Talent Pros Review LinkedIn’s Recruiter Upgrade

By Roy Maurer Jul 6, 2016
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LinkedIn’s newly enhanced sourcing tool and advanced search engine is mostly a hit with recruiters, who nevertheless cite learning curve adjustments with the product, while others continue to have reservations over its cost and whether it is even necessary.

The new update of LinkedIn Recruiter was released for general use in April 2016 with the promise of being simpler, faster and more intuitive. About 41,000 organizations currently use it, at an average cost per recruiter of $8,000.

“The next-generation LinkedIn Recruiter reimagines how the recruitment process can work in a socially connected, data-driven business world,” said Wade Burgess, vice president of LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions. “It’s the latest development to move recruitment professionals from order-takers to strategic partners, includes new tools which intuitively understand the type of skills a recruiter might be looking for, and helps them find new candidates based on the rock stars that currently work for their organization.”

New features include:

  • A simpler, more-intuitive search function which assists in the creation of search strings. Recruiters and HR generalists who are not as proficient in creating Boolean searches can now enter a term like “architect” into the job title search and LinkedIn Recruiter will help write the search string using LinkedIn data. LinkedIn Recruiter will automatically provide a list of architects’ top skills, the companies with the most architects and the top architectural schools. “The idea is to make search easy enough so it doesn’t take an expert to do that work, allowing companies to bring the sourcing and recruiting roles back together and help the talent acquisition team or HR generalists focus on recruiting,” Burgess said.

  • Smart-matching algorithms, which allow talent acquisition professionals to find talent using the profiles of their best employees. To use this feature, enter a so-called rock star employee’s name into the search field, select his or her profile, and LinkedIn Recruiter will provide a list of profiles with similar skills. It also will show the terms it used to build the search string and allow users to add or remove terms to modify the search.

  • An indicator that flags candidates most likely to respond to a recruiter’s advances by measuring their interest in the organization.  The “spotlights” feature highlights those potential candidates who already have first-degree connections within the company, those who have followed or interacted with the company page, and those who have previously applied for positions within the organization.

What Do Users Think?

Recruiters and sourcers are generally telling William Tincup, one of the country’s leading thinkers on HR technology and the CEO of HR consultancy Tincup & Co., based in the Dallas area, that the new features are well-received and will be well-used. “This is stuff recruiters have been asking for for a while. It’s all stuff LinkedIn has gotten feedback on for years now,” he said.

“This most recent UI (user interface) update is much less dramatic than the previous one,” said Maisha Cannon, a strategic talent sourcing and engagement professional at GitHub, based in San Francisco. Overall, Cannon thinks the newly enhanced LinkedIn Recruiter works well, with a “responsive and attractive” UI and “a lot of skimmable information at a glance,” but said she would “gladly sacrifice a bit of the slickness for a more-consistent layout I can adapt to more quickly as newer versions are released.”

Several users interviewed for this article mentioned the learning curve lag that occurs after a redesign. “I typically lose two to four weeks of efficiency after a revamp since I’m not able to get things done at lightning speed while I’m learning the new layout,” Cannon said. “While improvements are necessary, developers should consider upgrades that align with current functions and not those that are completely foreign iterations.”

Greg Hawkes, a senior recruiter and talent advisor at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said he was excited to test out the new features but now thinks the upgrade is a mixed bag. “Sure, the new similar-candidate lookup is cool, as well as some of the stats and different ways to search information,” he said. “However, the new aggregator-based bubble search has me puzzled. For instance, ‘registered nurse’ is ‘bubbled’ and aggregated for similar job titles, but I have to switch back to Boolean to add keywords in the keyword section. It’s going to take some time to get used to.”

LinkedIn responded that this feature was included "to allow people who still like to use Boolean statements or keywords to continue to do so."

