The Problem with LinkedIn and How to Fix It
The Largest Professional Network In The World Has A Problem
Present Day Job Seeker: I search for product manager job openings in San Francisco and I get 13,427 results on LinkedIn.
Present Day Employer: I send hundreds of Inmails per day and my response rate is less than 1%.
When you are starting a company, many wise people will tell you to focus on doing one thing well for a small number of people. They are right. LinkedIn’s current problem is that they’ve been pulled away from that mindset. Instead, LinkedIn is solving its problems in a mediocre way. The problem they should be solving is job markets, helping companies and job seekers find each other. It’s not doing it well because LinkedIn doesn’t understand the unique values of the employers and job seekers using their platform.
Job seekers fall into one of two broad categories, highly sought after (ahem, software engineers), and not. For the highly sought after LinkedIn facilitates a vast array of recruiter spam that is undifferentiated, annoying, and easy to ignore. For those job seekers that are not on the winning side of job market demand, LinkedIn baits you with the possibility of making a personal connection at a potential employer, but does it really deliver? My experience is that busy professionals barely pay attention to recruiting when they are required to interview someone, let alone when a 2nd or 3rd-degree connection reaches out over a network that is checked maybe once a week.
For employers, the story is more a story of haves and have-nots. Employers that have large recruiting piggy banks are able to pay for the right to spam job candidates, but they have no way of knowing which people are actually looking for a job. Employers that don’t have the resources to pay for premium recruiter access must also guess which candidates are ready to move except the stakes are higher because they don’t have the Inmail credit to get it wrong. Both the haves and the have-nots share the same challenge of differentiating themselves with a company pages that virtually guarantee a job seeker will glaze over after reviewing more than a couple.
The Solution Is To Create Micro-Networks Based On the ‘Soft Stuff’
The problem I’ve described is one where technology has enabled connection but has not provided the intelligence for employers and job seekers to sort themselves into groups efficiently. As a result, there is an incredible amount of noise in job markets that is exhausting for both parties to deal with.
Now the solution to this may not be obvious at first. Afterall LinkedIn has all my professional information already! What more could they possibly need to match me to my perfect employer?!
Let’s take a step back and think about this from an individual human perspective. What do you do when you move to a new city and you don’t know many people? Most people start to find activities to participate in that interest them, things like sports, concerts, art shows, going out to restaurants and bars etc… These might be formal or they might be casual, but everyone starts to find other people with shared interests.
Importantly, no one is asking you to do everything, just the things that you like to do. And that’s the analogy for the missing ingredient to job markets. Employers and job seekers are like people who have moved to a new city and are trying literally every activity available searching for like-minded people.
What if employers didn’t have to spam LinkedIn for job applicants? What if job seekers didn’t apply for every job in the category they are looking for? What if you were as confident that you could find a company where you will be happy as you are confident that you can find a concert you will enjoy?
The answer to LinkedIn’s problem is to understand companies and individuals for more than their resumes. This is the ‘soft stuff.’ It’s what makes us who we are at work, and defines the culture of the companies where we work. In short, companies and people should be united by shared values. If we understand who we are (as a company or an individual), we should be able to find each other much more quickly than we currently capable of.
Here’s the future we should be striving for:
Future Job Seeker: I search for product manager job openings in San Francisco, and I get 20 recommendations based on what type of companies work best for me.
Future Employer: I get a list of 20 recommended candidates with information beyond their resume about why they are a fit for my company. My outreach response rate is greater than 80%.