Riffing on LinkedIn's global recruiting trends survey

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed August 7, 2013
Last month, LinkedIn issued one of the most self-serving studies ever created - their third annual global recruiting trends survey. But there are some results worth noting.

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Last month, LinkedIn issued one of the most self-serving studies ever created - their third annual global recruiting trends survey. Nutshell? It's a rough time for a LinkedIn curmudgeon like myself (please send flowers).

Not only do LinkedIn's revenue numbers continue to trend up, to the tune of a 32% increase in profit and a 59% increase in sales from 2nd quarter 2012, but talent management software is on the up-and-up as well, particularly of the SaaS variety. Cornerstone OnDemand is the latest to issue glowing earnings news, with sales up 66 percent from the previous year.

Though I tend to fall into the cynics' camp when it comes to social business hype, it's hard to knock the impact of social networks on recruitment, for obvious reasons. Reaching sought-after individuals has long been the biggest hill corporate recruiters have to climb. Networks like LinkedIn bring unprecedented visibility into the professional status of so-called 'high performers'.

Lo and behold, LinkedIn's most recent recruiting survey reinforced that point. But in addition to underscoring the obvious, there were a few notable results, and a couple of surprises to boot. Let's review. But first - the slideshare embed:

LinkedIn doesn't have a sample size issue - more than 3,300 'talent acquisition leaders' from 19 countries were surveyed.

From the data, LinkedIn pulled out the '5 most important trends shaping the future of recruiting':

  • social professional networks are having a growing impact on hiring quality
  • employer branding is seen as a competitive thread and a competitive advantage in hiring
  • data is being utilized to make better hiring and branding decisions
  • companies are investing in their internal hires to retain top talent
  • mobile recruiting is becoming a factor

Surprising data

One of the most surprising bits of data: according to respondents, worldwide hiring volume increased 5 percent over the course of 2012, going from 38% to 43% (I would have expected that percentage to be flatter). Based on that overall increase in hiring activity, LinkedIn concludes that the respondents' emphasis on sourcing, hiring and pipelining talent makes logical sense.

It's no surprise that LinkedIn found that social professional networks had by far the biggest jump (11%) as the most important place to find quality hires. Reports continue to come in from experienced recruiters that the resume is giving way to the online profile. For quality hire sources, other avenues on the rise included:

Employee referral programs (+4%)
Internal resume databases (+3%)
Internal hires (+1%)

I wasn't surprised to see recruitment agencies down for the third consecutive year. What did surprise me was that the usefulness of company career web sites is down by 1% from 2012, and still trails recruiting agencies as a go-to place for quality hires by 5 percentage points.

That strikes me as a missed opportunity. Content-rich web sites with thriving communities are an ideal platform for sharing new opportunities. The potential applicants are folks that trust not only the brand, but interact with the people behind the brand. That's an ideal talent pool if properly cultivated.

Perhaps the struggle building out communities is part of the reason that corporate career sites seem to be lagging. There's a danger in putting too much stock in social networks beyond your direct content control, but that lesson is not shining through in these results.

Another result that surprised me? The need to upgrade employer branding. When asked, 'What do you consider the three most essential and long-lasting trends in recruiting for professional roles?' Upgrading employer branding came in second at 33%, trailing only - you can guess this one - 'utilizing social and professional networks' (39%).

Objectives that I consider central to talent management, 'finding better ways to source passive candidates' (27%), 'being a strategic talent advisor to the business' (22%), and 'boosting referral programs' (21%), all finished significantly lower. A whopping 83% believe that employer brand has a 'significant' impact on recruiting great talent.

I'm not dismissing brand value to hiring, but I wonder how much HR managers can change how a brand is perceived. Social networks are not exactly easy to control when it comes to employer brand identity - look no further than Glassdoor for evidence of that. If I were an HR manager, I'd care more about becoming a strategic talent advisor to business, or even attracting passive job seekers via 'thought leadership' blog content - a tactic not mentioned in these survey results.

Mobile recruitment is undernourished

I read the mobile recruitment data with interest. 87% of those polled believed their company was not investing adequately in mobile recruitment. But the obvious question is: what if they did? Would it have a positive recruiting impact?

Respondents seemed to think so.  As per the results, 'when candidates can easily access jobs on mobile devices, they like it and use it'. Of the minority of companies investing in mobile recruitment, 59% used mobile to learn about opportunities, and 52% used mobile devices to apply for positions.

By contrast, the majority of survey respondents whose companies do not invest adequately in mobile recruitment are getting anemic results - under 15% for both questions. Clearly the data forms an argument for mobile recruiting projects.

Final thoughts

LinkedIn's results may be self-serving, but they point to a necessary blurring of the lines between recruitment, social networking and content sharing (Linked In is now tapping into the latter via a range of content marketing moves, including their influencer blogs). While the survey's branding results raised my eyebrows, you can argue that HR has plenty to learn from marketing - assuming marketing is also changing its game from broadcast to interact.

HR faces the same pressures as IT departments - become more relevant to the business, or face unwanted rounds of cost reduction and outsourcing. Perhaps HR and IT are another partnership to emerge from these results.

While the 'data' section of the LinkedIn report findings was a bit sparse, it's clear that more sophisticated data initiatives (and real-time skills searches) would surface new leads for savvy recruiters. Example: keyword alerts that flag individuals who blog or tweet about projects with your company, leading to a hiring profile and/or job invite (after an internal data check to assure no non-competes are in place). Seamless integration between talent management systems and third party sites like LinkedIn and Xing is another matter entirely.

The biggest gap I saw in this survey was the avoidance of temporary and 'virtual' hires. In the IT industry, we're seeing more stories about the 'open talent economy', with sites such as Elance and Odesk helping IT managers who are struggling to hire full time talent for pending projects.

I'm surprised that on-demand talent pools have not taken the enterprise by storm yet - is it only a matter of time before on-demand talent sourcing has the same impact on services that SaaS has on enterprise software? I've said it before - still waiting. Perhaps the management challenges of virtual project teams are the impediment.

Today, the story of recruitment is the impact of social networks. In a few years, it may be about online talent auctions. We'll see if LinkedIn stays ahead of the curve. Meantime, I have to run - I've fallen behind on my LinkedIn skill endorsements again.

Photo credit: contract for you © nyanza - Fotolia.com

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