LinkedIn’s Head of Talent Solutions Previews Big Changes

By Roy Maurer Oct 7, 2015
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Eduardo “Eddie” Vivas joined LinkedIn in February 2014 following the $120 million acquisition of his startup Bright.com, a data science firm that matched up resumes with job descriptions. He now heads product development for LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions business, overseeing research on ways to improve LinkedIn’s recruiting tools for employers and job seekers.

Vivas is clearly passionate about connecting talent with opportunity. He discussed with SHRM Online where LinkedIn Talent Solutions is heading, what kinds of new tools will be available and how HR can benefit from using the massive online professional network.

Vivas will be making product announcements in more detail at Talent Connect 2015, LinkedIn’s annual corporate recruiter conference, Oct. 13-15 in Anaheim, Calif. Can’t make it to the West Coast? You can tune in to the live stream.

SHRM Online: What changes are in store for LinkedIn Talent Solutions?

Vivas: There are two key themes to our product philosophy going forward: making our products simpler to use and leveraging our relationships asset.

One of the processes I kicked off was to take a step back and spend a lot of time with our internal recruiters and our customers to better understand what we’re doing well and to see where we had room for improvement.

One of the biggest insights I came back with was that recruiters want our products to be simpler to use. Boolean searches [a type of search allowing users to combine keywords with operators such as AND, NOT and OR to narrow down more-precise results] are really successful with our products and maximize value. But a lot of people, even full-time recruiters, aren’t interested in learning Boolean. They’re interested in finding the right candidates and recruiting them.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we can make our products simpler to use. Not in the sense of dumbing down, but making it so that interacting with our products will help you find what you’re looking for without having to know Boolean syntax.

Hiring isn’t just done by the dedicated hardcore recruiter. It’s also done by the HR generalist or the hiring manager. If you look at those different groups now, you see one group doing really, really well, and I want the other groups to be just as successful.

Another big insight I came back with is that our identity asset—our member profiles—is incredibly powerful given that it’s constantly updating so that you can find the most updated version of someone’s career history and what skills they have. But contrary to the general LinkedIn.com experience, we on the recruiter side haven’t really focused on the relationship assets that we have. When users go to a profile on LinkedIn, the first thing they do is look at what that person does and the second thing they do is see who they know in common.

In general our recruiting products are really focused on the identity of the person—“who is this person, what job matches for this person, how can we market our company’s brand to this person”—but we’re less focused on leveraging relationships that the organization has. As recruiters, how do we become more intelligent about who we reach out to? Instead of fishing the ocean every time, why not leverage our employees’ relationships?

SHRM Online: Are we talking about a referral mechanism?

Vivas: Yes. Companies leverage relationships today via referrals to determine who would be good culture fits to join their organization. But when I think about the innovation that has happened in the past 10 years in recruiting, I don’t think we’ve innovated in the referral space. I don’t think social media and social recruiting has cracked the nut on that.

We’ve found that when people are contacted by someone who has some sort of relationship with someone they know, there’s a 2-3 times higher response rate. They’re much more likely to have an understanding of who you are. Leveraging relationships through all of our products is going to be key to unlocking a lot of the power companies have today but can’t yet see.

SHRM Online: Can you give me an idea of what that functionality will look like?

Vivas: Sure. Potentially there could be notifications to employees that say “hey, you know someone who would be great for this certain role.” It’s less about specific new product launches, and more about how the philosophy of leveraging connections will manifest itself within everything that we have today. Today our products are structures based on the recruiter and the recruiter’s relationships. The future we want to arrive at is one where we are leveraging the recruiter’s connections, the company’s connections and the employees’ connections. You’ll get much more scale out of it.

SHRM Online: So HR would be using LinkedIn’s member assets to build talent pools to serve the company’s recruiting function?

Vivas: Absolutely. Today, we haven’t really unlocked that power of bringing the entire company into the process, where employees could bring in somebody relevant. And we haven’t made it easy for recruiters to see who the organization knows or for employees to know what roles are open.

SHRM Online: Would employees have a referral functionality?

Vivas: That’s the way the industry has been moving in general. Not one where the employees are taking over the hiring process, but where they can add value to the process. This brings us back to making our products simpler to use. Unless you make it super simple, you’re not going to get the employee who’s not a dedicated talent acquisition professional to use it.

SHRM Online: What other exciting developments have you been working on?

Vivas: I believe there is lot of opportunity for us to allow our members to signal intent. This is already showing itself in the ecosystem today outside of LinkedIn. When someone is looking for a new opportunity, they’re going to raise their hand and say “I’m Bob, I’m looking for an editor position in New York and LA six months from now,” and then be able to broadcast that intent across the network. This is about differentiating people. Trying to find the ones who have the relevant experience and have said they’re open to new opportunities. I initially felt that people wouldn’t feel comfortable doing this, but after spending a lot of time with research groups, I learned that when somebody is looking for a new opportunity, they want to be reached out to by as many people as possible.

SHRM Online: Would this active job seeking intent show up on a person’s profile?

Vivas: No. No information like that would be visible on a member’s profile. That being said, your profile says more about where you are today than where you want to go. The new function would advertise what kinds of roles you are interested in, and what cities you want to live in, for example. We know when our members are searching for jobs and updating their profiles, but from a privacy perspective, we’ve never been able to service that data. What about just letting members tell us what they want? When it’s the right time, they want as many people to contact them as possible about new opportunities. This is one where we’ve been blown away by the numbers. Over 90 percent of people we surveyed said they approved of letting recruiters know when they’re ready for new opportunities, as long as it would not surface with their own organization.

SHRM Online: How can HR departments of one or small organizations with limited means use LinkedIn’s assets?

Vivas: LinkedIn Jobs is an incredibly powerful hiring tool for HR and hiring managers. You can post jobs with a very limited budget. That’s the place I tell people to go first. Secondly, there’s a ton of value for employers to keep their profiles updated and connecting with people on the platform. When a new role opens up, they can look at their own network and see who they know. There’s a lot of value you can create by doing that for free, and in addition you can keep your company career page updated and looking like an exciting place for candidates to work at. Just because you’re a small company that job seekers may not have heard about, you can ensure that you are able to brand yourself in such a way that people will want to go work there.

SHRM Online: What do you say to recruiters who say the response rate they get from employed candidates who they contact through LinkedIn is very low?

Vivas: First, it really depends on how you’re reaching out. If you’re using LinkedIn to send out generic messages to hard-to-fill talent, you’re likely to have a lower response rate. You really have to do the research and figure out if there’s a right fit and communicate that to them in a personalized way. Furthermore, that brings us back to leveraging relationships.

For the hard-to-fill talent, are corporate recruiters connected to potential candidates in such a way that they are more likely to respond? We’ve looked at where the lower response rates come from. Often, it’s from people sending generic messages over and over. When you send somebody a thoughtful message as to why you think they will be great at your organization, and you’re connected to that person through their relationships, that person is much more likely to respond.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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