T3 – Behind the Curtain at LinkedIn

I got invited to LinkedIn! Yeah, me, the guy who was blacklisted from LinkedIn because I tend to write stuff that isn’t so flattering about the organization. Before I tell you what I learned while at LinkedIn, I have to tell you that I had to sign an NDA the moment I walked into the building! So, what I’m about to say is what I can say without getting myself in trouble.

The meeting at LinkedIn was something dreamed up by Chris Hoyt and Gerry Crispin at CareerXroads after hearing feedback from some of their Colloquium members (FYI TA Leaders – if you haven’t checked out becoming a member of CareerXroads, you need to!) they felt LinkedIn would definitely want and need to hear. Everyone says they want critical feedback until you get it! To LinkedIn’s credit, they were willing to hear this feedback, which can be tough to take! No one likes being told their baby is ugly! This wasn’t going to be some vendor advisory meeting, this was going to be something completely new and different!

LinkedIn had multiple people from their leadership team attend and were highly engaged. It helped that the clients who attended were whales! Giant clients, clients that move your needle. These kinds of clients ensure you get heard.

So, what did I learn:

– LinkedIn has a vision and that vision has a lot to do with helping organizations attract and get talent from a product perspective. They also think member first, not a buyer of LinkedIn Recruiter seat first. That’s important. The true value of LI is not their clients paying for products, it’s the network. Without the network, LI is worthless.

– A ton of companies in the TA tech space want access to LinkedIn member data so they can make money. Not shocking, but most of the money they would make is directly at the expense of what LinkedIn has built and is making money on. Welcome to Capitalism, that’s not going to fly. So, you can complain that LI won’t allow access, to this or that, and you can continue to complain because it makes no financial sense for them to do so.

– What LinkedIn sees as important is probably not important to you, yet. That’s most of the disconnect between user and company. Recruiters can come up with many things that are wrong with LinkedIn and probably believe LinkedIn doesn’t have a clue. They do have a clue, but they’re also focusing on the future and fixing the problems as a set, not one at a time.

– LinkedIn can do way better from a PR standpoint of letting the user base know they are being heard and what they are doing about what they are hearing. Or more importantly, why they are not doing something. Many times not doing something is causing the most friction, when in reality there is a real reason why they are not fixing something you believe needs to be fixed or added.

– LinkedIn, like most HR and TA Tech companies, love their fans. If you only listen to your fans, you begin to believe you’re really, really good. The problem with this in Recruiting and HR is 80% (my number) of pros really don’t know any better. If you give them anything that helps them, they’re going to be super happy and think it’s the best, because they don’t know any better. LinkedIn has made a conscious choice to start listening to some of the people who are critical and finding the value in that feedback as well.

– Fake profiles, catfishing, etc. are a problem. They heard it. They heard it from their largest clients. This isn’t an easy problem to fix, and it has nothing to do with network growth numbers, even though almost every recruiter you speak with thinks that this is actually the case. My opinion is, after attending this meeting, that LI is less concerned with the overall total member number, and more concentrated on the number of ‘active’ member users on a daily and weekly basis. They want to raise engagement of all members.

– LinkedIn knows they have data you want as a Recruiting pro and leader, and they’re working on ways to bring it to you in a more robust, easy to consume manner. Again, it’s the 90/10 rule. 10% of power users want everything, but that would be overwhelming to 90% of the rest of us. Great tech gives you what you need, when you need it, in a way you can easily consume it. That’s not easy.

– LinkedIn Fangirl Stacy Zapar was there with me. I know people view Stacy as a walking billboard for how great LI is. I will tell you that out of everyone in the room, Stacy challenged LI’s leadership more than anyone and did it continually. She was fighting the fight for recruiters at the feet of the throne. If you love a product, you’ll fight to make it better. She has a unique ability to share negative feedback in the most positive way!

That’s it for now. I hope I don’t get a cease and desist email today! I tried to be as specific as I could without giving details. I was impressed with LinkedIn’s team. They came across as they cared very much about what everyone in the room had to say and are working to address all of the concerns.

I left believing, for the very first time, that LinkedIn actually cares about what we as a recruiting industry think. Thanks to Chris Hoyt and Gerry Crispin at CareerXroads for convincing some of their Colloquium members to come and provide this feedback. I highly recommend them to other HR and TA tech vendors who truly want to know what your clients and the industry think about your company and your products!

One last thing. I looked for blue Kool-Aid everywhere on LI’s campus and couldn’t find it! I secretly wished they would have it everywhere in those water coolers on every floor, that would be so awesome and funny at the same time! Maybe they hid it away knowing I was coming! Stay tuned. My hope from this meeting is I’ll have more to share in the future on LinkedIn and its going-ons.

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