December 3, 2012

LinkedIn: Just another job board

Filed under: Job Search, Q&A, Readers' Forum

In the December 4, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a writer wonders about “social job hunting” on LinkedIn and Facebook. Is this a good new thing?

LinkedIn has recently expanded its job search functionalities. Facebook is also planning a job portal. What do you think about them? Do you see any value in linking job postings with personal social networks?

Filtering job openings using connections to people instead of keywords might give fresh ideas about where to work. An example of a simple filter: “Find openings where at least one of my contacts is working for that company.” If the search returns something interesting, there’s already an existing personal connection to someone who can help in the next step, which is finding out what the company is doing and whether it is the right one to apply for.

Do you think this topic would be worth an article in your newsletter or in your blog?

Nick’s Reply

First let’s be clear: LinkedIn is now a job board, not a social network. Just read its own home page:

LinkedIn Talent Solutions: Cut your cost per hire in half. Build a great employer brand.

Compare to CareerBuilder:

Job Postings: Gain exposure to the most candidates, enjoy powerful screening tools, and access the best training resources with CareerBuilder’s Job Postings.

Compare to Monster.com:

Power Resume Search: Stop Searching. Start Matching. Find the candidate you’ve been looking for.

It’s the three stooges of job boards. They’re all dopes. Compare the pitches. You’d never tell one from the other except for its name. LinkedIn sold out “relationships” for “jobs” when it launched its button.

These are database companies

I’ve been watching the moves by social sites into the jobs business. While at first glance it seems a natural thing for them to do, I think it’s more expedient than smart. They’re trying to find ways to generate revenue from their databases, and job boards are easy to add to any database model.

What LinkedIn and other social networks are avoiding is what’s far more challenging: adding more and better “social” to their models.

I think it would be more compelling for LinkedIn to use its social network to promote social behaviors that lead to job connections — without turning into yet another keyword-matching business. But it’s not.

I really haven’t seen anything smart come out of LinkedIn’s move. If anything, LinkedIn is now regarded as “the job board companies use.” Stealing Monster’s customers is an accomplishment, but hardly an innovation.

Sidetracked: LinkedIn turns to telemarketing job ads

LinkedIn had so much potential to be so much more — it’s the company went off on a side track that leads nowhere. I know some of the world-class relationship builders LinkedIn hired to create a robust social networking approach to jobs. Then LinkedIn suddenly instituted a quota system and told them to dial for dollars. A new management team hired telemarketers straight out of a sales boiler room (a job board) and booted the people who might have done something revolutionary. The new crew could be working at TheLadders, selling job postings.

Don’t limit yourself to links

That said, I think there’s tremendous potential here. Your idea of exploiting “links” to pursue jobs is a good one. But what concerns me is the premise: Asking the database for job openings where you know someone.

While it’s one logical avenue to follow, isn’t it incredibly limiting? This use of LinkedIn focuses on the low-hanging fruit — people you already know. In his book, Six Degrees, applied mathematician Duncan Watts shows that the most productive nodes in a network are the ones on the outer edge — in this case, people you haven’t met yet. On LinkedIn, there’s a great tendency to chase down nodes (database results) — and no compelling tools that actually foster new relationships on the edges of networks. (LinkedIn Groups are nice, but big deal. Yahoo! has those, too.)

The Zen of job hunting: Meet the people who do the work

My advice to job hunters is to “go hang out with people who do the work you want to do.” The object is not to link. (That’s too easy.) The object is to have shared experiences, so others can teach and judge you — and lead you to opportunities with others in their circles. You don’t need LinkedIn to do this, but it would have been a brilliant direction for the company.

So, maybe a smarter way to use LinkedIn is a Zen kind of approach. Don’t go searching for jobs through people you already know (your contacts). Go to the groups that are talking about the work you want to do. Go to the work. And meet totally new people. Make sense? Why limit yourself to where your friends work? Go to where you want to work and make new friends — who will get you in the door. This takes a lot more effort and probably more time, but I think you need to be clear about your goal — the work you want. Just don’t expect LinkedIn to help you with this Zen approach; LinkedIn is too busy counting job postings.

LinkedIn: Just another job board

I’d love to see LinkedIn get past “the database” and start thinking about how to foster experiences between its members. But LinkedIn’s myopia is seen clearly on its home page: It defines itself as a job board. Just read this claptrap from the leading “business network”:

Reach top talent with premium access: Find and engage passive candidates with premium search, full profile visibility, and best-in-class pipeline tools.

Gimme a break. LinkedIn is a job board and the world’s biggest resume repository. It can do far better.

As for Facebook’s foray into the job board business, can you spell ZYNGA?

