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Seeing isn't believing for HR heads on LinkedIn

A further 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.  

These are some of the shortcomings limiting LinkedIn’s role in senior executive recruitment, according to new research launched today.

The independent study was conducted on behalf of Norrie Johnston Recruitment among HR heads of 100 major UK organisations. The research found that despite its phenomenal growth, LinkedIn is not spawning an era of DIY executive recruitment.

 Indeed only 25% solely use their internal team to fill senior executive roles.That said, LinkedIn is significantly transforming some aspects of executive recruitment.

According to the research report “An Executive Recruitment Game Changer?” LinkedIn has a number of limitations.  

While 31% have advertised posts on the channel, only 4% say LinkedIn advertising is ideal for senior executive roles commanding a salary in excess of &pound70,000.

Some argue 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.  

A third of the HR heads studied say that while LinkedIn now has over 300 million members, many senior executives are not regularly using LinkedIn, so the channel cannot be relied on to reach them.

Over one in four (26%) argue that LinkedIn is simply not used widely enough by senior personnel in certain countries as a result, some valuable international talent cannot be effectively reached by it.

Almost half (48%) also argue that recruitment isn’t a numbers game and that simply accessing a massive free pool of candidates can be a false economy. Indeed 25% say that wading through such candidate volumes consumes a huge amount of internal team time.  

According to almost one in five (19%) interviewed, the scale of such a task is compounded by the fact that senior executive and highly technical roles require specialist recruitment skills that internal teams simply using LinkedIn may lack.  

HR heads also doubt some of the information contained on LinkedIn, making it even trickier for internal teams using the channel to check out potential candidates. As a result, while 46% of HR teams sometimes use it to look at senior candidates who have applied for a role, they give it a score of only 5.3 out of ten for usefulness for this task. 

Norrie Johnston, managing director of Norrie Johnston Recruitment, sums up why these limitations matter: “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 – and that’s why recruitment firms still have a role to play. That’s not to say LinkedIn isn’t exerting a powerful influence, or that recruitment firms can afford to ignore how it has changed things – but LinkedIn isn’t a substitute.”

The research bears this out with 73% of private and public sector organisations - rising to 79% of the biggest organisations studied - still using executive search firms or head hunters for executive recruitment.

While LinkedIn isn’t a complete recruitment game changer, the research shows that it is transforming some aspects. The need for in-house recruiters to build and maintain an internal database seems over, with only 11% using LinkedIn to build their own talent pool.

“A third of the world’s executive population is on LinkedIn, so why expend time and resource building a pool? The days of doing that are now long gone,” argues Norrie Johnston.

Over half of HR heads are using LinkedIn to build relationships with prospective candidates before they are even in the market to recruit.   A further 31% have used it to actively headhunt for key people.

Johnston added, “While LinkedIn may not be ideal for advertising senior roles, and profiles may not always be reliable, there’s no doubt that it offers a huge potential to proactively identify and target top flight executives. Picking through that talent obviously requires considerable skill and know-how, but that doesn’t reduce LinkedIn’s possible contribution to the process.”

LinkedIn is also making it easier to promote the employer brand, according to 40%. This benefit is most deeply felt by those who advertise roles on the channel, with three quarters arguing that brand promotion is a key advantage of such advertising.

With 55% of companies deploying a mix of both recruitment agency and internal team (powered by LinkedIn) on most assignments, recruitment firms and head-hunters are increasingly competing with their client’s internal team to fill senior roles.  As a result, LinkedIn is potentially exerting a pressure on recruitment time frames too.

Johnston concluded, “Is LinkedIn an executive recruitment game changer? The answer appears to be in some respects, yes, and in others, no.  It isn’t usurping the recruitment process, but it is massively powering it – and people ignore its strengths and weaknesses at their peril.

“Recruitment teams, be they in house or in agencies, need both the specialist skills and experience of traditional recruitment, plus LinkedIn know-how, if they’re to win the battle for senior talent in this LinkedIn era.”

To get a free copy of “An Executive Recruitment Game Changer” visit or call 01962 657 379


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