Making The Case: Why Use Job Boards Alongside LinkedIn?

Aug 09, 2016
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In professional recruitment markets, LinkedIn has undoubtedly taken a bite out of job boards’ revenues. There’s no escaping the reality that jobs which previously were being filled via job boards are now sometimes being filled via LinkedIn instead. But does that mean you can dispense with the services of job boards altogether? Our view is that it’s incredibly risky to do so – and here are four reasons why:

  • LinkedIn is more a database than a jobs board
  • Active user numbers on LinkedIn are weak and it can’t become a fully-fledged job board
  • LinkedIn’s user experience for job seekers isn’t as good as a job board
  • It’s risky being over-reliant on LinkedIn

Let’s look at each in turn. We imagine you’ll conclude that you’ve been neglecting to maintain your relationships with job boards and will want to do something about that in the coming months.

LinkedIn is more a database than a jobs board

The single biggest impact LinkedIn has had on the recruitment market is to open up an extensive candidate database to anyone willing to invest in a subscription (or hobble along with a free account). Where recruiters were previously forced into advertising open vacancies, today they can choose to find and approach target hires instead. Without doubt this has had a marked impact on our industry.

However, this involves a fundamental shift in recruiting away from assessing the suitability of active jobseekers to instead speculatively approaching a mix of active and (mostly) passive candidates – with a corresponding impact on time to hire and acceptance rates. This is often a more costly route to making a hire than posting an open vacancy, once the time required to use this channel effectively is factored in. More critically, diminishing returns are now impacting the effectiveness of LinkedIn quite considerably. As more recruiters have bought into their licences, candidates have been receiving more and more approaches from recruiters – and are becoming less and less responsive to InMails. The comparative cost of approaching passive candidates in this way is therefore steadily rising.

Active user numbers on LinkedIn are weak and it can’t become a fully-fledged job board

There are a number of factors preventing LinkedIn from becoming a fully-fledged job board. The first is that its active user numbers are pretty weak when compared both with other social media sites and with leading job boards and aggregators like Indeed. It would be far easier for Facebook to drive sufficient candidate volumes to job postings than for LinkedIn to do the same, simply as a function of the number of people who actually use the sites on a daily basis.

A more fundamental reason though is that the job listings area on LinkedIn is just one small part of what the site does. There’s historical precedent here. Over a decade ago, leading job boards fretted about the possibility of the major national newspaper websites introducing online job boards of their own. For some time they resisted this, not wanting to undermine eg. print advertising in the Sunday Times appointments section by providing an online alternative that ostensibly would reach the same audience at a fraction of the cost. After a while, though, the print publications declined to such an extent that newspapers felt compelled to go down this route.

Having had trembling knees at the prospect of this happening, job boards actually found that the major national newspapers couldn’t really get traction as major job board competitors. The reason is the exact same reason that will prevent LinkedIn from doing this too… The majority of newspaper website visitors weren’t going there to look for a new job. They were going there to read news or travel advice or new car reviews. Using distraction advertising on the sites, newspapers were able to lure a small percentage of their readers to use their job boards. However the majority of newspaper site users never actually ended up looking at their job listings at all.

There’s a close parallel here with LinkedIn. If the majority of users are going to LinkedIn to do something other than look for a job, LinkedIn can only ever entice a small fraction to look at their job listings. The number of candidates you can reach through advertising jobs on LinkedIn can therefore only ever be a tiny fraction of the number of people you could reach by searching on LinkedIn and approaching candidates direct.

LinkedIn’s user experience for job seekers isn’t as good as a job board

LinkedIn has two major shortcomings as a job board that mean candidates will often have a better user experience elsewhere. Of course, over time, candidates will gravitate to using those sites where they have the best experience and so this is detrimental to LinkedIn’s aspirations of ever becoming a direct rather than an indirect job board competitor.

The first major shortcoming is that they’ve gone down the route of charging both recruiters and candidates for full use of their job board. With a free account on LinkedIn, job-seekers cannot narrow down their job search to only those vacancies paying the salary they aspire to. If you’re devising a solution to generate hires as effectively as possible, this is of course counter-intuitive. You want candidates to find the roles that are most relevant to them – and be deterred from applying to those they are not suited to. This maximises the chances of the candidate having a positive experience on the site – and reduces the time wasted by recruiters reviewing and interacting with candidates whose salary expectations mean they should never have been in the running.

The second shortcoming is the cross-selling of job vacancies and database access. To bring as many flagship advertisers on board as possible, LinkedIn has taken to selling packages that incorporate both job listings and unfettered searching of the database. This has led to the situation that many recruiters are saddled with vacancy listings that they wouldn’t necessarily have chosen to buy – and that they therefore use as a “last resort” in case their direct approaches to target candidates don’t pay off.

Of course this can be highly frustrating for candidates, who search and find roles that look of interest – only to find their applications were in vain because the employer found the people they wanted to interview through direct searching of members on the site. There are only so many times candidates will have their time wasting applying to roles in this way before they become disheartened and decide to focus their application efforts elsewhere.

It’s risky being over-reliant on LinkedIn

The above points have highlighted that if it’s quick hires you want to make – from the pool of active candidates looking to make a change in the coming weeks – LinkedIn is not likely to be as effective as the pure play job boards or Indeed. But there’s an even bigger issue – and one that loyal customers have become increasingly concerned about. LinkedIn seems to have no qualms about moving the goalposts, changing the services it offers and the functionality that’s available to users.

This could be a major headache for companies who’ve become over-reliant on recruiting via this one channel, because you can effectively be held hostage and be forced to pay whatever LinkedIn deems is the appropriate price for ongoing use of their services. Or worse still, something you’ve become reliant on could just cease to exist or to function the same way as it did previously. Ask anyone who’s invested in building a LinkedIn group for their business, or growing a sizeable and comprehensive network within their industry. Both have been hit hard by unilateral changes that LinkedIn have made to the operation of their groups and to the curtailment of the networks of people whose LinkedIn reach has become too great.

Incidentally, this isn’t to single out LinkedIn for criticism. It’s been the reality across various social sites that the functionality and rules of those sites have evolved over time – and things that people had come to rely on have been changed more or less overnight. But when it’s something that underpins the whole recruiting effectiveness of your organisation, there’s clearly a risk involved with becoming too reliant on any one supplier. So it’s wise to keep your relationships with effective job boards and proven recruitment agency partners nourished so that you’ve always got alternative sources of candidates should LinkedIn change in a way that disadvantages your company.

Concluding Remarks

For the record, none of the above is to take away from LinkedIn the dramatic impact it’s had in reshaping the recruitment industry. The once dominant position that job boards held will never be the same again. But we’re hearing more and more disquiet from recruiters about the limitations of LinkedIn and the risks there are in becoming overly reliant on any one recruitment partner. This post is our attempt to give the debate about LinkedIn vs. Job Boards a new perspective, one that acknowledges the shortcomings of LinkedIn and so allows you to formulate the right strategy for your business accordingly. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or to our twitter account @talenetic.