LinkedIn just received a taste of its own medicine. For those in the recruiting industry, it just might be a game changer.

The data giant endured a crushing blow in the courthouse on August 14 as it defended itself against hiQ Labs. According to the startup, LinkedIn had been blocking its access to “public profile data” (ere.net). U.S. District Judge Chen ruled in favor of hiQ Labs, demanding that the giant provide access to such information (reuters.com).

The competing rationale is simple: HiQ Labs notes that LinkedIn’s activities have resulted in a monopolization of public information. Meanwhile, LinkedIn claims that it protects users’ privacy. HiQ labs countered this argument by noting its tendency to sell “services to third parties based on LinkedIn profile information in its entirety” (ere.net). Sounds legitimate, right (sarcasm implied)?

While this case might seem like a one-off affair, the truth is that LinkedIn has been gradually seizing control of its users while ousting the competition for years. At this point, you can’t live with them, but you can’t live without them.

Let’s take a look at the ways in which LinkedIn now controls our environment:

 

COSTS:

It is no secret that LinkedIn costs are rising. While the Recruiter Lite plan costs $99.95 per month, the full-blown LinkedIn Recruiter program costs about $9,000 per seat per year. It is not uncommon for corporations to invest millions of dollars to ensure that all employees have access to the proper LinkedIn profiles.

RESTRICTIONS:

Even with a premium plan, LinkedIn places restrictions on the number of InMails a recruiter or sales navigator can send. For the sales navigator, the limit is twenty per month. For the Recruiter Lite plan, the limit is thirty per month. To put it bluntly, professionals are gradually paying more for less. Because they are dependent on LinkedIn’s services, the giant gets away with it every time.

CUSTOMER SERVICE:

Capturing the attention of a customer service representative is akin to banging your head against a wall one thousand tortuous times. Everything is completed through InMail, which implies in itself that customer complaints are not a priority. Visit
http://www.customerservicescoreboard.com/LinkedIn if you need proof of this poor practice.

LINKEDIN BY THE NUMBERS:

One of the most common rationales for using LinkedIn is that candidates are swarming to it. After all, recruiters should go where the talent lies, right? Yet LinkedIn currently claims 180 million fewer users than Twitter. Perhaps recruiters should widen their horizons and transition to sites that cost less, use fewer restrictions, and boast a larger platform.

 

TURN OFF THE NOISE:

Imagine the last time you logged into your LinkedIn account. Perhaps it was just this morning. How many unsolicited InMails did you delete without scanning? How many posts did you scroll by without reading? How many times did you roll your eyes as you passed by an irrelevant advertisement? LinkedIn promotes unnecessary noise that users find increasingly difficult to tune out. What was once a professional forum has become a breeding ground for commercialization.

ENDORSE ME:

While endorsement categories such as leadership, sales, and marketing were originally intended to distinguish skilled professionals, they are currently meaningless. Everybody is endorsed by somebody these days; with the right contacts, unqualified candidates will receive a host of endorsements in random categories that might not even apply to their field. The endorsements on a candidate’s page are an indicator of a person’s social network as opposed to their true skill.

ALGORITHMS:

Let’s assume for a moment that Recruiter A possess the Recruiter Lite membership while Recruiter B possess the full LinkedIn Recruiter membership. They initiate the same search with the same keywords, yet they receive different results. This is actually very common due to the membership-based algorithms that LinkedIn employs. In essence, the giant provides different information to various users based on their monetary contribution. The catch is that they don’t advertise this; they want everyone to assume that they receive the best results.

RECRUITER CLOG:

Let’s face it: LinkedIn is now a recruiting meat market, and candidates know it. Gone are the days of formal connections and professional networking. The average user can now expect bothersome messages, exasperating pitches, and full inboxes. Candidates are logging off, failing to update their profiles, and looking to other social media sites for connections. LinkedIn’s glory days are almost over.

 

So, what is a recruiter to do as the fall of LinkedIn draws near? Should the entire industry jump ship, or should it stick around for the long-haul?

While LinkedIn is certainly not what it used to be, recruiters still find it useful for basic searches and supporting information. The key is to use it as reinforcement rather than the groundwork of your recruitment practices.

In other words, recruiters must not fully rely on LinkedIn for information. Instead, they must use it as one tool among many.

Furthermore, while it is too early to jump ship and write off LinkedIn completely, it is never too early to prepare for disaster. Recruiters must look at the alternatives: what other social media and recruiting sites could replace LinkedIn in terms of breadth and influence? Could Twitter search, Facebook graph search, Google/Bing X-ray search, or Indeed search become the next best tool (sourcecon.com)?

Most importantly, what are you doing in the meantime? None of these tools can replace the phone call, coffee meeting, or direct conference. There are no algorithms, InMail restrictions, or membership fees for a personal interaction.

While recruitment tools can be replaced, the backbone of recruitment will never die. While we wait for LinkedIn to clean it up or move along, it’s time to get personal.