Why one million LinkedIn users in Thailand is irrelevant

  • Reading time:8 mins read

PUBLISHED IN SEPTEMBER 2015

Congratulations to LinkedIn for just recently passing one million members in Thailand. Out of context, you too would agree that this is a significant achievement. But here is the but, and it’s a big but!

A few years ago, I asked in my blog if LinkedIn was killing the recruitment industry. They say that Curiosity Killed the Cat; a reference to the dangers of unnecessary experimentation and speculation.

Herein lies a possible answer to the question of whether LinkedIn is in the process of pushing the executive search and recruitment profession over the cliff. Dear reader: hold your speculation.

LinkedIn reports that they now have 380 million members in over 200 countries and territories.

  • 56% are male
  • 87% are 35 years of age or older
  • The US has 107 million users, while the UK has 17 million
  • 61 million users are registered in Asia
  • 10 million users are located in China and 7 million are in Australia
  • Thailand has 1 million users

Thailand has a labour force of 38 million people from a population of 67 million. Of the 38 million, only 6 million have a higher education according to Thailand’s National Statistical office. Higher education is defined as a diploma, bachelor or master’s degrees.

So if you go hunting for new staff on LinkedIn, you are fishing in a pool of one million out of six million higher educated people. You are dipping into a group that makes up only 17% of the potential.

So the question you must be asking yourself, what about the balance of 83% that represents the five million higher educated people, who have chosen a life without LinkedIn?

I hate to add insult to injury but someone has to make the point – active candidates who are looking for a job, or those that are at least open to consider a new position, are proportionately only a small population of the best talent. High performers are almost always employed and seldom look for a job.

OK, let’s say that you accept finding candidates out of just one million, because they are registered LinkedIn users in Thailand, and let’s say that you gladly ignore the other five million higher educated who are also out there.

You find that one profile which looks about right, someone who on paper ticks the boxes of preferred industry, right education, and excellent relevant experience. Now what?

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 rather than sales for a reason.

Few people 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 with the person you found on the Internet and LinkedIn.

We call these points for Employee Value Proposition in executive search. You must be good at selling the job opportunity, have a high influence factor, be able to quickly establish a good rapport, have a strong impact when you communicate and be full of confidence. These traits are hallmarks of 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 or hiring managers.

Having said all that, I do believe that the recruitment companies who only sell resumes lifted from Internet job boards or their own databases 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 15 years ago.

You see, fewer people now hang out on job boards, participate in discussion forums, or check Classified Jobs in the printed media. I know of some who have taken down their LinkedIn profile, or made the profile private, to avoid being chased by desperate and hungry corporate and recruitment recruiters.

The reason? Just being fed up receiving calls or in-mails every day asking if they want another job.

I should really laugh when I see now many HR and line managers blindly and cluelessly continue to post any managerial and top executive vacancy on 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 no laughing 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 any other senior executive?

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.

I’m 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 shoplift on the Internet.

I guess the first people to be 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.