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September 30, 2021 · 5 min read

Why is hiring people so hard on LinkedIn?

It might seem odd that I used LinkedIn Jobs to make a recent hire. After all, it’s my job to grow, a hiring platform that seeks to outpace LI (and all other hiring platforms, for that matter). The thing is, we operate exclusively in the software development space, and I was tasked with making a sales hire. So, LinkedIn Jobs it was.

It turns out that it’s a huge privilege to get to (have to?) use your competitor’s service in earnest once in a while. When you spend every day solving The Problem in a way you think is best, it’s easy to lose sight of how the market experiences The Problem. I often find myself assuming that just because we’ve found a way to eliminate X headache or Y timesuck for our users, everyone else has solved it, too.

I couldn’t be more wrong. Getting back in the hiring game without using was like playing Sims without the cheat codes.

How LinkedIn is optimized for the black hole hiring experience

It’s been a while since I last applied for a job, but I remember the experience all too well: opening a few dozen tabs, quickly adjusting my cover letter for each, and firing the applications off with a small prayer that they’d be the one out of fifty that I’d actually hear back from. As an applicant, it feels like your LinkedIn job applications are sucked up by a black hole, given how infrequently they’re acknowledged by the hiring company. I am convinced that this is by design—a direct result, in fact, of the experience on the hirer’s side.

This black-hole-ness (trademark that) disincentivizes any sort of thoughtfulness or discernment on the applicant’s side—and really, I can’t blame them. Like generating cold leads, I can see how a spray and pray method would feel like the only approach. This means that my first step when sorting candidates on LinkedIn is to send the ones who seem like a good fit a message essentially asking, “but really, are you actually interested in this job? Do you even remember applying for it?”

Sitting on the other side as a hirer, I learned why even really competitive applicants are ignored when they apply on LinkedIn:

1. LinkedIn creates an application for you that begs to be ignored. 

The application I’m given as a hirer includes your name and photo, your current role, and where (and when) you went to school. In other words: all the tools my internal bias needs to make a trash judgement call. The application doesn’t answer the first key questions I have for applicants, like:

  • Why do you think you’d do well in this role?
  • What is it like to work with you?
  • How do you present yourself in writing and verbally?
  • How does this role fit in with your career trajectory?

Understanding this information sooner in the hiring process helps me make initial screening decisions based on role fit rather than internal bias. But on LinkedIn, there’s no mode for applicants to share this information up front.

2. InMail is pure chaos. 

When reviewing candidates, the LI interface is optimized to encourage sending an initial message through InMail. Anyone who has run cold outreach through LinkedIn before understands the problem here: InMail is chaotic. Unlike a regular email client or CMS, organizing messages is hopeless. Messages are read (or accidentally opened) and forgotten.

The indicator that a message is new (and thus requires attention) is cleared as soon as it’s viewed. I could make this work; the problem is, though, that messages are auto-opened when I’m logged in doing other stuff (like sorting through candidates). If I can’t respond right that instant, they’re doomed to be lost forever.

3. It’s highly likely that your application has never been seen. 

Sure, LinkedIn wasn’t created to replace an applicant tracking system (ATS). But if a company is relatively small and doesn’t have a need for an ATS quite yet, using LI alone doesn’t give hirers any real way to track or share candidates with their team. Only one person on the hiring side has access to the job, and there’s no way to visually organize candidates and leave notes on them.

A nearly global embrace of remote work has opened a world of opportunity for both hirers and job seekers alike; it has also expanded the applicant pool for jobs to an extent that has become unmanageable. My low-budget job post on LinkedIn brought in nearly five hundred applicants—and it’s impossible to know whose applications I may have missed.

I think both applicants and hirers deserve better than that.

There’s got to be a better way

People who are hiring software developers often get off their first call with us and say, “I feel like this is too good to be true.” I always thought this was just a kind, albeit exaggerated, way to compliment the work we’re doing in the hiring space. I get it now. As a hirer, not only is it hard to find the right candidates for your role; it also feels pretty terrible to treat applicants like numbers and not humans.

Hiring is more competitive than ever. We all know that there is a talent shortage, and yet platforms continue to treat talent like they’re an unlimited resource during the hiring process. Our goal is to change that.

When we hire software engineers for our internal dev team, we hire them right here on, rather than LinkedIn or other platforms. Here’s why:

  • We know there’s a baseline of experience and professionalism. All candidates have been verified to write and speak clearly and to really have the experience they say they have.
  • There’s a hiring expert who works on our behalf to identify candidates for our role specifically—from seniority, to skillset, to cultural considerations—so we don’t have to.
  • We’re not inundated with hundreds of applicants; they’ve been curated by said hiring expert.
  • We can immediately see what former colleagues have said about working with them.
  • We can also see a sample of their writing and speaking, and get a sense of what it would be like to work with them through a WorkStyle Assessment.
  • There’s a clear process for next steps: no sea of InMails or lost resumes. Either we opt to interview them or we decline them with useful feedback attached.

I’m sure there’s some way we could calculate a big, sexy number of hours saved by the features above, for both hirers and job seekers; quantifying the frustration avoided would be harder. I think we can leave it at this: I’m boycotting company hiring responsibilities until the team agrees to create for Sales (and marketing, and operations, and…).