LinkedIn Is Your Best Recruiting Tool

LinkedIn is easier—and cheaper—to use for recruiting than you think. Here are seven tips on how to leverage LinkedIn to find your next hire.
October 12, 2012

In one sense, LinkedIn has revolutionized job recruiting, but in another sense it hasn't. After all, the social network is just a giant database of potential employees. To actually recruit, you still have to e-mail or even—gulp—pick up the phone.

If you're a small business, you have to do some number-crunching to determine how much to invest in LinkedIn. If you're looking to fill just one or two positions, then spending $7,000 or so for LinkedIn Recruiter might be a bit extravagant. However, if you considered hiring a specialist or firm to fill those positions, paying 15 percent to 30 percent of a hire's first-year salary can be less than ideal. If you're looking to hire someone in the six-figure range, LinkedIn's Recruiter might look like a bargain.

However, you also have to calculate how much time it takes to recruit and screen applicants yourself and maybe consider the fact that without a professional recruiter on board, you may be making a costly mistake. Finally, you may want to weigh the fact that even if you hire a recruiter, they are likely to just use LinkedIn anyway.

Of course, small-business owners are constantly grappling with such calculations. However, if decide that you can go it alone, take a look at these tips from a couple of professional recruiters.

Use the networks you already have . The first step to recruiting via LinkedIn is to canvas your staff for their possible connections. If you're looking for a programmer, for instance, ask your programmers to explore and update their networks on LinkedIn. This, of course, is a fairly common sense approach to the problem. However, the beauty of LinkedIn is that you can expand your network with friends of friends. You may know a good programmer who's happy where she is, but she might have someone in her network who's not.

Use LinkedIn's paid products . You can use LinkedIn for free and contact anyone in your network, but to get people outside your network, you need to pay. LinkedIn Premium, which runs from $19.95 a month to $74.95 a month, will give you greater visibility into the network. (You can see full profiles for second- and third-degree connections, for instance.) However, you max out at 25 InMail messages.

LinkedIn is loathe to share any information about pricing for the step up from Premium to Recruiter. However, recruiting experts say pricing for Recruiter runs about $7,000 a year to start, which gives you 50 InMails a month. Beyond that, the sky's the limit. A LinkedIn rep said that corporate packages can cost as much as $80,000 a year. Another option is advertising. Again, LinkedIn is coy about pricing, but touts on its site that LinkedIn ads start at $10 a day.

Cold call attractive prospects . If you're the CEO of a small business, you might have an edge over a professional recruiter because prospects are more likely to return your InMail out of courtesy, if nothing else. As Irvine, Calif–based Lou Adler, CEO of The Adler Group,  points out, if you're looking for a new CFO, a qualified accountant may be flattered you're considering her for the position. If not, the friendly interaction might lead to another prospect. Adler says he likes to call CPA firms because "very often, they hook up their alumni." If Candidate X isn't interested, she might know of Candidate Y who left the firm a few years ago and is unhappy with her current job.

Adler treats LinkedIn like the Yellow Pages of old. If he's looking for a programmer in Sacramento, he identifies all the tech firms in the area on LinkedIn. He says that before LinkedIn he did pretty much the same thing, but would use the phone book and call the main number of a firm. If he was looking for a CFO, he'd ask for the CFO. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. The only thing that's changed now is how fast it happens. "If you have LinkedIn and an iPhone 5, you can find a candidate in hours," Adler says.

Seek passive candidates as well as active ones. There's some debate in the recruiting industry as to whether you're better off going after active candidates who are looking for a job or passive ones, who aren't. Whatever the case, if you're just considering the former, you're screening out about 80 percent of the market, says Glen Cathey, VP, global sourcing and talent strategy at Randstad. But just because someone's not looking, "it doesn't mean you can't recruit them," Cathey says. "The best people are doing a good job somewhere else."

Market yourself and your company. LinkedIn isn't a database, it's a social network. To really work it, you have to be aware that it's a two-way communication venue. While you're browsing other people's profiles, they're checking yours out as well. LinkedIn recommends keeping your profile up-to-date and linking to your blog and Twitter account. You can also showcase top employees and other aspects of your company via a Career Page.

Use status updates. Another way to improve your visibility on LinkedIn is to make use of status updates. Until late June, you could do this fairly easily by linking your Twitter account to your LinkedIn feed. However, since then, Twitter and Linked in have parted ways. To update your status now, you have to do it directly on Linkedin.

Join groups. Another free resource on LinkedIn is Groups, which let people of similar interests discuss the topics and trade tips. In addition to networking with new people, LinkedIn states you will "better understand what your candidates care about, what they read, what’s going in their industry or function, which ones are experts in their fields and more."