What Will Disrupt LinkedIn?

history of sourcing.jpgAlways in motion is the future. — Yoda, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

If Facebook is the social lounge, then LinkedIn is the post-conference after party. It has disrupted the recruitment profession in the way recruiters perform their work. It’s one of the more valuable sourcing tools in the toolkit (see graphic). It’s not the only but currently the most important.

It altered the landscape of hiring for the foreseeable future, and almost every recruiter is using it in some way. Buy a license, search profiles, send InMails, join groups, and post jobs. It’s a great sourcing tool. I’ve experimented with banner impressions, InMail campaigns (pricey — $12,000 a campaign and it can be higher). I’ve seen good ROI on some roles and mixed results with others with these different product offerings. Many Silicon Valley companies using it spend over $500,000 each year. It has taken away market share from the existing job boards and disrupted the traditional board model (of posting jobs versus communicating to professionals directly) and changed the focus of recruiters. More internal recruiters use it for executive searches successfully (impacting search firms) and as LinkedIn globalizes, its impact will continue to be felt.

I’m a fan of LinkedIn but it has a ways to go in Europe and globally where the boards and agencies still play a major role. But it’s not possible to distinguish the best talent for the particular role from viewing just the profile (notwithstanding endorsements). There is nothing to further pre-qualify talent. LinkedIn is an advertising platform.

To stay relevant, LinkedIn may need to make acquisitions. This will continue to impact the recruitment profession.

When Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion and acquired the technology along with its 13 employees, this changed the world of photo technology. Kodak employed 140,000 employees. It is now bankrupt. Those jobs disappeared. (For recruiters to survive innovation and not go extinct the way of Kodak, see my article on adaptation.)

What (or who) will disrupt LinkedIn? What will impact it the way it disrupted job boards, or will it remain king in the world of sourcing?

Some may contend the convergence of big data/software as a service with social media and mobile will be the biggest disruptive agent in hiring, especially for sourcing and engaging talent. Social media and mobile will provide vastly new sourcing mechanisms that could yet again change how recruiters do their work.

Companies like Oracle (Taleo), IBM (Kenexa), Workday, and SuccessFactors that have ATS/talent management technology are well-positioned for converging big data/software as a service with social media and mobile but have not done so yet in any meaningful manner.

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Their biggest gap for these big players is in their candidate experience as well as sourcing and assessment technology using social media. Some have really poor candidate experience that should be fixed.

The companies that can do that will change the way we hire and be the new disrupters. Software as a service, the cloud, and big data will change the world of hiring in near future.

LI is interesting in that it has the valuable data on millions of profiles, but it doesn’t drive targeted sourcing, assessment, and onboarding. (That’s not its business model).

There are a few Silicon Valley startups funded by big players that are developing big data/software-as-a-service platforms converging social media and mobile for the assessment and onboarding phases of hiring. They may be onto something groundbreaking but execution will be crucial. Will they disrupt LinkedIn? Maybe, maybe not. I do think, like Facebook, LinkedIn will need to adapt. Such is the nature of technology to survive.

Shanil Kaderali is a strategic talent acquisition leader with global experience. He's managed and lead recruitment functions at companies like Cisco Systems, Symantec, WellPoint, as well as having worked for a Baker's Dozen RPO. He's Vice President - Global Talent Solutions at Pierpoint. Contact him at shanil@pierpoint.com



40 Comments on “What Will Disrupt LinkedIn?

  1. Great insight
    I can say that I believe what LI needs is a social job matching technology that includes quality assessments as well as other AI to help “direct traffic” above the funnel. I have worked with a number of companies entering this space and expect this to be a hot new area over the coming few years. LI may indeed end up snapping up something in this category to help them extract the most out of their platform. Or not, only time will tell. I can say that the addition of assessments provides a degree and quality of measurement that is required whenever one is dealing with predicting human behavior. With the addition of the right AI to support this and a process for measuring outcomes to support ongoing analytics and ROI, LI could be truly amazing in its ability to support the sourcing process.

  2. AI Means Artificial Intelligence

    The military uses all kinds of artificial intelligence but when it gets right down to it they use PEOPLE to interpret the data the AI fixes on because AI sometimes can’t decipher from a terrorist planting a bomb on a car or a civilian fixing a tire (or children playing.)

