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LinkedIn: Threat or Promise?

Ten years ago the advent of the job board brought with it an air of apprehension to the recruitment industry, with many recruiters fearful that the technology would render their profession redundant. Yet, far from dealing a fatal blow to the entire industry, the job board revolutionised the function of the recruiter.

History has a way of repeating itself, and this is the case with LinkedIn. That the professional network is ‘killing’ the role of the recruiter is a regularly discussed talking point within the industry. However, given the growing power of the LinkedIn brand, such talk is inevitable.

First and foremost, let’s establish one thing: LinkedIn in its current form will never do away with the need for recruiters. The tens of thousands of professional recruiters in the UK have not found themselves struggling in their careers because of LinkedIn. It is estimated that the UK industry will be worth £30 billion by 2015, and it is difficult to imagine a time when LinkedIn, jobs boards or any other disruptive technology might pose a genuine threat to its future.

No technology can replace the personal touch that forms the basis of the recruitment process. Nor can it take away the need for agents to carry out background research and groundwork; the time spent in sourcing candidates, understanding the requirements of the vacancy and matching the candidate to them, or enticing the people to the role. In short, recruiters needn’t start packing up their desks yet.

Trying to categorise LinkedIn as a ‘threat’ or ‘ally’ detracts from a more important question: how does it best serve the needs of recruiters? As a live, searchable database of 161 million people in over 200 countries, it is clearly a vastly important resource and any recruiter would be foolish to overlook it. While social recruiting continues to thrive, LinkedIn will undoubtedly become the tool of choice when creating online contact directories.

LinkedIn also significantly impacts on the balance of power between individual recruiters and larger agencies. Wind the clock back a few years and it would have been practically unthinkable to get ahead in the industry without the contact books owned by big agencies. Now, while recruiters working for agencies have to leave their database when they move on, they retain full ownership of their LinkedIn network, which is arguably their most valuable list of contacts. Coupled with solutions such as Sonovate, which provide the infrastructure and support needed to go it alone as a recruiter, entrepreneurial staffing professionals can now easily achieve success outside of the agency environment.

Despite LinkedIn’s benefits, it is important not to get so carried away with social recruiting that you forget your other recruitment channels. LinkedIn is a fantastic resource but there are other, often more meaningful, channels that should not be overlooked. For example, the telephone still remains a more personable, direct way of getting results and, no matter how automated the online recruitment process becomes, direct conversation is still king.

Taking everything into account, perceptive recruiters will recognise the strengths (of which there are many) and weaknesses of LinkedIn, and will work to incorporate it strategically into their recruiting strategy. One thing is for sure: LinkedIn is here for the long haul and, recognising the role recruitment plays in expanding the network, it will only become more powerful within the recruitment space.

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