Hawkes and others expressed disappointment that the mobile version of LinkedIn Recruiter was not upgraded. “That’s a huge miss in my book, since smartphones are a major access point for job seekers,” Hawkes said. Cannon agreed, saying, “I would certainly source on-the-go or from my tablet if the UI and functionality were available.”

Kelly Bryant, senior talent acquisition sourcing specialist at global medical technology company LivaNova, headquartered in London, said she uses LinkedIn Recruiter daily and was happy to see the smart matching and spotlights features, which she called huge time-savers. “I absolutely love the suggestions provided for skills. How often are we all in a meeting with a hiring manager and they give us a very small amount of data and we spend hours on Google trying to find other ways to search for the ideal person?” she asked. Bryant said that the “smart and intuitive nature of the dashboard is really what any recruiter of the future is going to need.”

Temeka Thompson, the social media and web content program manager for recruitment at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, based in Washington, D.C., also finds the matching feature helpful. “You find that one ideal candidate that offers the specialized skill set or experience you need, and you think ‘oh wow, how can I find five or six other candidates that have that specific skill set required to fulfill our agency’s mission?” She added that the agency was already able to utilize LinkedIn Recruiter “in some great ways to build a diverse pipeline of candidates. The additional features are a bonus.”

According to Cannon, a few of the more-useful granular additions to the product include:

  • A tab in the search results featuring profiles of those who have engaged with the talent brand vs. the old way of finding this information by selecting the “Company Followers” filter.

  • Highlighted profiles of individuals who have not changed their role in a few years, allowing for a quick glimpse at tenure without much specialized filtering.

  • Search insight charts and graphs for those who appreciate data visualization.

She said she misses the keyword bar being at the top of the page—“It’s now far left and requires scrolling down,”—and that she doesn’t like the relocation of the “Recruiting Activity” option, “which used to be easy to see on the left-side filter panel, but now requires a bit of digging to find.”

‘The Keys to the Kingdom’

LinkedIn Recruiter may be the dominant tool for recruiters, but it’s not the only tool, Tincup said. “What they’ve done with search and search functionality has made it easier for recruiters to find the folks who are on LinkedIn, but it still doesn’t solve the problem for people who live outside that network. If you’re trying to get candidate flow for a truck driver position, LinkedIn is not going to help you.”

But what the closed, mostly professional network has going for it is that the network’s users by and large update their profiles. “These people are updating their resumes. CareerBuilder doesn’t have that. Monster doesn’t have that. Job boards don’t have that. Recruiters just have to mine it,” Tincup said.

Kelly Dingee, director of strategic recruiting for Staffing Advisors, a Washington, D.C., area-based recruiting firm, agrees that the access to LinkedIn’s candidate profile database is hugely valuable. With LinkedIn Recruiter, you’re “handed the keys to the kingdom and can view all member profiles,” she said, but the “hefty price tag” has discouraged her organization. “We always operate from a point of view focused on efficiency and quality, and for our firm, [LinkedIn Recruiter] is a lot of bells and whistles we don’t need,” she said. 

Dingee still leverages LinkedIn in several ways, however, including for networking and searching. If candidates’ profiles are set to public, search engines pick them up, allowing recruiters to sift through the domain results with keywords to extract publically viewable candidates, Dingee said. Web scrapers like DataMiner help to extract on-target search engine results, which can be quickly sorted, reviewed and uploaded to an applicant tracking system, she said.

“It is highly beneficial to also search the site from an internal perspective,” Dingee said. “Even though I am well-networked, I do pay for an enhanced individual membership. It enables me to see additional candidates not publicly indexed, and have a bit more flexibility with the volume of InMails I can use for contact.”

Though there were a lot of differing opinions about LinkedIn Recruiter, all agreed that the LinkedIn network is a remarkably comprehensive database. “I am still able to extract value from Recruiter, even for technical talent in a competitive market like Silicon Valley,” Cannon said. “It isn’t the only tool in my toolkit, but for now, it remains an important one.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy 

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