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LinkedIn: a blessing or a curse for HR professionals?


February 1, 2019

Since its launch in 2003, LinkedIn has become a behemoth of professional social networking. With more than 20m users in the UK alone, and over 500m worldwide, it has been specifically designed to help people showcase their career history and skills, as well as build their professional network. On the face of it, LinkedIn should be nirvana for busy recruiters and HR practitioners (as well as candidates), but has it become as much a curse as a blessing? 

Speaking personally, my network of around 4,000 Lean professionals is very important to me and my business, and I spend time every day on the platform. However, this also means that I see the best and the worst of LinkedIn and regularly hear of my own clients’ and contacts’ frustrations with the service.   It would be churlish to publish an article on LinkedIn solely examining its weaknesses, so here I aim to provide some advice from a seasoned user on how to avoid the worst of the pitfalls, while acknowledging the ugly truths of the network.  

Chaos theory 

By its sheer size and continued growth rate (allegedly two people sign up every second), perhaps it’s the case that LinkedIn has become too big and unwieldy? Just as consumers are turning away from out-of-town hypermarkets in favour of high street minimarts, is the vast marketplace of LinkedIn too overcrowded and cacophonous?

Visiting a chaotic souk on your holidays can be a delightful cultural excursion, but most of us would find it exhausting and frustrating to do our weekly shopping in such an environment.   My solution to this exponential growth is to nurture my network and manage its development carefully.

LinkedIn may be chasing the numbers, but you shouldn’t. Make quality connections with people who you can help, show that you can help them, then they will recommend you to others.  

Reputational damage 

For all its sophisticated search functions, recruiter tools and other business services, LinkedIn as a recruitment portal can be a dispiriting experience. Cost-driven, poor quality and all-too-often a numbers game, finding the right candidate or job role is full of frustration, wasted time and frequently ends in disappointment. Add to this the cowboy recruiters doing their best to profit from the frenetic Wild West atmosphere, LinkedIn has arguably done more harm than good to the reputation of HR. 

For the good of our own recruitment practice and the reputation of our industry as a whole, HR professionals need to be exemplars of professional networking on LinkedIn. Choose the right tools for your purposes and, however difficult your search for a candidate or job, never resort to desperate tactics. Reply to messages, stick to your promises and be mindful that this is a public platform where bad behaviour will always catch up with you in the end. 

White noise 

An increasingly spam-infested environment, LinkedIn is in danger of losing the trust of its users. Members of the network complain about inappropriate approaches and sexual harassment, unwanted connection requests, tedious click bait and annoying features such a ‘congratulate X on their work anniversary!’.  

When used properly, LinkedIn can be a great tool for building rapport, finding like-minded connections and sharing expertise – all of which are invaluable in the recruitment process – but with so much unwanted noise, it’s increasingly hard to find the people you want to hear from.  

Productivity drain 

As with so much of today’s technology that was originally intended to save time and promote efficiency, LinkedIn can really drive down productivity. In common with other social media sites, it can grab your attention and quickly drag you down an unexpected rabbit hole.  Similarly, managing the flow of messages and InMails, connection requests and comments on your posts can suck up huge amounts of time which ultimately may be achieving very little.  

I find that taking a discussion offline by picking up the phone (or, God forbid, meeting face-to-face) can be a much more effective and efficient way of connecting, but of course that is subverting the founding principles of the platform, which is designed to keep you on the site as long as possible. 

Necessary evil? 

Perhaps LinkedIn is a necessary evil for today’s HR professional? However, I would counsel against using it at the expense of other tried and tested recruitment techniques. As discussed in my previous article, while technology undoubtedly has an important role to play in recruitment, it should never replace effective human interaction.   

If you’re reading this on my LinkedIn feed, you’re clearly a user of the network, in which case I’d be particularly interested in your views, experience and advice.

Furthermore, if your LinkedIn recruitment strategy isn’t working, I’d be delighted to discuss how I can help. Email [email protected] or call me on +44 (0)7583 149243.

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