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Ask The Headhunter: Users Sound Off on LinkedIn

In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick Corcodilos shares some of the feedback he has gotten to a recent column about the job site LinkedIn. In it, he argued that LinkedIn acts like a “double-dipping” job board that charges employers to post jobs and charges premium subscribers for better positioning of their resumes. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Brett Farmiloe via Creative Commons.

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

Next week, he’ll return with insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

The Aug. 13 column “Ask The Headhunter: Is LinkedIn Cheating Employers and Job Seekers Alike?” drew hundreds of comments from readers and over a thousand Facebook likes. Job seekers, employers and recruiters raised good points and new issues about LinkedIn and job boards, while others offered comments that were worthy of more discussion.

We also got lots of email feedback and coverage on other websites. Here’s some of the best of what you had to say, along with some of my responses.

The following is excerpted from Next Avenue blogger Nancy Collamer’s post on Forbes.com, “Has LinkedIn Crossed An Ethical Line?”:

The Problem With the LinkedIn Fee

This practice discriminates against people who can’t afford to pay for placement.

But more to the point, it preys on job seekers’ insecurities by promising a benefit that is really no benefit at all. After all, how impressed is an employer likely to be when it knows you paid for placement?

Incredibly, by placing a premium badge next to your profile, LinkedIn makes it ridiculously easy for employers to know when job seekers have shelled out cash to get their resumés seen.

…Call me naïve, but I expected more from LinkedIn.

The company has proven to be an innovator. It has an incredible site and unparalleled networking capabilities for people in the working world. Its content is timely, interesting and valuable.

In short, LinkedIn does many things right. But when it comes to charging job seekers for premium memberships, the people there have got it all wrong.

…My hope is that LinkedIn will listen to the growing criticism about its Premium practice and amend its offerings.

Before we published our article about LinkedIn, we shared it with LinkedIn. LinkedIn provided no comments for publication. Next Avenue, however, printed this comment from LinkedIn spokesperson Joe Roualdes:

“According to our data, Job Seeker Premium Subscribers are twice as likely to be contacted by recruiters than other members. That’s because they’re highly active on LinkedIn and can send recruiters InMails, allow recruiters to InMail them for free, see everyone who has viewed their profiles and be placed atop lists of candidates who apply for jobs.”

I posted this comment on Forbes.com:

An open question to Joe Roualdes: Your comments about recruiters being more likely to contact you if you’re a premium member come off like a smokescreen. Who cares about that? Most recruiters are clueless. My question: What percentage of their hires do employers say are Premium members? All I really care about is success rates. Can we have some data, please? Thank you.

Here are some more comments (edited for clarity and grammar) that readers posted in response to my article and emailed to me.

Email from Bill C.: I find the Facebook-ization of job boards a bad deal for everyone. First, having my job history publicly searchable is not ever going to fly. Secondly, employers could discriminate before I even get an interview based on my “LinkedIn connections,” or even my photo. That’s all bad. Third, this problem was essentially solved years ago by Dice.com. Dice charges five times as much for employers’ subscriptions than LinkedIn. That means that my resume has much more value to the employer to start with.

Comment from Brendan Moore: I have had four job postings on LinkedIn (one for as long as six months), and the applicants who pay for premium status are wasting their money, according to the small sample of this single hiring manager. I am oblivious to those symbols, or where the applicant is in the column. It has zero value to me.

Comment from “Mr Wiseguy”: I don’t pay for LinkedIn; I have a free account. I get at least eight messages a day from recruiters with good jobs in my field. I don’t dispute the thrust of the article, but in my own experience, things have worked well just with the free account.

Comment from “1reasononly1”: Thanks Nick, you hit this one out of the park! Good info, and I appreciate the fact that you also take the time to read the comments of your readers — makes the world a little smaller.

Nick Corcodilos’ response: The Internet makes the world a lot smaller and makes it very easy for us all to communicate one-on-one, which makes it all the more puzzling: Why do employers use technology so extensively when recruiting and hiring, but too often don’t even send a personal rejection to an applicant? Why does HR make hiring so impersonal when the technology is here to make it more personal?

Email from L. Peter Deutsch: Thanks for your eye-opening article on LinkedIn. If I were an employer looking to hire (which I was when I was starting my small but successful software company about 20 years ago), I would respond to the sleazy practice of paid up-listing (premium subscribers paying for resume-placement) by working my way down the list and e-mailing anyone who had paid for an up-list to let them know that I would not consider them for the job because they had clearly indicated that they didn’t consider themselves good enough to stand on their own merits.

Nick Corcodilos’ response: What puzzles me is why job seekers don’t get past the guard (the online forms and the HR department), and why hiring managers don’t open the door to the most motivated applicants!

Comment from Jasmeet Sawhney: Great article, Nick. I agree that double-dipping is a big problem. But, do you really believe LinkedIn’s push into content/publishing is only to boost their job-board business? There is a big community element in it for the user, no?

Nick Corcodilos’ response: I do think there is a community element in content, but it’s not the agenda. Log out of LinkedIn and look at the LinkedIn home page. The only theme is big and bright: Jobs. No mention of networking, content or anything else. I think it’s obvious where this is going. All of LinkedIn’s assets are geared to driving the job-board business. It’s where the money is because they can’t figure out how else to generate revenue. What a shame.

