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Has LinkedIn Eroded Third Party Recruiters Unique Value Proposition?

Each time a highly qualified applicant adds their resume to LinkedIn, a tiny piece of your valuable database containing the applicant's details is eroded... you’ve effectively lost the ‘USP’ of your proposition. 

Or have you?

Who once said ‘knowledge isn’t power, it’s what you do with it’... was it Carnegie? Well I can’t remember and it’s not important who said it, because it’s true. 

Just because legal and technological information is widely available online, does this mean we don’t use lawyers, engineers or mechanics?

I hope you get my point.  This may be an orange to apples comparison, but I hope you respect my point.

Because we professional recruiters can do things with that data most clients could never dream of achieving, especially without a dedicated in-house team. 

OK, let’s rewind I hear you say.  Because whatever argument we recruiters may have regarding our unique skills, the information we hitherto is out on that big public forum that is the Internet. 

… available to clients, other recruiters, spammers, even my Grandmother.

It’s well published that big names like Accenture and Pfizer have taken LinkedIn as a catalyst to develop their own in-house recruitment teams and by-pass agency fees, especially for volume work. And more than 90 of the FTSE 100 are reported to utilise LinkedIn for their recruitment efforts.

Dutch based Jacco Valkenburg, Recruitment Architect at Recruit2, feels LinkedIn is more of a threat to traditional job boards.

"Instead of relying on selecting from the best possible applicants, organizations can use social media to proactively search for the best candidate" Valkenburg said.

"For that reason, more and more organizations are embracing direct sourcing via LinkedIn and stop advertising for jobs."

Why LinkedIn ‘needs’ us

But let’s not forget LinkedIn’s IPO – that’s ‘Initial Public Offering’ to the uninitiated – was in fact totally reliant on the recruitment industry, who coughed up the dough that sustained the company through early growth.

Hardly a sign LinkedIn is destroying value off our balance sheets.

It’s not the Data that Counts, it’s What You Do With It

It seems madness to argue LinkedIn hasn’t devalued those ‘little black books’ – i.e. databases recruiters used to splash out big to acquire (or built organically) in order to maintain contact with ‘premium’ candidates… and the deep net of so-called ‘passive candidates’ not currently looking for a job i.e. the cream of the crop.  

LinkedIn is the de facto database for most recruiters nowadays, and this allows skilful recruiters to match relevant candidates with matching roles.

Edinburgh based Betsy Williamson, and Managing Director of niche financial sector recruitment outfit Core-Asset Consulting, adds that LinkedIn is merely a tool in meeting companies demand for applicants with special skills, and something we as an industry should embrace.

"A comprehensive and high-quality recruitment approach involves a number of complex stages – it is not all about the search, far less a search conducted entirely through social media channels" Williamson adds.

"Add to this, the increase in recruiters being asked to match individuals to companies, not merely skills and experience with job descriptions."

"In the area that Core-Asset Consulting specialises – the Scottish financial sector – cultural fit is becoming more and more of a crucial factor in a successful hire. This is not only for the hiring organisation but also for the applicant."

"The growing popularity of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter has provided recruiters with an additional route from which to find candidates, but it is only this. As long as companies have difficult-to-fill roles – vacancies which demand applicants with specialist skills, niche experience and a close cultural match – social recruiting will only ever be a single tool in the recruitment toolbox, not the entire box."

Ross Coverdale of Leeds based Head Resourcing, an IT recruitment specialist, feels one must look past LinkedIn’s scalability and instead focus on building quality relationships which will carry on even if LinkedIn turned its lights off tomorrow. 

"LinkedIn has been touted as a double-edged sword for the recruitment industry – right now it is full of benefits for recruiters, but I’ve heard a lot of people in the industry talking about their ‘long-term game plan’ to put recruitment consultants out of business."

"I personally don’t agree that this is the case, but it does spark an interesting debate."

"The problem in my eyes is how LinkedIn appears to be approached by many as ‘just another database’ that can be mined for contacts to discuss job opportunities with."

"LinkedIn is a social network – that is, it’s a tool for growing and maintaining your network of professional contacts – and it should be treated that way."