    I’ll follow the military lead on this one.

  3. Good point
    Dont get me wrong, all of this is just info that supports humans in their decision making. But there is still value in screening such that the human decision makers can operate from an information based position and do not have to look at noise that may obscure value.

  4. Thanks, Shanil. I don’t know who will or when it will happen, but I know what I would want to see, and I know at least one company is getting fairly close to something similar to what I’ll now describe:

    An easily-affordable tool which will allow you to search (Boolean, semantic, etc.) for someone with any type of internet presence at all (web, SN, etc.) and *create a digital dossier on them, including direct contact information either obtained or extrapolated/tested. Furthermore it will be equipped with (perhaps optionally) simple algorithmic interpreters so you can get some meaning from the data.
    In other words: we’ll have access to something like the NSA has *probably had for a dozen years or so….

    Two things:
    1) We’ll still need folks like Maureen to find some people.
    2) Managers will still complain they can’t get anybody good, because the problem isn’t the sourcing, it’s the recruiting (and having something people will listen to).



    * Search engines won’t do this.

    ** I’m basing this on a chart I saw that showed that laptops tend to have the computing power of the best supercomputers of ~a dozen years prior.

  5. It’s a bit of a paradox, but the more people join LinkedIn in order to find themselves a new job, the more difficult LI becomes to use by the recruiters. You will find “too many” suitable candidates, like is already the case with the job boards. And you need to narrow the number down by using somewhat artificial filters like on the job boards, where people searching for the right candidate need to add keyword after keyword in order to get the number of the CV’s down. And this indeed is not a very sophisticated method for finding the real talent. From my early years in IT business I remember that Artificial Intelligence was supposed to resolve almost every problem on this planet. Big disappointment, but things have developed since. There definitely is now room in the market for a clever automated assessment tool that is able to ask more detailed and relevant(!) questions both from the recruiting manager and all the thousands of potential candidates for a certains job and then offer a shortlist of perhaps 50 candidates that a human being needs to screen with serious attention (= not the “6 seconds per CV” approach).

  6. Very interesting points Shanil, and time will certainly tell. IMO, technology can’t replace human thought and logic. It can only be used as an adjunct to a solid process.

    Charles: I think you’re right on target.

    Matti: On line sourcing is extremely labor intensive and time consuming as you point out. But, of course, once one finds names you have to connect with people…the hardest part of the job.

    I see no easy solution to this problem.

  7. @ Alan: I just sent a word off to the creator to see about that….Now, it’s not all the things I menntioned, but it seems to help create the “digital dossier” part.


  8. Keith, thanks. Now I gotta take you to task on this. You tease us here then, take it away. awe

  9. LinkedIn scored by providing social permission to maintain an employment profile.

    Built into that advantage is a tension where as LinkedIn becomes more of a public space, its social value decreases, and so does the quality of data and interaction people are willing to undertake.

    LinkedIn’s own culture has evolved- they were in hypergrowth and now are starting the real process of digging out a business deal by deal by deal. They know they will have a fight with other major information companies, and to be sure, the sales performance of a skilled recruiter is essential and likely will be forever.

    LinkedIn is a great business, and they will be with us for a long time. Among many other trends, they may eat recruiter jobs, but the business will still go to recruiters- although fewer and better recruiters. The real estate industry may be a good model of that evolution…

  10. @ Martin: very thoughtful. I think you may start to see a sort of hollowing out of the recruiter work environment:a few/moderate number of $50/hr+ or 30% fee folks who provide high-touch, high-value add services, a lot of less-than-U.S.-minimum-wage stuff from automation and offshoring, and not too many in the middle, who’ll be servicing customers that are ignorant or oblivious of the fact that they’re either paying too much for low-level services (automated and offshored) or are getting substandard high-value work (mistakenly hoping for quality on the cheap).



  11. Interesting article. My long standing prediction in OZ has been that that LinkedIn will buy the biggest job board – SEEK then it wil own virtually the complete job advertising and search space in Australia.

  12. I noted in my article on recruiters adapting (link above)- big data with social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC – i didn’t make up that acroynm)will impact recruiters. it won’t make us go the way of dinosaurs (agree with Keith here)but it changes landscape in a way I’m not sure that we’ve ever seen prior.

