Gone are the days of getting the Saturday paper and highlighting all the relevant positions — these days you have a whole range of options at your disposal to find, research and apply for relevant positions, and leading the way on this front is LinkedIn.
And while most professionals these days are aware of LinkedIn, very few people are using it to best effect. This is partly because, like all social media platforms, LinkedIn is constantly announcing updates and changes to enhance the user experience, but the thing with LinkedIn is that while it’s important and hugely valuable now, it’s going to become even more so in future. And as such, it pays to have a profile and presence, and to stay up-to-date with the latest opportunities.
What’s the big deal about LinkedIn?
The leading professional social network in the world, LinkedIn now has more than 433 million members — 8 million in Australia alone (1/3 of the nation’s entire population). That’s an unprecedented professional dataset, and with it, LinkedIn has the resources to be able to map out career progressions based on interests, educational paths, career longevity and any other range of data points. That is extremely valuable.
Microsoft recently paid $26.2 billion for the platform, its biggest ever acquisition. And they weren’t the only company seeking to buy the platform. While LinkedIn has value as a social network, it’s in that data, and what can be done with it, that LinkedIn becomes virtually priceless.
LinkedIn updates: How the platform is evolving, and where it could be headed
1. Updated Job Postings
LinkedIn recently announced an update to their job postings which will provide users with more data, including what connections (if any) you have at the company, whether the company has a history of hiring people like you and the people you’d be working with, based on their listed LinkedIn data.
Now, the value of such data may seem relatively trivial — sure, knowing who you’re connected to who works at the company would help, but chances are you probably already know that anyway, and having an overview of other employees is helpful, but doesn’t really change the game.
But what is important is noting how LinkedIn is now mapping all this data and connecting the dots between job seekers, current employees and hiring trends. While that may not mean a lot now, that process will eventually enable LinkedIn to make more informed, automated candidate recommendations, using back end AI to help recruiters find the best match for the advertised role.
Sounds far-fetched? They’re actually already doing this — LinkedIn’s updated Recruiter platform enables hiring managers to use the LinkedIn profiles of their existing employees as templates, which LinkedIn’s data matching system can then match candidates against to find the best match.
On top of that a recent report from the National Bureau of Economic Research in the US found that computer algorithms might actually make better hiring decisions than people.
“The researchers looked at the employment record of 300,000 low-skill service sector workers across 15 companies. The jobs had low retention rates, with the average worker lasting just 99 days, but researchers found that employees stayed in the job 15% longer when an algorithm was used to judge their employability. The researchers also looked to see if those hired by human managers against the algorithm’s recommendation had higher productivity to counter their short tenure, but found that this was not the case. Hiring against the machine’s recommendations went completely against better outcomes, the authors said.”
Now, this is a relatively small scale example, these are only the first steps along this path, but the early indicators are there. Such capacity is within reach.
In this regard, you can see how LinkedIn’s vast data resources might just make it worth $26 billion.
What this means for you and me is that the value of having an active, accurate and relevant LinkedIn presence is only going to increase. That means keeping your profile updated with your skills and education, making relevant industry connections and ensuring you’re active in Groups and discussions related to the field in which you want to work. Such efforts have immediate value, in helping make others within your sector aware of you, but eventually, if LinkedIn’s able to make more of their data capacity, such efforts could be the thing that gets you your “in” on the job and career you want.
And you can bet, with the full resources of Microsoft now behind them, LinkedIn’s going to be making significant moves on this front in the near future. Watch this space.
2. Skills and Endorsements Matter
You know that Skills and Endorsements section on your LinkedIn profile? That one, down the bottom, with the little thumbnails of people who’ve given the thumbs up to other folk in relation to specific talents?
Most people don’t pay this too much mind — and for good reason. Other than aesthetic bragging rights, there’s not really anything much to it. You can’t search for people based on these skills, the amount of endorsements you have doesn’t mean you’ll rank higher in LinkedIn searches — there’s not a lot to them.
Or, at least, there hasn’t been.
Now, again, this may seem relatively minor, hopefully you’ve got a few skills listed and a few endorsements for them. But again, it shows that LinkedIn is working towards a more data-driven process to help recruiters find the right candidates for the role. As such, every element of your LinkedIn profile may soon take on a whole new value.
The problem with endorsements, of course, is that some people give them out for nothing, people will endorse you for skills they have no idea you possess, and that, no doubt, would impact on search quality — is this person really good at these things or are they just good at LinkedIn? As such, LinkedIn is no doubt building a system to give preference to those with educational and career histories that align with those talents, and Group and publisher activity to match.
With so many people posting original content to LinkedIn, that gives them another data tool to help match the right people to the right job. Increasingly, it’ll pay to be active.
3. Showcase Yourself
LinkedIn keeps most of its data under lock and key — and as noted, there’s good reason for that, it’s extremely valuable. Unlike Twitter, where everything is public, LinkedIn makes it harder to access all their data, which then enables them to monetise it — something Twitter has, understandably, struggled with.
The problem with this is that’s also very hard to get any relevant data from LinkedIn as to how the platform works, or what works best on the platform. On this front, the platform recently released a report which showed that 46% of professionals don’t feel confident in describing their professional achievements.
In fact, we’re more likely to share health updates (25%) and political views (23%) on social media than news of a promotion (17%).
As part of this, LinkedIn also published some compelling stats about user behaviours and what works best to get your profile seen, including:
- Members with profiles photos garner 21x more profile views than those without
- Profiles with a current city listed come up in 23x more searches
- Having at least five skills on your profile will help connect you to more opportunities
- A summary of 40 words or more will increase your chances of showing up in a relevant search
Granted, none of these are huge revelations, but just having the actual LinkedIn-sourced data is a clear indicator of not only how their system works, but the elements they optimise for. In fact, if you really want to get a clear understanding of how all of LinkedIn’s systems work, they explain them in their LinkedIn Engineering blog — it’s pretty technical, but their dev team does reveal some great insights. For example, here’s how LinkedIn’s news feed algorithm works (yep, they have an algorithm too).
The bottom line here is that these are some of the key elements LinkedIn’s search and discovery tools are optimised for. This is how they seek to help connect users to relevant information — these are the elements you need on your profile to maximise your potential on the platform.
Combine these with the aforementioned advances on data matching and advanced search capacity, and you can start to get some idea of how all of LinkedIn’s various data points match up, how the system works, and will work, as it evolves into a much bigger part of the recruitment and HR process.
These are important notes to keep in mind — for now, to help you get more out of the platform, and in future, to ensure you’re being highlighted as a relevant candidate for the position you’re seeking.
Andrew Hutchinson is a social media consultant and freelance writer from Melbourne, Australia. He has more than 11 years experience working in media monitoring, helping clients locate, evaluate and action keyword mentions in all forms of traditional and digital media. He's an internationally published author, an award winning blogger and one of the 'Best Thinkers' on leading social media news website Social Media Today.