"People who use it to simply add as many connections as possible, without doing anything to keep those relationships warm, won’t get as much back from their efforts as those who do."

"Ultimately the power should be in your relationships, not in the hands of LinkedIn. If they switched off their servers tomorrow, and your connections list is full of people you haven’t contacted since you connected two or three years ago, for example, what do you do next? Chances are you’d have to start all over again from scratch" Coverdale added.

However, since candidate data is more available to prying eyes than ever before, expert matching and networking skills have never been more important.

Manchester based Stephen Thompson, Managing Director of Forward Role, a niche digital marketing Recruitment agency, feels the rise of LinkedIn means established players must provide a better service than ever to guard market share from what he terms ‘pretenders’.

"Linkedin has significantly lowered the barriers to entry for recruitment businesses in the UK, providing a ready-made database of candidates allowing new entrants to compete against the databases of established players," he said.

"This means the ability to build and foster long term brand loyalty with clients and candidates to protect against new pretenders more important than ever."

"The only way to do this is by delivering a best in class service that compels candidates and clients to come back to your brand."

Even though LinkedIn has undoubtedly eroded at least some of the unique value which third party recruitment agencies can provide to their clients, especially in access to ‘proprietary talent’, there will always be room for the talented recruiter who can find gold where others cannot.  

Plus let’s face it; most clients just aren’t that savvy when it comes to finding clients; that’s why the ‘recruitment’ profession exists in the first place.

So relax.

The recruitment industry isn’t going away, at least for now.

And let’s not forget the myriad of skills need to turn cold data into an actual shortlist of valuable prospects... skills such as cold calling prospects... telephone interviewing... all skills which third party agencies far outshine client companies at.

Acquiring a ‘list of names’ from LinkedIn’s database is no more useful than guessing a reputable plumber from a list of two hundred whom are listed in the Yellow Pages.

Plus it certainly isn’t true that everyone is on LinkedIn... and let’s not forget that LinkedIn profiles embellish, and embellish big.  So it’s essential to be able to seek out the wheat from the chaff.

And the truth is, recruiters work for their commissions... and work incredibly hard. Because the average time it takes to fill a role is two months, and A LOT of hours can be put in to hire the correct candidate.

Anyone who says recruitment is ‘money for old rope’ really is ignorant to what our profession entails.  

And let’s not forget the human aspect.  Just because LinkedIn says there’re 10,201 Sausage Bakers within 20 miles of Manchester, this doesn’t mean these folk care who you are.  The value is not in the list, but the relationship with the list... otherwise spammers would be the richest folk in the world!

Our profession requires grit and the ability to ‘duck and dive’ to make deals come off – skills that are seldom found in the ‘9 to 5’ culture that is ever present in in-house recruitment setup.

The successful recruiter must call candidates who are often happy in their current role... and then sell the role in question to them... and contact often is made outside the 9-5 ecosystem. 

 ‘In-house’ HR is not what we do... what we do is more akin to sales than traditional ‘HR’. ‘HR’ really is a distinct skill to ‘recruitment’.

Anyone can ‘scrape’ a list of names together, but that doesn’t mean much.  And until ‘soft skills’ can be coded up, the third party recruitment industry isn’t going away any time soon.

If the ‘list of names’ formula worked, Facebook would probably be enough!

And any notion that clients are ‘saving money’ by bringing the recruitment function in-house is a flawed one, since the cost of bringing the function in-house is, as many a blue-chips have discovered at their peril, far excessive to using an outsourcer.


We’re not discounting the immense value LinkedIn has as a recruitment tool, and it’s likely the tool will go down in the annals of recruitment history as a game changer, or perhaps the impetus for something even bigger to come.  

That said, we disagree with the assertion that LinkedIn replaces the recruitment industry... at least until the human element can be replicated in a digital format.  

At least for now the third party recruitment industry is safe!

Admin | Fri 9th Jan 2015


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Amanda Wright Rec to Rec - Recruitment Specialists for the Recruitment Industry, specialising in recruitment to recruitment. © 2021 Amandawright rec to rec recruitment consultants