    In sourcing, big data can’t yet gap poor candidate experience, labor intensive research for right fit for volume of skilled pros (for specific hard to fill roles, maybe, exec recruitment/research definitely)

    However, big data – SMAC does have huge potential on talent management which can mean, TA has to follow the leader.

    I don’t know by how much or what %, but there’ll be less recruiters for sure. more part-timers, more contractors and free-agent nation for good and bad.

    It will disrupt the profession of recruitment.

    @ Charles – thank you for your insights. Agree on potential for huge ROI – LI will have to determine its fate

    @ Maureen & Carol – agree. Military is usually ahead on this stuff and logic/human ingenuity/thought can’t be replaced, esp in sourcing process

    @Matti – I think your point is fair but not sure we’re there yet with LI in terms of saturation similary with boards but it’s probably not far off. Paradox indeed but I imagine LI will mine more business for selling ‘sales’ leads versus just the employment business. Doing so already.
    As long as folks are willing to create a profile, send inmails, etc – it’ll be around and of value to recruiters.

    @ Martin – what I find ironic is we participate (all of us, me included) to have access to the social sphere. We gave away our data for free. LI monetized it and will continue – if it expands with big data on sourcing, yes – less recruiters for sure.

    @ Alan – I’ve seen Talent Locator (good stuff) but I was referring to a few other big private equity backed players. Email me directly pls.

  13. Facebook may be the social lounge but I find a lot of our A-player talent is not hanging out on Facebook or they do not use it. Using LI and other tools as such are an extra bonus. As a research associate for a senior recruiter, we are very fortunate to have a great system (candidate management) to help us in managing our pipeline. I still believe there is nothing like old fashion searching and communicating with those in the industry you recruit for. Conversations go a long way…

  14. The most disruptive force is LI itself. The company seems to be moving in the direction of a subscription only service by consistently restricting access to information. While the number of people seems to be growing, the sense of urgency and responsiveness of LI participants to inmails etc., the suspect quality of the participants and the satisfaction level of the participants themselves leaves a lot to be desired. In some instances, group managers appear to have a conflict of interest and appear to censor or restrict conversations, which I find ironic in a “business social media” environment. When questions arise out of decisions made by group managers, LI has no appeal process, which is frustrating and can have negative effects for the LI brand. As a recruiter for over 30 years, I have never had a LI candidate win out over an individual I have recruited using other means, even though that recruit may have had a LI profile. I find this interesting in view of the fact I was one of the first to sign up for LI. LI is a tool, not a solution. The question that needs to be asked is: if everyone is fishing from the same pond, who is restocking the pond?

  15. Interesting article and comments. In the end what will disrupt LinkedIn is not another company, but itself. If it ceases to be useful and relevant, it will diminish and eventually disappear. So the real question for LI is what it has to do as a company to deliver a better product for its users. If they go the route of just another job board with no tools or abilities, or anything to distinguish them beyond being the database of the moment, then they’ll be old news in a few years.

    That’s one the reasons at my company we have yet to spring for LI Recruiter. It was ridiculously priced for what was essentially a hopped up job board/resume database. I have to see something beyond automation of administrative tasks, which while annoying can still be accomplished with relatively little time invested, before I go for yet another major budget item.

  16. Ed is correct, LI is a tool. As tools in the past, there will be, someday, other tools. What will they be, we’ll see.

    I also think LI will need to walk the balance between free, paid and what it means to the overall users.

    In the beginning LI was a good way for professionals to keep in touch. Instead of scrolling through their address books/outlook, to see who they haven’t connected with in a while. LI allowed that to be easier.

    Move forward, to LI going full-bore into the recruiting space. Wanting to increase revenue and add more value. Again, LI will need to walk that line.

    They tried apply through LinkedIn. I remember there was the old cry, “Recruiters are dead”. We all know what happened.

    LI, to it’s credit, has made adjustments, to not alienate its free users, well, maybe a bit to a lot, as they increase their revenue generating offerings. This is a fine line and, as many have learned in the past, it takes, one, or two, times of crossing over that line, before your marketplace/customers/users, get tired of the lock-downs, and decide to find another solution. I cite the move to LI from Monster/CB.