How do you use LinkedIn? Is it just a fancy phonebook or rolodex? (I contend that’s all it is.) If you could take over LinkedIn, how would you change it, to make it a more productive tool for working with others? Join us on the blog with your ideas — or just to slap me around if you disagree.

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61 Comments on “LinkedIn: Just another job board”
By BL
December 24, 2012 at 9:22 am

Going public has ruined many good companies. They get too focused on quarterly profits and loose sight of the long term purpose.

By Manoj Khare
January 6, 2013 at 10:59 am

Nick, good analysis. I wish I was half as articulate as you in saying what I want – I would’nt have changed 6 jobs in 20 years, not because I was’nt doing well or I did’nt like the place, but because I was’nt paid what was promised.

Now, to the point – I got 2 of my 6 jobs through Linkedin but that was 3 years ago. Now, I am routinely being contacted by telemarketeers, people seeking performance appraisals (?!) and anyone but those I’d like to meet. It’s deteriorated into unprofessional chaos – agree with the online phonebook remark by Geff. So I’m shrinking my network, and opting out of groups which are filled with spam (which most of them are).

At the same time, I wonder where to go to escape this low quality platform Linkedin has become.

Is it so hard for online companies to set up a good conversation platform, one which does’nt have a zillion subscribers, but a well informed, relevant base willing to share unique knowledge and pay for use?

By Nick Corcodilos
January 6, 2013 at 6:47 pm

@Manoj: I think Ask The Headhunter is a great online conversation platform. I’m surprised more employers don’t use it to recruit. It’s so easy to identify people’s work ethic in their comments.

I agree: It’s too bad LinkedIn has deteriorated into a spam bin. That’s the price of selling out. They’re making money hand over fist selling job ads to HR departments, which are too stupid to realize what’s they’re doing. This isn’t recruiting. It’s picking low-hanging fruit. That’s a self-defeating strategy that disintegrates into wishful thinking.

By JRB
January 19, 2013 at 2:13 am

I find the user interface on LinkedIn to be horrible. I find it hard on the eyes. I cannot spend a lot of time on the site – I find it too busy and too much information in a poorly organized fashion. They are very pricey. I also use it to keep track of people. In order to connect you need an email address – so I already have the contact info.

By joy2b
January 21, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Less than a year ago, I recommended linkedin to a friend who was getting laid off, and was trying to figure out who could help him get a job, and where. He had pretty good results, and did find it useful for working the edges of his network as you suggest.

First, he used a second degree connection to get in touch with a VP of a local company, who passed him onto HR with high complements for initiative. He got two interviews in short order. While it was no guarantee of a job, but it certainly got him in the door, and considered seriously. He ended up coming into another job in our company, with less than 2 months out of work. Our recruiters are active on the site, and he was actively networking via friends inside the company who’d talk to recruiting, so it’s hard to say whether the site helped, but it probably saved recruiting some time.

I use linkedin so when a professional googles me, they find something. My facebook page reveals very slightly too much (a little politics and a family), so I hide it from google even when I’m not actively job hunting. I haven’t had a personal website since the 90s.

I also recently subscribed to a group in my specialty. It’s a small specialty, a few hundred people worldwide, so if I occasionally get mass emails from other people in the group, they are worth a glance. The last one was for a 3 week contract (probably so they could take a long leave over the holidays) and I considered taking time off to earn some extra money.

I’m usually on the shy side, so it’s a bit of an effort moving from meeting someone to considering them part of my network. The site has helped me expand outside of my own company and personal friends, and into connecting with my favorite clients, and being reached by some professional contacts I’ve helped. My current job is sometimes considered a stepping stone further into the field, and my coworkers use it (and facebook and aim) to keep from losing track of each other.

By Nick Corcodilos
January 22, 2013 at 10:52 am

@joy2b: Sounds like you have a good method for using LinkedIn.

By Ask The Headhunter® | Nick Corcodilos – LinkedIn Payola: Selling out employers and job hunters
July 22, 2013 at 8:27 pm

[…] Another job board, CareerBuilder, used to offer top position in search results for $150. (CareerBuilder’s New Ad Campaign: What’s a sucker worth?) LinkedIn may call itself a business network, but now it’s just another job board. […]

By Mark in Seattle
August 16, 2013 at 1:03 am

Hi Nick –
Thanks for all the great columns – I love the Zen discussion in this one. In your Dec. 5 comment above, you asked about evidence of LinkedIn sending out mass emails to users’ contact lists. I assume you have that one figured out by now, and here’s a discussion of the problem when people allow LinkedIn to access to their email account contact lists:
http://community.linkedin.com/questions/3030/mass-mailout-of-invitations.html

Regarding the question about using LinkedIn, as a career changer I have my old profile for the first career with a simple chronology of employers and no connections (allows old friends to find me), and the new profile where I show them the new me (and the new networks are building). So far, so good.

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