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Is LinkedIn Killing the Recruitment Industry?


They say that curiosity killed the cat, a reference to the dangers of unnecessary experimentation. Herein lies perhaps the answer to the question of whether LinkedIn is in the process of pushing the executive search and recruitment industry over the cliff. Many clients and candidates ask me how LinkedIn has affected our executive search business in the past few years.

LinkedIn reported that in January it passed the level of 200 million members in more than 200 countries and territories. From LinkedIn’s demographics and statistics for last year, I notice that Thailand has 300,000 registered members of the online service.

According to Thailand’s own National Statistical Office, as of last December, we had a labour force of 40 million people, of whom 6 million come with a higher education. A higher level of education is defined as holding a diploma or a bachelor’s or master’s degree. In other words, Thailand’s 300,000 registered LinkedIn members represent only 5 per cent of the higher-trained people here.

Now, combine that with the research from the US Bureau of Labour Statistics showing that at any given time only 16 per cent of us are actively looking for a new job. So how many are 16 per cent of the 5 per cent who by definition are active applicants and candidates?

If we take the liberty of assuming that all 300,000 Thailand-based LinkedIn members are there because they are interested in a new job, I suppose one could argue that a call or mail to such individuals would easily yield a shortlist to your hiring manager or client. But honestly, is that assumption even close to the actual fact? No, I don’t think so.

What many forget is that just having someone’s name and contact details does not mean you have your next candidate victim. The search and recruitment process is far from over, probably just 2 per cent into the long recruitment process. Finding a name in today’s wired and increasingly smaller world is obviously a piece of cake.

The biggest challenge is what happens next, after you have that name and LinkedIn profile. Just reaching out, asking the person if she is interested in a new job, surely will not cut it. But then again, this is the question inexperienced recruiters or corporate or recruitment companies gladly ask right after they have introduced themselves. And don’t forget that human-resource managers are in HR and not in sales for a reason. Few in HR find it to their liking to cold-call someone and sell a job opportunity. Yes, recruitment is for a big part Sales with a capital S.

You must bring unique selling points to the table when you establish contact with a person you found on the Internet and LinkedIn. We call these selling points “employee value propositions” in the executive search field. You must be good at selling the job opportunity, have a high influence factor, be able to establish a good rapport quickly, make a strong impact when you communicate, and be full of confidence. These traits are hallmarks of a great sales manager and a top recruiter.

Why else will the executive search and recruitment industry never be pushed aside? Remember when Internet job boards came into our world? Remember when large multinational organisations set up their own recruitment departments, often with staff from the recruitment industry? Some predicted it was the end for headhunters and the like. Despite these initiatives mentioned above, the recruitment industry is doing well, thank you. In fact, with the expected contraction in the labour force, it’s anyone’s guess what that brings to the industry. The best-kept secret: golden days ahead for the professional headhunters; that is, if you can find the candidates for your clients.

Having said all that, I do believe that the recruitment companies that only sell resumes lifted from the Internet job boards or their own databases will find it tougher out there. Without any value-added services in their product offering, their client companies will hesitate to pay for a pile of papers with names of people who have not been qualified to their requirements.

If you find it a challenge to identify applicants and candidates, ask yourself if your company is using technology tools, Internet job boards and tactics learned 20 years ago. You see, more and more people no longer hang out on job boards or participate in discussion forums, nor do they check “help wanted” classified adverts in the print media. I know of some who have taken down their LinkedIn profile, or made the profile private, to avoid being chased by desperate and hungry corporate and recruitment recruiters. The reason? Just being fed up receiving calls or e-mails every day, asking if they want another job.

I could really laugh when I see now many HR and line managers blindly and cluelessly continue to post any managerial and top executive vacancy on the Internet job boards. In Thailand alone, there are many choices when it comes to where you can buy a small piece of Internet real estate for your announcement that your company is looking for people.

But this is not a laughing matter. It’s nothing but mismanagement and really a reason for dismissal. Ask your preferred Internet job board provider for its candidate demographics. One of the major job-board players in Thailand will tell you that about 90 per cent of its candidates are younger than 30 years of age, earn less than 100,000 a month, and have no bachelor’s or master’s degree. Now tell me if that looks like a really good place to find your next finance director or other senior executive.

Even worse and plain incredible is to see client companies use a recruitment company that in turn posts the vacancy on the job board, harvests whatever applications reach the e-mail inbox, send the collected resumes to the client and, if someone is hired, finish the job with an invoice. I am not sure who should be first in the line of fire, the client or the recruitment company.

Oh, well. If only such recruitment companies would stop calling themselves headhunters when all they do is shoplifting on the Internet. I guess the first to get fired would have to be the ignorant HR department.

About the Author:

Tom_Sorensen GTInet Tom Sorensen | Partner | Grant Thornton Thailand

Headhunter, newspaper columnist and blogger Tom Sorensen is a partner in Grant Thornton Thailand. He leads its successful executive search division in Thailand, at the top end of Thailand’s executive search business.
He has been a popular key note speaker in the Thai business community for years. Tom also writes for the Bangkok Post, The Nation, business magazines and is the only columnist from the executive search and recruitment industry to do so.

Tom joined Grant Thornton Thailand in 2003 and is a recruitment consultant licensed by the Ministry of Labour.

Feel free to engage with Tom at:gt

Twitter: @Headhunter_Tom


Over the past 3 years, Rachel has been working specifically within the digital marketing space and has worked with some of the country’s top brands. Drawing on her knowledge and experience, Rachel has developed a genuine understanding of how content can engage and compel an audience.

Rachel is responsible for every aspect of web management, marketing and overall production of the Recruitment Buzz brand and is often called upon for her skills and knowledge of WordPress, email marketing software and social media tools.

Rachel works closely with the Recruitment Buzz editorial team and certainly recognises a good story when she sees one!


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