    One thing from the past. When Microsoft introduced Outlook, they made it very easy to import your stuff into Outlook. Going the other way, now that was tough. MS wanted to get you into Outlook, use it, have it become a habit, and dominate. Well, they did a good job.

    I would think, that with LI being software, if the marketplace becomes dissatisfied with LI, another company could come along, with an import feature, and allow users to import their LI stuff, into the new/next, thing. I am a bit surprised Jigsaw and others haven’t tried that yet.

    As Ed said, this is a tool, that’s it, it’s not a solution.

  17. @ Trish: You hit on a very important point: “a lot of our A-player talent is not hanging out on Facebook or they do not use it.”
    Quite true, and what isn’t said is that MOST COMPANIES CAN’T GET A-PLAYERS: THEY AREN’T A-COMPANIES AND DON’T HAVE A-STUFF TO OFFER. Want to figure out who you CAN get? Determine your Corporate Desirability Score (https://staging.ere.net/2013/02/15/recruiting-supermodels-and-a-tool-to-help-you-do-it/) and find out.


    Keith “Let’s Get Real” Halperin

  18. As a sourcing tool, LI is only good if profiles are updated. I think LI’s massive user growth is driven by the desire to professionally network and make connections….not the desire to find a job. Once new users make connections with people they already know, they visit LI less often and see less value…leading to out of date profiles and not responding to inmails. I think LI will be disrupted by a new platform that delivers greater value for the non job seekers…sort of what LI did to Facebook. LI became the professional network and Facebook became social only. LI may become the “resume” database for job seekers. I hope I’m wrong.

  19. To Kurt: You make a good point. I initially thought that LI is primarily meant for employed professionals who want to get in touch with important people in their field of business – customers, ex-colleagues, leading specialists in the industry etc. Then I found out many articles claiming that LI is primarily a recruitment / job-seeking tool. Thereafter somebody claimed that LI makes most of its revenue from some kind of marketing activities. I think LI needs to decide by itself what they really want to be. Now the urge by LI to find more sources of revenue is making the whole picture a bit difficult to comprehend. It you try to please everybody, you don’t make anybody really happy. The window of opportunity is now open, and according to my observation the people with the most polished profiles on LI are job seekers, either doing it openly or discreetly. Nothing wrong with that. If these people get disappointed (or get a job), then they will disappear (=stop being active). It the whole point is just to let professionals send emails to each other or to read articles written by industry experts, then there are lots of other tools to do the same thing.

  20. @ Matti

    I agree. I really want to see LI develop itself to drive hires in some way, perhaps by incorporating a way to pay out referral bonuses to people, anyone on the board who recommends a person who gets hired and stays for say 90+ days, or whatever standard the person paying out wants to use.

  21. Didnt Jeff Weiner state about 6 months ago that he wanted LinkedIn to provide the economic graph database of the world? – or words similar to that, (there is a video about it on most biz news sites) I guess this means they need all the data and I mean all the data. so I expect LI will need to acquire as well as drive massive integrations to capture this data. As a result they will naturally diversify away from recruitment as its main rev stream. This has already been seen a little with their marketing solutions although performance was poor last qtr and wall street cried a little.
    Will they actually want to provide better recruitment services? I dont think so. If they make it so easy for everyone they lose data. They have a different agenda and recruitment is the first aspect of that strategy.

  22. @ James – You’re right. His vision is to create a global “economic graph” — a database holding a digital profile for every one of the 3.3 billion people in the global work force, along with all of the world’s jobs, and a mechanism to bring them together. So yes, recruitment is the 1st part of the strategy and it’d be wise to expand revenue in other areas along with future acquisitions. Is this the world’s biggest job board and resume DB?

    some very insightful points by Richard, Edward Kurt & Matti. It is a sourcing tool whose data has to be recent and tangible.

    Alan makes a good point in example of moving from Monster to LI and adjustment LI made to make it destination spot.

    I looked at Indeed’s DB – smaller than LI. 9M in US and $1 for access/contact. In managing recruitment and sourcing teams, I’ve had LI at about $4-6 per inmail. Both are hitting 15-25% response rates and I want to compare quality. I’m not suggesting Indeed will disrupt/replace as different model but point is LI needs to continue drive value if it’s a recruitment tool or other options will be used in time.

