I found German speakers in Israel that didn’t include the word German in their profile. I found web analysts that didn’t include the technical terms SPSS and SQL in their profiles. In the same way that you should be thinking when creating your CV/resume, if a term, skill, achievement is important, whether it be language, technical or anything else, then you MUST include this in your profile. And as you add new skills to your portfolio, update LinkedIn. This is the way that recruiters search for candidates in LinkedIn, using keywords, and if you don’t include the relevant ones for your employment objectives, then you are invisible.

From the results of this exercise, I recommend the following to job seekers wishing to optimize their LinkedIn use for access to recruiters:

  • Obviously, the first step is to register for LinkedIn.
  • Ensure that your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and detailed.  Make sure you include all of the relevant keywords in your profile.  And don't forget to include your contact details.
  • Make as many connections as you can, and join as many groups as are relevant.
  • It is not enough to create a profile on LinkedIn, no matter how good, then forget about it. Every time something major changes, such as moving to a new job or acquiring a new relevant skill, your profile should be updated.

LinkedIn is a job seeker’s dream come true, and if you use it wisely, you significantly increase your chances of getting access to opportunities that you couldn’t find otherwise.

Ron Machol - May 2011

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