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LinkedIn Gains Clout as Recruiting Mainstay

In four years, the 187 million member business network has amassed 13,700 corporate customers for its recruiting software and related services.

November 8, 2012
Related Topics: HR Technology, Internal Recruiting, Online Recruiting, Recruitment, Talent Management
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There's nothing LinkedIn Corp. wants more than to be the No. 1 place people go if they're job hunting, or just considering it.

The more often LinkedIn's 187 million members visit to update their profiles or research prospective employers, the more data the company has to sell to recruiters. And these days, LinkedIn is all about selling data to recruiters.

Since LinkedIn started a corporate hiring products division four years ago, recruiting software and services that tap into the company's massive member database have grown to represent 55 percent of revenue, or $363 million, for the first nine months of 2012.

LinkedIn continues to expand the corporate side of its business, recently adding multiple new features and ancillary services to its mainstay LinkedIn Recruiter software, which recruiters and corporate human resources departments use to unearth prospective candidates from LinkedIn's member database.

LinkedIn's dual successes as a business-oriented social network and sourcing-software provider has made it a human resources technology juggernaut. Add that to the $353 million the Mountain View, California-based company raised in a May 2011 initial public offering to bankroll marketing new products, and some observers believe LinkedIn could one day compete against traditional vendors of talent management and applicant tracking software, or ATS.

LinkedIn officials dismiss the notion they aspire to take on talent management or ATS vendors. After all, they point out, the company partners with a half-dozen talent management and ATS services, including Kenexa, now owned by IBM Corp.; Jobvite Inc.; Peoplefluent; and Taleo, now owned by Oracle Corp.

There was no second-guessing LinkedIn's status as a recruiting industry rising star at its third-annual U.S. corporate user conference held in mid-October in Las Vegas.

More than 2,400 recruiters from around the world came for three days of software training and to hear customer testimonials and motivational speakers such as Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker and bartender turned clean-water advocate Doc Hendley. After hours, recruiters mingled with LinkedIn staff at lavish cocktail parties featuring DJs and buffets loaded with shrimp ceviche and other delicacies. The company held a similar event two weeks later in London for 500 European customers.

It's a long way from 2008, when LinkedIn was a social network up and comer with less than a fifth of its current user base. The company's roll out of LinkedIn Recruiter coincided with the start of the recession. The unfortunate timing had HR industry analysts questioning whether the product would take off when companies were more concerned with layoffs than looking for better ways to hire.

As the ensuing years showed, those concerns were unfounded. Since early 2009, the number of companies paying $8,000 and up per seat for LinkedIn Recruiter jumped from 900 to more than 13,700, including Electronic Arts Inc., Microsoft Corp., SanDisk Corp., Starbucks Coffee Co. and Qualcomm Inc... In the third quarter alone, LinkedIn signed up 1,700 new corporate customers for LinkedIn Recruiter and related services, chief financial officer Steve Sordello said in the company's third-quarter earnings call.

In recent weeks, LinkedIn rolled out a raft of new member features to coax them to visit more often. New features include overhauled profile pages and an "Endorsement" button members can use to quickly "like" other members' skills. Early signs indicate the strategy is working; page views on the site grew 44 percent in the 90 days ended Sept. 30, Sordello said on the earnings call.

At the user conference, LinkedIn officials forecast that members will do 5 billion professional searches by the end of this year, including reviewing job openings, researching companies and signing up to "follow" businesses they might be interested in working for.

LinkedIn hopes members will be enticed to interact with more companies, activities recruiters can track to uncover potential job candidates. That includes the holy grail of unearthing passive candidates, people who aren't actively looking for work but would be amenable to hearing about a job opening if it fits their interests or career ambitions. Thanks to its new features, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner told the crowd at the Las Vegas conference, "We can help you find passive candidates like we never did before."

As LinkedIn gains momentum, it's become a popular target for business networks and recruiting software vendors looking to copy its success. In July, recruiters buzzed over one report that Facebook was working with a handful of partners to start its own job board, though to date no such partnership has materialized.

Services such as BranchOut and Monster Worldwide Inc.'s BeKnown are building business networks on top of Facebook, though none have come anywhere close to matching LinkedIn's user numbers. Glassdoor, a workplace review site where people can anonymously share salary and other information about their employers, is another. Glassdoor "is perhaps the scariest of all" business networks for recruiters, Josh Bersin, president and CEO of consulting firm Bersin & Associates, told the LinkedIn conference crowd. "Your brand will appear on Glassdoor whether you like it or not. In a lot of ways, it's a reason to take this employer-branding problem seriously."

Even so, LinkedIn officials are nonplussed by competitors, present or potential. "There isn't a company doing what we're doing on this scale," says one company manager, speaking on background. "From a recruiter's perspective, it's by far the biggest talent pool available anywhere."

Michelle V. Rafter is a Workforce contributing editor. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.

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