  23. to the Question.. Primarily the audience and where that audience shifts to, is what disrupts a business. The audience is the *currency* and here, in recruitment world, that is the candidate. Today having less reason to visit a JobBoard and tomorrow maybe even less reason to visit LinkedIn. Maybe a while yet. But not as long into the future as one might think.


  24. Okay, I guess I see this a lot different.

    LinkedIn has a lot of profiles, and therefore potential candidate data, but it really isn’t much different from a job board model. On the major boards you can search and find candidates, post jobs (for a fee per job, same as LI) and build candidate pools. How is that any different from what LI does?

    I don’t feel ‘big data’ is going to be the answer either. Big data does have it’s use in some areas, but not with people. When you actually sit and talk with active professionals big data is viewed as very invasive (and given light of recent news events this feeling is heightened even more). Pulling data on market trends, weather patterns and the number of broccoli sprouts sold in North America in July, is fine for big data. Pulling someone’s personal details together from a myriad of sources to build a potential candidate profile without their knowledge is not.

    Finally, I can’t understand why many keep missing this – there are 3.3 billion working age population in the world, and almost 700 million professionals. That is A LOT of potential candidates that are NOT on LinkedIn.

    So, in my opinion to answer the question of the article, I don’t think LinkedIn will be disrupted as it is another tool in a recruiter’s toolbox. However, when looking at where these services need to go it is in eliminating the front end spam process that allows quality candidates and recruiters to connect meaningfully and stop wasting both of their time. Job Boards, nor LinkedIn, do this effectively today.

  25. I have never used LI to source a candidate and have just come off the two best years in our firm’s history. LI is too laborious to search for specific skill sets and chock-a-block with dead-ends and business-model-driven roadblocks. Everyone who puts a profile on LI that is a probable viable candidate is also on Monster or CB…and those two sites have the advantage of presenting a bona fide resume which, as we all know, is something of a legal document and carries far more gravitas than an LI profile; they simply provide more bang for the buck.

    Moreover I predict LI will go the way of FB…an passtime for the idle. I do not know a single fully utilized, self-actualized executive that pays any attention to it. They better make their coin while the getting is good or adapt their business model to draw my attention. Right now, they’re about as relevant and useful as playing solitaire.

  26. @ Chris
    “How is that any different from what LI does?”

    One difference off the top of my head is the hyperlinking of companies between candidates, which I have found helpful in terms of researching different people from the same company. Perhaps I find a company whose culture matches my own, I can surf through some of their employees and get a feel for what other potential positions might be filled with such people, and see who they have recommended and worked with as well. That’s something that helps drive recruiting efforts, making the connections easier and natural by eliminating the need to keyword search the company.

    I agree with your last paragraph, but it will never happen, or is very unlikely to happen. To accomplish that connection, employers would be left with two options: do a better job of retaining people; or, do everything possible to close off their options of finding another job. Historically the latter seems to be the preferred approach. It’s the same sense of entitlement that leads to employers saying they “demand” top level candidates even though they don’t offer top level comp, benefits, opportunity, or management. As customers they’re perpetually walking in to Rolls Royce dealerships and demanding to only pay Honda prices. Unless you find a way to twist the arm of the dealer, you’re not walking out with a new car.

    Since the employers have the money, political connections, and the presumed power in the relationship, they have managed to twist the dealer’s arm. Everything from using regulation to help push competing firms out of business, to being able to threaten someone with a bad reference be it truthful or not, to pushing ‘accepted’ practices which require employees keep their job search so secret it closes off options, demanding notice when of course none is often given when the employer decides to terminate the relationship, etc., etc., etc.

    The presumed relationship between employer and employee in the majority of the world is not one of equals working together because they want to, because it benefits both of them, but of employers being the masters and their employees a presumptive slave labor force, where any idea of wanting to move up or out is treated with suspicion and outright hostility much of the time. As such, anything that facilitates the recruitment process is by nature going to annoy those companies that can’t or won’t compete for employees.

  27. By the way, an executive friend of mine was fired for mentioning on his LI profile that he would be interested in hearing about fresh opportunities. It won’t take many of those incidents to put a damper on the fire. After all, this is business, not beanbag. It is dangerous for one to assume LI is as benign an environment as FB.

