Is LinkedIn really the recruitment game-changer?

Written by
Norrie Johnston

09 Oct 2015

09 Oct 2015 • by Norrie Johnston

Did you know that only 8% of HR professionals fully believe LinkedIn profiles? Therefore Norrie Johnston asks, is it really that much of a game changer? Collating information from 100 HR heads about the effectiveness of using LinkedIn as an executive search recruitment tool Johnson talks us through the findings.

LinkedIns limitations

With a third of the world’s executive talent pool, some 360 million members, registered with LinkedIn, it is undoubtedly a massive resource for organisations looking to recruit executives. However as our research found, it has some limitations. The first of these is veracity. In essence, only 8% of HR heads fully believe the LinkedIn profiles they see, and 29% feel they are likely to be less honest than a CV.  

This is perhaps not completely surprising, after all a LinkedIn profile isn’t purporting to be a CV. Rather it’s a valuable snapshot of an individual. However, some elements of that snapshot appear to be of limited use to would-be recruiters. For example 37% say that LinkedIn recommendations aren’t of much value as they are often simply swapped and 47% see endorsements on the channel as unreliable.

LinkedIns role

That’s not to say that LinkedIn hasn’t got a valuable role, and one which organisations looking for talent ignore at their peril. For instance, 45% of the organisations studied say it is used by their internal recruitment team and 21% expect their external agencies to use it too – which we certainly do. 46% of HR teams sometimes use it to peruse senior candidates who have applied for a role. A further 31% have advertised posts on the channel and the same number has also used it for headhunting, proactively reaching out to executives. Indeed over half of HR heads are using LinkedIn to build relationships with prospective candidates before they are even in the market to recruit. 

With such a searchable database at your fingertips, LinkedIn has eliminated the need for in-house recruiters to build and maintain an internal database; in fact we found only 11% using LinkedIn to build their own talent pool.

Although advertising roles on LinkedIn is booming business for the site, with 3 million active job listings posted, only 4% of the HR heads we questioned feel LinkedIn advertising is ideal for senior executive roles, commanding a salary in excess of £70,000. There appear to be a number of reasons for this; the first is privacy with some arguing that direct advertising on LinkedIn doesn’t provide anonymity for the would-be employer or candidate, with 41% believing that this is why such senior executives prefer applying for posts through a recruitment agency.  

Another issue is reach; a third of the HR heads we studied say that while LinkedIn now has over 300 million members, many are not regularly using LinkedIn, so the channel cannot be relied on to reach them. While for companies looking to recruit from a truly international talent pool, the mighty LinkedIn membership has some significant gaps; over one in four (26%) argue that LinkedIn is simply not used widely enough by senior personnel in certain countries such as Germany.

LinkedIns challenges

It is also fair to say that senior recruitment isn’t just a numbers game. Simply accessing a vast pool of candidates may be a false economy or indeed create a huge, overwhelming task for the internal team. 48% of the HR heads certainly appear to be mindful of this with 25% reporting that wading through such candidate volumes consumes a huge amount of internal team time.   

Also, LinkedIn on its own, or in the hands of the internal recruitment team, cannot do it all when it comes to filling senior and highly technical roles which, according to almost one in five interviewed, requires specialist recruitment skills.

There is also the question of certainty to contend with. When companies are searching for senior executives they want the certainty that they will get a shortlist of qualified, well matched candidates in a predictable timeframe. LinkedIn may offer many benefits but it simply cannot guarantee such a result. This is why 43% of the organisations in our study say they still value the traditional recruitment agency route.


I’m by no means denying LinkedIn’s powerful influence. On the contrary, I’m a huge advocate of it – but LinkedIn isn’t usurping the recruitment process, it is massively powering it. It is accelerating the speed with which top candidates can be found. Its empowering internal teams which is ensuring good agencies stay at the top of their game, but such agencies still have a valuable role in the recruitment of senior executive talent.