Comment from Fred Riffle: I have a free LinkedIn account, and the criticisms don’t seem relevant to me. I liked LinkedIn, and the questionable services they sell, well, I don’t use them and don’t see the need to. So be it.

Nick Corcodilos’ response: I agree. But I also think the problem is that LinkedIn’s behavior points to new “features” like this coming down the pike. Do you want LinkedIn to be a better network, or a bigger job board? Soon we’ll find out what it’s going to evolve into.

Comment from “Magik13”: LinkedIn and headhunters all suck. Bunch of do-nothing middle men that made a business out of basically doing nothing. Most headhunters are unscrupulous.

Nick Corcodilos’ response: You’re absolutely right: Most who call themselves headhunters are unscrupulous and dialing for dollars. The problem with this business is that the cost of entry is virtually zero. But the ease with which newbies can quickly destroy their reputations is incredible. There are some good headhunters out there. They stay below the radar. They don’t surf the job boards, they don’t call people they don’t already know something about, and they don’t post jobs. They actually search carefully for the people their clients need. Nonetheless, your comment is dead-on for the most part. (See “How to screen headhunters.”)

Comment from “milwaukeegregg”: LinkedIn must not check people’s education. You can post whatever you want, what a joke! I know this because my son never finished high school and now, according to his LinkedIn profile, he has a college background!

Email from A. White: When I originally joined LinkedIn, they asked to access my contacts in Gmail. I had to tick off the ones that I wished to include in my network invites. They accessed and contacted everyone in my contacts. Some folks I really never wanted to hear from again. When I complained, they said I must have made a mistake and given them access to all. I know I didn’t. When I unsubscribed, as I was furious, I found that I was still receiving requests from LinkedIn. I was told to sign in as if I already had an account! Huh? I’d unsubscribed. They obviously keep everything about you, and when you unsubscribe, you’re still in the data banks. It’s a salutary lesson on why not to use social media. They steal contact lists, and you are theirs forever. Sounds like a contract with old Lucifer.

Comment from Chad Smith: I actually got a job through LinkedIn. I am not a premium member. The company that hired me based it on my experience, skills, education and several interviews. Thanks, LinkedIn.

Comment from Karen Nym: Employers have no one to blame but themselves. They are stuck trying to find a perfect candidate rather than one that they can train.

Nick Corcodilos’ response: Bingo, Karen! Yet solid research shows that employers are spending less on training today than they used to. Job boards turn people into replaceable parts — at least in their marketing. The fact is, this isn’t how it works. Employers need to make the investment.

Comment from “sharmeen”: As a recruiter, I use LinkedIn quite a bit (having a full paid account). I seriously don’t care where the resume is positioned. And it bothers me when a paid applicant pops up first. And no way am I going to look at the applicants at the top for the role. I have very little trust in the percentage matches the profiles show. It’s an algorithm that decides how well the candidate is matching my position? Forget about it. Any recruiter worth his or her salt is ignoring the paid dummy on top of my list. And yes, if you are paying for this upgrade, I am definitely asking why.

Comment from “jackbnimble269”: LinkedIn is a great tool for a variety of business/professional things, but I wouldn’t use it like a job board. As this column has noted many times, managers hire from people they know. LinkedIn is a great tool for making those connections and networking yourself to the right people. It’s also a great way to keep up with an industry. Like many other things, you’ll get out of it what you put into it. If all you do is throw a bunch of money at LinkedIn and expect to magically land a new job, it’s probably not going to work on a very high percentage. I pay for a premium membership, and I use LinkedIn almost every day.

Nick Corcodilos’ response: LinkedIn is a $1.46 billion business. Much of that revenue comes from its job-board business. That’s what it sells. The add-on services it pitches are focused on it. LinkedIn can be a very useful website. The question here is, why is it so focused on job-board tools that it now double-dips? You may not use it as a job board, but the employers behind America’s employment crisis use it primarily that way. What does that tell us, and what should we be doing about it?

Comment from “HaroldCallahan”: Nick, this article is one of the best you’ve ever written. It thoroughly demolishes the myth that job boards get anything done for anyone.

But, with all respect, I think you are still being too kind to LinkedIn. I personally never thought that it was a good idea. My very first reaction upon hearing about LinkedIn was: That’ll never work. A walled garden is antithetical to job searches. There is no way that a corporate culture of walled gardens can ever contribute positively to the field of recruiting. It’s just two fundamentally incompatible concepts. Human nature being what it is, the temptation to manipulate and corrupt the results will be irresistible.

Excerpted from BuzzFeed’s article, “Is it possible for a social network to age gracefully?”, (about my earlier article, “LinkedIn Payola: Selling out employers and job hunters”):

In the end, perhaps these concerns boil down to a fundamental problem with maturing social networks, summed up succinctly by this Hacker News commenter, who argued of Corcodilos’ piece: “isn’t this just inevitable with social networks? Over time they become sleazier and sleazier in search of revenue?”

There’s evidence to suggest that this endlessly repeated cycle, starting with excited commitment and ending with a loss of trust, is leaving users fatigued. A recent consumer satisfaction study cites an “increase in advertising on social media” as the main reason for social media’s shockingly low satisfaction score — below even airlines — with Facebook and LinkedIn at the bottom of the group.

Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?”, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark. This entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions

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