LinkedIn: Job Board or Social Network?

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Young Businessman Looking At Many Chalk drawn Question MarksThere is no question that LinkedIn has revolutionized the recruiting process. There are very few areas of recruiting where LinkedIn has not made at least an incremental, if not a substantial, difference. But there is one gray area for many recruiters (and it may be theoretical) but I think it’s an important distinction.

Is LinkedIn a social network or a job board ? Some would argue that with an effective solution who cares how we define it? But I think that’s a bit shortsighted. Here’s why:

When people say social recruiting, very often, they mean LinkedIn.

The social behemoth’s inclusion in the “Big Three” has been assumed from the get go, but its paid recruiting products aren’t part of the core offering. And while they are powerful, they aren’t really that different from resume databases from long ago. Jobs are posted, profiles are scraped and you pay a pretty penny to search those profiles. So if the core offering is very, very similar to a job board, why do so many studies claim it as part of the social recruiting revolution? For me, that is reason enough to define LinkedIn as a job board, so that many can truly measure the effect of “social recruiting.”

As an industry, we have wildly different ideas about what LinkedIn is, which affects how we evangelize it. 

Some folks insist that it’s a social recruiting tool, yet pay the relatively high fees for LinkedIn Recruiter. Of course, the same can be said for Facebook (which has a slew of professional tools that can be used alongside it to source for people). But LinkedIn (if only used in this way) can in some cases dull the sharpness of sourcing training. In fact, those who tout LinkedIn as a social recruiting tool, often neglect to point out the very things that make it so. Brilliant extras like “Who Works At”  and “Company Updates.” How can we educate sourcers and recruiters on proper use unless we know how to use it ourselves?

LinkedIn is rapidly making its technologies indispensable in other areas of the talent acquisition process.

The Job Board Doctor (Jeff Dickey-Chasins)  puts it this way:

“LinkedIn has been rolling out a steady stream of minor modifications to its site that make it more useful, both on the web and on mobile devices. It is also trying to make itself into the primary hub for everyone in corporate America (and beyond) – a Facebook for people that actually work. At the same time, it’s trying to add revenue-producing services to satisfy its stockholders – and the vast majority of those seem to revolve around recruiting and job search.”

While LinkedIn is growing its talent solutions platform (even touching engagement, some would argue) it is doing it in a very similar way to CareerBuilder, its largest (job board) competitor. The fact that the companies are making similar moves in both their technology and positioning, makes it clear that LinkedIn sees itself, at least a little, as a job board. But does it matter?

The hiring platform (can we call it that at least?) is growing…fast.

Chris Hoyt said PepsiCo has ramped up its spending on LinkedIn over the past three years by paying for job ads, career pages and a recruiter talent finder. The professional-networking site has become one of PepsiCo’s main sources of job candidates. Talent-solution sales to recruiters at companies like PepsiCo are jumping fastest of all, up 90 percent from a year earlier. So, while it might look like a hiring platform (and its talent solutions business is a massive part of its revenue streams ) it doesn’t call itself one. In fact, LinkedIn is now growing its publishing revenue model as well. Whatever will we call it then?

The real story here is that job boards, as we knew them a few years agostatic, boring, rarely updated profiles and job adsare going the way of the dinosaur. Nearly every job board in regular use by hiring pros is creating a social component and the profiles (if not directly linked with LinkedIn) resemble the layout we’ve come to recognize. Perhaps the best way to categorize LinkedIn would be as an innovator and optimizer that pushes the entire job board industry forward.

By Raj Sheth