“LinkedIn makes people look good on paper, but not in real life.” -Karan Gupta, cofounder and CEO of Mammoth

Time and time again, employers and startups run into this problem. A candidate seems great online, well qualified with applicable work experience. They boast about their language skills and have racked up dozens of endorsements. But how often does this translate into a good employee? And how much effort did it take to identify, research, and connect with that candidate? Moreover, did you feel confident that you had been exposed to the right set of candidates? The wheat, per se, versus the chaff?

Using LinkedIn for recruiting may open you up to a broad range of candidates, but it also has its downsides. Founders we have interviewed here at Stacklist have a lot to say about the site and are deeply divided on whether it is a good use of resources and precious time.

LinkedIn: a Friendly Monolith

There is no doubt that LinkedIn is popular – and valuable. Microsoft, completing what’s to date its largest acquisition ever, purchased LinkedIn for $26.2 billion this past month.

With 255,000,000 estimated unique monthly users and more than 433,000,000 profiles, LinkedIn is one of the largest social networks in the world and certainly the largest professional platform.

The website is the most popular recruiting tool among startups, with nearly one out of every four founders citing LinkedIn as an important part of their recruiting stacklist. And that’s with good reason. Pretty much every candidate is going to have a presence on LinkedIn, and LinkedIn has worked hard to make searching for and vetting legitimate candidates manageable for employers:

- LinkedIn is a great resource for posting jobs and publicizing company news and information.

- The website allows one to quickly filter out applicants who do not meet the needs of the company.

- Like all social nets worth their salt, LinkedIn provides validation and, likewise, points of reference by showing recruiters and candidates alike their shared friends and colleagues.

- The LinkedIn profile is a nice high-level view of a person’s experience with the occasional recommendation to boot.

- Above all, LinkedIn allows recruiters to view a larger potential talent pool than was ever before available. However large and unwieldy (and yeah, we’re about to address that), LinkedIn represents unparalleled access to the employee market.

BicycleQuantity Wins at the Cost of Quality

“We used LinkedIn Recruiter for a year, but we didn’t get much from it, so we’re definitely not renewing.” – Mike Molinet, cofounder and COO of Branch Metrics

People in all stages of their professional careers are on LinkedIn to build their networks and find employment opportunities, but the platform’s size is also a drawback. Not all candidates are created equal, and employers have to sift through many unappealing contenders until they find their perfect matches.

LinkedIn, traditionally viewed as a job distribution platform, tried to formally enter the recruiting space with LinkedIn Recruiter. This service, which can cost up to $900/month, will give you “premium talent filters,” more InMail capability, and the ability to see 1,000 profiles in your searches. However, it appears that LinkedIn Recruiter functions as a glorified search. Founders have complained that the service does not add much beyond traditional, free LinkedIn. Due to the lack of differentiation between regular LinkedIn and LinkedIn Recruiter, LinkedIn has been less successful in transitioning into the recruiting space.

Job Slots, another LinkedIn product, acts a promoter of current postings, but does not radically change the recruiting process. While founders employ it as a job board and do search for talent, LinkedIn’s attempt to replace traditional recruiting techniques with its products has largely fallen flat.

A common complaint we hear at Stacklist is that LinkedIn is a poor filter for the more human elements of recruiting and networking. It is harder to get a sense of a person’s true abilities from their curated online presence. In the startup community, where many new hires come through referrals or word of mouth, the site can overwhelm employers with too many applicants who seem qualified, but are not in reality. A LinkedIn resume is not as important in the startup community as demonstrated adaptability, creativity, and dedication.

LinkedIn Can Be a Valuable Asset, But Do Founders Perceive It as Such?

We ran a sentiment analysis, and the data may surprise you. LinkedIn manages to draw adoration and ire, garnering very polarized reviews on Stacklist. Eighty percent of founders had a strong opinion one way or another regarding LinkedIn and its functionality as a recruiting tool. Very few were simply neutral about the company.

Overall, we assigned LinkedIn a “somewhat positive” ranking, but we should put that in context with LinkedIn’s competitors.

Consider LinkedIn’s competition as a recruiting tool: AngelList, another candidate platform used by 20 percent of startups; and Greenhouse, a powerhouse of recruiting tools for larger startups, which shows up in 6 percent of Stacklists. Both of these companies received a sentiment ranking that was a whole tier higher than LinkedIn’s. Not only were founders more positive in their comments regarding LinkedIn’s competitors, but they also had less negative things to say about them: 75 percent of the AngelList comments were positive, as were 80 percent of Greenhouse’s. Only 57 percent of LinkedIn’s reviews were positive.

Final Thoughts

It should be noted that using LinkedIn, AngelList, or Greenhouse is not an either/or proposition. Many companies used multiple outlets for recruiting. What needs to be stated, however, is that founders were much happier overall with their experiences with LinkedIn’s alternatives than with LinkedIn itself.

Unlike other tools that provide applicant tracking and candidate screening services, LinkedIn has not developed effectively into these areas. Its products’ functionality and usefulness remain limited. In many, ways LinkedIn, with all its flourishes and attempts at development, is stale and stagnant. The website has left many founders frustrated and feeling like they have thrown “money out the window.” While viable alternatives are on the rise, it seems LinkedIn will dominate the recruiting marketplace – for now.

Stacklist is a massive, community-driven effort to document the tools startups are using to grow. Check out all of LinkedIn’s reviews on Stacklist here.

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