Recruiting on LinkedIn adds analytics and pointed questions

LinkedIn is releasing an analytics platform at the end of the third quarter. The platform will allow users to quickly compare themselves to other firms.

It will be easier for someone recruiting on LinkedIn to poach talent once the social network giant releases its new analytics platform near the end of September. This may seem startling, but LinkedIn is not shying away from this outcome.

The platform, LinkedIn Talent Insights, is intended to simplify the ability of recruiters to get competitive intelligence and target potential candidates. Users will be able to look at, for instance, the number of software engineers employed by a firm, parse it down by city, see the growth in hiring and note the attrition rate.

In beta testing for LinkedIn Talent Insights, some of the participating users were able to identify firms in some markets that have people with sought-after skill sets, such as software engineers, and then target them. The workers can then be identified using tools for recruiting on LinkedIn.

Poaching talent questioned

Eric Owski, the head of product for Talent Insights at LinkedIn, outlined the forthcoming tool at the recent Society for Human Resource Management conference in Chicago. Before his audience, he used a live demo to demonstrate, in minutes, how to assemble a competitive analysis.

During an audience Q&A, one woman in attendance asked Owski about the ethics of using this analytics tool to raid a competitor.

The world is becoming more transparent.
Eric Owskihead of product for Talent Insights, LinkedIn

The attendee asked: "Does that set up an environment for poaching talent?" And then she immediately answered her own question. "I think the answer is yes. And so why would I sign off on that?"

Owski agreed that using the new tool for recruiting on LinkedIn made poaching possible but argued that there was nothing wrong with making this data available.

Internally, the LinkedIn team on the project had many "philosophical" discussions about the use of this data, Owski said. But the team concluded that "the world is becoming more transparent," and "very sophisticated teams at large companies were able to figure out a lot of the calculations that we're making available in this product," he said. 

"We think by packaging it up nicely, it levels the playing field," Owski said. "We feel like we're on safe ground."

LinkedIn draws line on available data

But LinkedIn is drawing a line on what data it makes available.

Owski said LinkedIn can determine with up to 93% accuracy the gender diversity of workers at a firm by analyzing the first name. But the company isn't making company-specific gender data available in the search tool because it is "very highly sensitive data" that can open up questions of discrimination. LinkedIn will make that information available at a market or broader level.

LinkedIn Talent Insights uses data from its 560 million global members. The site has 15 million open jobs at any given time and some 23,000 standardized job titles that it recognized. The analytics platform is global and not dependent on government data, Owski said.

The tool's ease of use was a key point for Owski. The interface appeared to be no more complicated than the advanced search feature on Google. It asked the user to input skills to include and exclude job title, location and industry. It then quickly produced a list of firms with employees who have those skills, hiring trends and attrition rate.

One attendee, Kevin Cottingim, senior vice president of HR at Employbridge, a staffing firm, said in an interview he was "excited" about trying the analytics platform for recruiting on LinkedIn.

Cottingim said his firm has 500 branches around the country and the recruiting analytics tool will help them understand if there are more positions available than candidates in any given market. With that data, he can strategize his plans for more targeted advertising, as well as consider paying a salary premium.

In terms of seeing the attrition rates at other firms, Cottingim said, "I would love to be able to benchmark that against my competitors."

Quality of data questioned

Some in the audience raised questions about the quality of the data, and whether, for instance, profile changes are a good enough indicator of attrition. An attendee asked if LinkedIn continued to appeal to a full demographic range of people, particularly millennials.

Owski said there's a potential for noise in the data, but he believes they have enough representation of professionals to "cancel out the noise."

As far as competitors to LinkedIn, Owski said, unlike Facebook, it doesn't have Snapchat-type rivals. Some industry observers believe Snapchat, which tends to appeal to younger users, is a potential Facebook threat. Owski's point is that LinkedIn doesn't have similar competitors.

Product pricing will be available in July, and the vendor may bundle LinkedIn Talent Insights for people who are already recruiting on LinkedIn. An upcoming feature will be an API that allows users to take the data and use it in their own dashboards.

Another attendee, Melvin Jones, the workforce strategy branch chief at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said the LinkedIn Talent Insights tool may help the agency improve the targeting of its job advertising and figure out what job markets are best for certain skills. 

It will also enable the agency to know how private sector firms view NOAA's workforce, Jones said, in an interview.

"It's good to have validation of the data and see how other people are viewing us," Jones said. "In military terms, it's good to see what the enemy sees."

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