  28. Chris,

    While you make some good points I think LI has done something a bit different,and is one reason they have grown. Where CB/Monster are 1> resumes and 2> job postings, they have not been able to dive more into the social aspects of keeping in touch and getting a job. LI came from the other direction, if you will. They started with the social aspect, albeit a minor facet of it. Then, moved more aggressively into the recruiting space.

    Saying it’s a hopped-up CB/Monster??? I would ask how much have you really used it.

    I was an early adapter, I think I was one of the first 3% as I can see. If you really hack it w/ Google/LI Recruiter, there’s a lot to be had. Like any tool, it learning how to really dig into it and see how, or if it’s useful to you.

    Regarding the big data comments mentioned in these replies. I think there is, and will continue to be, more and more data coming from a variety of places. As amount of data increases, the yield quality of a given set of that data will result in less and less quality results. This, again, will come back to the great quote, “Has anyone picked up the dang phone?”. Hint, the long-term need for talented recruiters.

    LI may want to own all the data there is to find. Since our Gov’t has, sort-of, stopped warehousing a lot of data, there’s just too much of it. And in some cases are ‘surfing’ the current data flows to find patters…I could see this being a model for recruiting that would be useful. How can I see data, at a moment in time, that, indicates to me, that person ‘X’ might be open to a new job. Sort of a blend of seeing when a passive candidate may actually be more active, even is they, themselves don’t know it yet, but their actions tell me they are. And yes, this can be done, a bit these days.

    In the end, it will come down to the marketplace, If everyone is on LI, then it’s not special anymore. If the pricing gets too much, or free members start going to another site with better functions, or if the memberships feels their privacy is no longer that protected by LI, hint-facebook, then we may go there next. After all, that’s how LI found their niche.

  29. Sorry but to “Prefer Toremainanonymous”

    I find it funny that these come from folks not willing to own their comments. Nor could we verify his success stated. Also if a Co fires a person for posting their open to hearing about new things, then the company your friend works for, may not be around too much longer. I think this is not only a way for people to find their next thing….but companies would not believe how much new business they get from these types of interactions.

  30. @Richard and Alan:

    That’s for the input. I do agree that certain “features” on LI are different from job boards, but the business model remains similar.

    My point was that LinkedIn really hasn’t disrupted the job boards (they still remain the No. 1 source of online hires according to numerous studies), but has added to the toolbox of recruiters. Likewise, any new solution that adds benefit to recruiters and professionals will most likely further add to that toolbox rather than disrupt LinkedIn.

  31. @ Alan
    “I find it funny that these come from folks not willing to own their comments.”

    While I find it annoying too, I don’t blame people for wanting some anonymity in this world. That company may not be around much longer, but if true and this guy did get fired, that doesn’t change the fact that he has himself and perhaps a family to support, and he was punished for trying to do that. That is the sense of entitlement many employers have, that they’re doing you a favor by ‘allowing’ you to work for them. Those companies may go out of business, but usually what they end up doing is limping along and employing the employees they can get with such treatment while still demanding ‘top performers’ from their recruiters and HR departments. I would not fault people with such worries for trying to protect their identities. Especially when the real problem is such practices aren’t unusual.

  32. Richard,

    OK maybe my coffee hadn’t hit, but I still enjoy respecting this group and the opinions of those that own their words, like you

    I agree w/ your comments, my bad if mine were a bit harsh. I do think many Co’s are still running the entitlement, ‘you’re lucky to have a job’…game. I would say as the economy keeps recovering that person let go I hope finds a better, next gig. But Co’s also need to realize, that doing this, word gets around, and I would wonder how many companies have huge, lost opportunity costs, by never seeing great candidates, that wont apply or work for them, because they heard about this

  33. You missed SAP as the owner of Success Factors. All 3 of these giants (Oracle, IBM, SAP) jumped in to the talent management arena during a short span of time. Workday remains the small, independent and feisty fish.

  34. @ Chris: “Pulling someone’s personal details together from a myriad of sources to build a potential candidate profile without their knowledge is not.”
    I have no problem in people doing that off publicly-available sources. In fact, I list my TinyURLed “google” on my resume.

    If you don’t want folks messin’ with yer public data, don’t have no public data, ’cause if ya do, sooner or later, we’re a-gonna gitcha….



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