While LinkedIn has been around for years, many have only recently begun to effectively leverage this tool in networking, business development, market positioning, and recruiting. In the October 2013 issue of The Friedman File, I offered a healthy dose of skepticism regarding the ubiquitous use of LinkedIn and how many seem to be using this tool with little regard to how they may be perceived and whether they’re making the most of their precious networking time. I also offered tips for would-be networkers driven to boost their number of contacts, but who pay little regard to the quality of their communications or other more efficient ways that LinkedIn enables you to disseminate your name, credentials, and thought leadership. In this issue of The Friedman File, I want to delve into LinkedIn’s value as a recruiting tool.

LinkedIn has revolutionized how professionals enhance their own exposure and position as a thought leader in their industry and among their clientele. Conversely, LinkedIn has also made it much easier for A/E/C firms to identify and reach out to professionals who may be strong candidates for a position they’re seeking to fill.

LinkedIn supplants traditional job postings

Most firms are familiar with the traditional uses of LinkedIn for recruiting. These include:

  • Posting a position description on the firm’s LinkedIn page
  • Having select LinkedIn users post and share an open position
  • Posting on other LinkedIn user groups that potential candidates may frequent

One important application of LinkedIn that I believe receives far too little credit is its role in identifying and contacting potential candidates. And in this way, LinkedIn fills a very important void that many firms struggle with. In spite of having lived through previous episodes of “talent wars,” many firms still seem to be caught flat-footed in today’s robust hiring environment. Have we forgotten that job postings often primarily yield candidates who are out of work for a reason that makes them less than desirable? Have we forgotten that the most appealing candidates are gainfully employed and need to be lured away through a compelling narrative about your firm’s culture, growth vision, and opportunities for growth that the position affords?

No doubt, many of these individuals are unhappy and ripe for the picking. The reasons are numerous:

  • They stuck with a non-progressive firm during weak economic times because they needed a job.
  • They have reached the proverbial glass ceiling.
  • They feel frustrated with the pace of change in their firm and obligatory “time served” before they can advance their careers.
  • They long for the culture that existed before their firm was acquired by one of the giants.

Using LinkedIn to look for the needle in a haystack

A more compelling application of LinkedIn for recruiting is identifying robust candidates using prudent search strings. Such strings usually include a geography, a client sector, and a discipline (e.g., “municipal architect Illinois”). Keep in mind that nowadays, most candidates worthy of consideration now have a LinkedIn page — although many pages are static and lack sufficient detail. The best LinkedIn pages have:

  • Current and previous employers and positions (enabling you to track down their contact information)
  • Academic background
  • Select representative projects
  • LinkedIn groups to which the candidate belongs
  • Testimonials from past/current colleagues and business relationships

As you probably know, you can only gain access to someone’s connections if they’re a “1st degree” connection. But did you know:

  • One of the most valuable aspects of Linkedin is the right side of an individual’s profile page, which lists, “Those who viewed this profile also viewed these profiles.” This section provides the names and profiles of individuals with similar titles, roles, and client focus.
  • By upgrading your LinkedIn membership for as little as $25-$50 per month, you can reach out to 3rd degree connections to whom you otherwise wouldn’t have access via LinkedIn’s “InMail”? Depending on your membership upgrade, you’re allowed a specific number of monthly InMail messages and are guaranteed a response (if you don’t receive one, your account is credited that outreach).

A case study with a healthy bang-for-the-buck

For a recent executive search I conducted focusing on Texas, I identified through LinkedIn research a retired CEO who had a strong presence in the market I was targeting. After crafting and sending a thoughtful, professional e-mail requesting a brief phone call to seek this person’s insights and advice, I heard back within a few days. He agreed, we scheduled and conducted a call, and quickly built a rapport. He immediately connected me to two superb candidates — one of which was just hired by my client, while the other is being pursued. (Imagine the potential applications of this approach to business development!).

What’s the bottom line when it comes to LinkedIn and recruiting? When you hear “posting,” think “passive”. The value of LinkedIn lies in the potential for active candidate research. On the flip side, if you’re a firm principal or HR professional, recognize that LinkedIn is here to stay and that your staff members’ profiles are out there — accessible to not only those who wish to do business with your firm, but also recruiters.

Given LinkedIn’s very low barriers to use (all one needs is Internet access), the firms and individuals that use LinkedIn’s most subtle, finessed features will come out ahead. Just as collecting the most business cards at a conference was so ’80s and ’90s, having the highest number of LinkedIn connections (often by accepting invites from anyone with a pulse) is so 2010! Most people are significantly underutilizing this valuable tool. Tell me about your thoughts and experiences (rich@friedmanpartners.com; 508-276-1101)!