LinkedIn kills the recruitment industry?

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They say that Curiosity Killed the Cat; a reference to the dangers of unnecessary experimentation. Here in lies perhaps the answer to the question if LinkedIn is in the process of killing and pushing the executive search and recruitment industry over the cliff. Many clients and candidates ask me how LinkedIn has impacted our executive search business the last few years.

LinkedIn reported that in January 2013 they passed the 200 million members in over 200 countries and territories. From the LinkedIn demographics and statistics 2012, I notice that Thailand has 300,000 registered members in LinkedIn.

According to Thailand’s own National Statistical Office in December 2012, we have a labour force of 40 million people of which 6 million come with a higher education. A higher level education is defined as holding a diploma, a bachelor or a master’s degree. In other words, the 300,000 Thailand registered LinkedIn members represent only 5% of the group of higher level trained people in Thailand. Now, combine that with the research from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, that at any given time only 16% of us are actively looking for a new job. So how much or many is 16% of the 5% who by definition are active applicants and candidates?

If we take the liberty of assuming that all 300,000 Thailand based LinkedIn members are there because they are interested in a new job, I suppose one could argue that a call or mail to such individuals would easily yield a shortlist to your hiring manager or client. But honestly, is that assumption just even close to the actual fact? No, I don’t think so.

What many forget is that just having someone’s name and contact details does not mean you have your next candidate victim. The search and recruitment process is by far over, probably just 2% into the long recruitment process. Finding a name in today’s wired and increasingly smaller and smaller world is obviously a piece of cake.

The biggest challenge is what happens next. I mean after you have that name and LinkedIn profile. Just reaching out, asking the person if she is interested in a new job, surely will not cut it. But then again, this is the question inexperienced recruiters, corporate or recruitment companies, gladly ask right after they have introduced themselves. And don’t forget that HR managers are in HR and not in sales for a reason. Few in HR find it to their liking to cold call someone and sell a job opportunity. Yes, recruitment is for a big part Sales with a capital S.

You must bring unique selling points to the table, when you establish contact to the person you found on the internet and LinkedIn. We call these points for Employee Value Proposition in executive search. You must be good in selling the job opportunity, have a high influence factor, able to quickly establish a good rapport, a strong impact when you communicate and be full of confidence.  These traits are hallmarks of a great sales manager and a top recruiter.

Why else will the executive search and recruitment industry never be pushed aside? Remember when internet job boards came into our world? Remember when large multi-national organisations set up their own recruitment departments, often with staff from the recruitment industry? Some predicted it was the end for headhunters and the like. Despite these initiatives mentioned above, the recruitment industry is doing well, thank you. In fact, with the expected contraction in the labour force, it’s not anyone’s guess what that brings to the industry. The best kept secret: golden days ahead for the professional headhunters; that is, if you can find the candidates for your clients.

Having said all that, I do believe that the recruitment companies who only sell resumes lifted from the internet job boards or their own data base, will find it tougher out there. Without any value added services in their product offering, their client companies will hesitate to pay for a pile of papers with names of people who have not been qualified to their requirements.

If you find it a challenge to identify applicants and candidates, ask yourself if your company is using technology tools, internet job boards and tactics learned 20 years ago. You see, more and more people no longer hang out on job boards, participate in discussion forums, nor do they check Classified Jobs in the printed media. I know of some who have taken down their LinkedIn profile, or made the profile private, so to avoid being chased by desperate and hungry corporate and recruitment recruiters. The reason? Just being fed up receiving calls or emails every day, asked if they want another job.

I should really laugh when I see now many HR and line managers blindly and clueless continue to post any managerial and top executive vacancy on the internet job boards. In Thailand alone, there are many choices when it comes to where you can buy a small piece of internet real estate for your announcement, which your company is looking for people.

But this is not a laughable matter. It’s nothing but mis-management and really a reason for dismissal. Ask your preferred internet job board provider for their candidate demographics. One of the major job board players in Thailand will tell you that around 90% of their candidates are younger than 30 years of age, earn less than 100,000 a month, and have no bachelor or master’s degree. Now tell me if that looks like a really good place to find your next Finance Director or other senior executive positions?

Even worse and plain incredible is to see client companies use a recruitment company who in turn post the vacancy on the job board, harvest whatever applications reach the email inbox, send the collected resumes to their client and if someone is hired finish their job with an invoice. Not sure who should be first in the line of fire, the client or the recruitment company. Oh well. If only such recruitment companies would stop calling themselves headhunters when all they do is shoplifting on the internet. I guess the first person to get fired would have to be the ignorant HR department.

Tom Sorensen

Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years of experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters.