Despite its high profile as one of the most well-known and widely used sourcing solutions, LinkedIn Recruiter suffers from a bit an image problem.

It’s not that LinkedIn Recruiter is held in poor esteem — but rather that many talent acquisition pros don’t totally understand the tool’s real goal.

“A lot of people kind of misunderstand what Recruiter does,” says Dan Reid, group product manager at LinkedIn Talent Solutions. “They think, ‘It’s a search tool, and it gives me back results that match my search terms.’ That’s only sort of partially true.”

LinkedIn Recruiter’s aim is more specific than that: It doesn’t just turn up people who fit your search criteria — it turns up people who fit your search criteria and are likely to be interested in your open position.

“If all you’re doing is sending out a bunch of spam and nobody ever calls you back, that’s a waste of your time and our time,” Reid notes.

Which is not to say that never happens. A lot of variables enter into the recruiting equation, and there’s no way to guarantee ahead of time that any one candidate will definitely be open to a new role.

One good indictor of a candidate’s receptivity, however, is their previous experience with your company. A person who has applied for previous roles, for example, is likely to be interested if a new position opens up.

The Dreaded Swivel Seat

But when you’re in the middle of a LinkedIn Recruiter search — or trawling through any candidate database outside your own ATS, really — identifying candidates with existing relationships to your company can be a challenge. To do that, your only choice is toggling between your ATS and the candidate database, constantly checking the names of prospects against your existing candidate data.

It’s not a foolproof system, and it can lead to some serious gaffes.

“Let’s say I’m in Recruiter, and I find someone who is a great fit,” Reid explains. “I want to send her a message saying she’d be a great fit. But if I don’t know she applied two years ago and was a terrible candidate, I’m going to stick my foot in my mouth when I send that message.”

This also leaves the door open to duplicate messaging: You and another recruiter on your team may be reaching out to the same candidate about the same role without even realizing it.

“I often get messages from two different recruiters who are trying to fill the same job,” Reid notes. “That’s a little embarrassing, and it’s not the best foot forward.”

Even if the candidate were excited about your company, they may rethink their enthusiasm when they see how discombobulated the recruiting team is.

A related problem is what Reid calls the “swivel seat”: the need to conduct multiple separate searches in multiple separate databases to find the right candidates for a job.

“You can imagine: You need to hire a new product manager, so the first thing you probably do is open up your ATS to see if there is anyone in there who is a fit,” Reid says. “If you don’t find anyone, you literally swivel in your chair and start searching in Recruiter to see if you can drum up someone over there. That’s ridiculous. Why don’t those two systems both know what you’re doing?”

Until recently, those two systems — in particular, your ATS and your LinkedIn Recruiter account — didn’t know what you were doing because they were totally separate. They simply didn’t have a way to talk to each other. Sourcing and managing candidates were discrete functions playing out in siloed platforms. You’d source new candidates on LinkedIn Recruiter and you’d manage existing candidates in your ATS, leading to exactly the problems outlined above.

Making the Right Hand Talk to the Left

It’s a common business problem that extends beyond recruiting: The left hand — in this case, sourcing — doesn’t know what the right hand — in this case, managing — is doing. But LinkedIn has come up with a fix.

Recruiter System Connect (RSC) allows ATSs to integrate with LinkedIn Recruiter, eliminating the swivel seat and, in effect, creating one big database. Any ATS provider can work with LinkedIn to set up the API, and once it’s in place, ATS customers who also have LinkedIn Recruiter seats can access LinkedIn data through their ATSs and ATS data through LinkedIn.

There are, according to Reid, four main functions of RSC:

1. Bringing LinkedIn Data to Your ATS

With RSC activated, recruiters can more easily view candidates’ up-to-date LinkedIn profiles right in their ATSs. For each candidate in your ATS who is also on LinkedIn, that candidate’s LinkedIn profile gets incorporated into their ATS entry via iframe.

Reid offers an example: “Pretend I am sitting in my ATS, and I have a candidate who applied to a job two years ago. I’d like to know what she is up to now. LinkedIn data gets iframed into the ATS, so now I’m not longer looking at a profile that is two years old.”

2. Bringing Your ATS Data to LinkedIn

On the flip-side, while logged into LinkedIn Recruiter, recruiters can also access their ATS data on a candidate directly on LinkedIn. Simply clicking a button on the candidate’s LinkedIn profile will display any information about that candidate already contained within your ATS. This makes it much easier to identify candidates who have a relationship with your company, while also giving you insight into exactly what that relationship has been like so far.

3. Identifying Past Applicants in LinkedIn Recruiter

While searching for candidates in LinkedIn Recruiter, recruiters can also choose to filter results according to which candidates already exist in their ATS. That way, you can surface only candidates with whom you’ve previously interacted — or those with whom you haven’t.

4. Importing Candidates to Your ATS From LinkedIn

RSC also supports a one-click export function. By clicking a button on a prospect’s LinkedIn profile, you can import their LinkedIn data to your ATS, thereby creating a new entry in your system. Similarly, you can import message threads from LinkedIn to your ATS. So, if you’ve been InMailing with a candidate, you don’t have to cut and paste it all into their ATS profile.

It should be noted that LinkedIn takes candidate’s data privacy very seriously. That one-click export will only send a “stub” profile to your ATS, which contains just the candidate’s publicly available information. Candidates have to grant their permission for you to import message threads and their full profiles to your ATS.

As Reid notes, “It’s not LinkedIn’s data to send. It’s the candidate’s.”

RSC addresses a problem that has long plagued recruiters in the digital age: effectively managing candidates across disparate databases. As such, it seems to signal a way forward for recruiting technology.

As talent acquisition tools proliferate in an already crowded tech space, more and more recruiters and HR pros will find themselves in the swivel seat. Rather than an increased risk of whiplash, talent acquisition pros want seamless systems that communicate. Further integration is essential if we’re to make the most of our many tech tools.

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