LinkedIn Referrals Set to Close Down Later This Month

If Indeed getting out of the candidate referral business wasn’t enough to convince you that it’s a failed business model, how about LinkedIn? According to the company’s website, LinkedIn Referrals will no longer be available after May 18, 2018.

According to a release, LinkedIn is “always looking for ways to simplify and improve your experience, helping you to be more productive and successful. This sometimes means removing features that aren’t heavily used to invest in others that offer greater value to you.”

Adding a referral feature was part of LinkedIn’s acquisition of Careerify back in 2015. The idea was to use Careerify’s technology to use an employee’s social connections to figure out who in an individual’s network might be suitable for a job opening in that employee’s place of business.

At the time of the acquisition, a Techcrunch writer opined, “The referral software developed by Careerify fits right into LinkedIn’s bigger strategy as a business, which parses and crunches data that people input into their profiles (or is otherwise associated with them) to come up with synergies with other users, potential jobs, and other professional connections.”

LinkedIn Referrals provided LinkedIn users with a way to refer candidates for open jobs via a company’s applicant tracking system. Referring people was enhanced by offering suggestions by matching open jobs to qualified candidates within a user’s first-degree connections. People could also run a search if they already knew what job or candidate they were looking for.

LinkedIn Referrals joins a long line of failed attempts at nailing the referral market, going all the way back to the turn of the millennia, including names like H3, Zubka, YorZ, Jobster,, KarmaOne and, mentioned above, Indeed. The business model that looks good on paper, and may actually work in practice, just never seems to stay airborne.

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“I thought Careerify had great functionality,” said Mason Wong, recruiting systems and integrations consultant at ZWD. “But, it obviously went unused.”

LinkedIn recommends if companies have a new employee referral process, that they begin strategizing how they’ll communicate the new process to employees. For those who currently have referrals in the system, LinkedIn recommends getting a list of all current applications by logging into your account, navigating to Applications, and clicking Download applications.

Current customers of the product can continue using it until May 18.

Joel Cheesman has over 20 years experience in the online recruitment space. He worked for both international and local job boards in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. In 2005, Cheesman founded HRSEO, a search engine marketing company for HR, as well as launching an award-winning industry blog called Cheezhead. He has been featured in Fast Company and US News and World Report. He sold his company in 2009 to He was employed by EmployeeScreenIQ, a background check company. He is the founder of Ratedly, an app that monitors anonymous employee reviews. He is married and the father of three children. He lives in Indianapolis.


5 Comments on “LinkedIn Referrals Set to Close Down Later This Month

  1. “…The way you hire is changing. They are all about killing the transaction in recruiting, making hiring more strategic, and letting recruiters and hiring managers focus on what they do best — building relationships.”

    It seems that the story-line of killing third-party search and placement continues to be evermore like Mark Twain’s observation ““The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

    Job boards were thought to be a strategic game changer too. And maybe they were, but not in the way initially perceived. April 1, 2017 article The Best Job Sites, ( contends “The literal information you find in online job postings is not that helpful, …They’re just terrible at getting you interviews.” The value in job sites is more about the context, tools, and insights from meta data.

    Having walked out of the woods (literally) going from forester in the rough terrain of No. California to headhunter on the rough terrain working a national desk, my perspective remains, that job boards are like job listings in the by-gone-era newspapers print advertisements, more like a map, limited in use without compass and the skill and experience to use them together i.e. their value is in “…What you do with that information.”

    Consider HR in terms of talent acquisition. In most companies that have a formal HR function, the departments are largely administrative in nature, and recruiting is but one duty in an array of tasks.

    Like any endeavor, one’s level of competence comes from experience, time in the trenches. So, except for large complex organizations (LCEs) that can afford to support a full-time professionalized recruiting function, recruiting competence in talent acquisition will continue to be found, largely, in third-party search and placement firms, they know what to do with the information.

    Some have it, some have a faint idea, and most have no clue. Only those who have it, walk out of the woods alive.

    1. The problem with third party firms, though, is there is no industry self policing or self regulation. There are TONS of fly by night orgs that blast out resumes by throwing requisitions to ‘recruiters’ to fight over like starving dogs in a pit going after fresh meat. The ratio of decent, trustworthy recruiting agencies to sketchy, no ethics, no morals, no professionalism ‘firms’ is small and fast approaching nano scales as indicated by people’s near universally horrific experiences with recruiters. That leaves companies and hiring managers in a pinch because most agencies suck, not to put too fine a point on it, and job boards suck. They usually haven’t invested much in their own career sights or content creation to draw people to them, and they’re also often unwilling to compete in on compensation or career development front.

      So, the landscape right now is there are a few decent recruiting firms among a TON of crappy ones, there are a LOT of companies claiming to have trouble hiring, but almost all of them refuse to accept or even consider that this difficulty might be tied to their refusal to offer decent comp, or to stop demanding people take lateral moves. Their pitch for new candidates is essentially, “Hey, you know that job you’ve been doing for three to five years for your current employer? Come and do the same thing for us for three to five years, for the same or less pay!” And the poor quality recruiting firms have no problem taking on such requisitions, because to them it’s all a numbers game anyway, and they know for every X number of poor quality reqs they get, they’ll fill a certain percentage with people desperate enough to take the mediocre offers, and stay at least long enough to get past their guarantee period.

      The woods are getting darker and more overgrown every day, it seems.

      1. MR, You bring up a good point. “Their pitch for new candidates is essentially, “Hey, you know that job
        you’ve been doing for three to five years for your current employer?
        Come and do the same thing for us for three to five years, for the same
        or less pay!”

        Being asked to recruit for a Fortune company and going over the details for a Director level position, I asked if they would consider a manager level person for the position and of course they said they would. I then suggested it was more likely they would prefer someone already at the Director level, doing the same job for which they are recruiting. POC nods her head. So I then asked the key question- what is your Ascension program since a Director, taking another Director job would be making a lateral move and would be expecting to be promoted [to VP, for example] down the road. Blank stare. “Hello?” I said. I remind her that HRE ONLINE had just published an article about corporate ascension programs. I wait and wait and finally she says to me, “Well, we are always growing!”. “So”, I said, “you have no such program in place and what will occur will be that my hired candidate will be taking headhunter calls in two to three years.”

        She could not understand why I declined to recruit for that position.

  2. I am not currently in the job market looking, but if I were where would you recommend that I spend most of my time looking? Job sites, with a recruiter, on Linkedin? What percentage should I devote to each activity? I am an MBA student who is satisfied with her current position assessing bank portfolio assets, but in December (when I graduate) I would be open to making a career change.

    1. You should divide your time. One to one communications a la what Liz Ryan recommends are a high return, high time investment strategy. Job boards, so long as you avoid the applicant systems that demand you retype your resume 40 times, are a low time investment, low return strategy. A recruiter you can trust is a good asset, but also hard to find. If you’ve worked with one in the past that you liked, I’d recommend getting back in touch. Consider job boards a wall you throw you-know-what at to see what sticks, don’t expect much, and don’t invest too much time or hope in them. Use Liz Ryan’s methods to try and get in touch with hiring managers directly, and you can potentially use job boards as a research adjunct to this process just to see who is hiring.

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