Being an active job seeker, I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn. Over the past few months I have seen several changes in LinkedIn, from the web user interface to the business focus. Starting with a Freemium business model back in 2003, it has evolved into a multi-sided business model. The LinkedIn Recruiter Product back from 2008 has transformed into a complete Talent-Solution and now contributes to over 50% of revenues as reported last quarter.

The huge professional users base ( 238 million members as reported here) is the key value-proposition in its offerings to Talent Acquisitions & Marketing Customers. However, being on the other side of this multi-sided business model, I sometimes wonder – Is LinkedIn providing appropriate features & services to its premium subscribers? What else can LinkedIn do to monetize its offerings and make this user base a happier lot? Can anyone else benefit from LinkedIn’s user base & features?

I have four specific aspects to discuss herein from the job-seekers perspective (premium account holder) unless mentioned otherwise. While I have elaborated some aspects I believe are not good enough, I have also tried to propose amendments to them.

1. Inmails – Guaranteed delivery or response?

In a discussion board here on LinkedIn, recruiters discuss the effectiveness of Inmails in talent sourcing strategy; it is said that LinkedIn itself suggests about 20% effectiveness (so if you send out 100 Inmails, you can expect about 20 to respond)

In my opinion this is quite low and the quoted figure is for recruiters. Turn the pyramid around – get into the job-seekers shoes – can he expect as high a response rate given the many-to-infinite relationship between recruiters and job-seekers?

Inmails also come with a 7-day-no-response return guarantee. That is to say, when you buy a pair of jeans, 75% of the time you may not be happy with the jeans – but we offer you a store credit. Does a Premium Customer care about the Inmail credit or is he really hoping to connect with a person who can help grab that career opportunity? Selling a 20% effective service to premium account holders, especially to job seekers accounts is like selling a deficient service with the promise of accumulating store credits.

Can something be done? – Notably, while you send out an Inmails, LinkedIn shows your Inmail Feedback Score. How about seeing a Receiver’s Inmails Acceptance score? That ways I know what are my chances of getting a response when writing to this person? Should I really waste the precious Inmail on a person who doesn’t bother responding to them and wait till it is credited back to my kitty?

2. Endorsements for Skills & Expertise – Real or Pseudo?

This feature that started off with good intentions, but I believe has lost its way! Being able to enlist skills & search people based on these is interesting and useful. But forcing your network to endorse skills of people in the network? Especially the aggressive pop-ups with four people & their skills appearing on the page right above the profile of a connection becomes annoying and mundane after a few rounds.

After I deliberate carefully for a few contacts, I am lost for specific skills of people who are relatively new on my network. Why would I expend energy and time on these endorsements? This has resulted into several endorsements that people make, but not many care about.

On the other side, ‘LinkedIn Recommendations’ is still a powerful way of endorsements; when someone has put the thought behind elaborating your strengths, it is more purposeful.

So what can be done here? In my honest opinion, the endorsements of skills & expertise should cease to exist! Save people’s time and clicks for more important aspects of professional networking LinkedIn.

3. Job Applications via LinkedIn – Whats happening?

As of date, “Jobs posted on LinkedIn” can be applied to in two ways

  • Redirected to company website
  • Apply on LinkedIn

Redirected to company website – the painful process of non-standard formats, no visibility on how many have applied (you do see how many have clicked). Not very useful apart from the fact that you could discover the opening on LinkedIn.

Apply on LinkedIn: Great features. You can actually see how many people have applied, so you know if it is extremely sought after position. Occasionally, you know through a notification if the recruiter ‘saw’ your application. But on several occasions, being in the job seeker’s position, I haven’t ever been notified of the progress on the job I had applied to? If the recruiter doesn’t see my application, why do I upload it? Why does the recruiter post it at all? Or is there another way that the recruiter sees it and I don’t know what happened with it. Well as a job-seeker, not the best experience I would expect.

Can anything be done here? Well for starters, there needs to be consistency in the job apps process. If recruiters have filled up a position – can LinkedIn’s tools inform the several aspirants that the show is over. A nice little summary page could also help tabulating the company name, posting/unposting/application date, number of applicants et al. How about bringing in that automated-job-search agent notification to LinkedIn Jobs. So, “I am looking at Product Management roles in the technology domain in London (oh yeah – work authorization needed – yes or no also helps)” … an email with periodic alerts on this query would make life much easier for the job seeker.

4. University Pages – Can you take over the alumni portal as well?

I kept the best for the last! Fantastic interface, great query modes and seamless. Its like some other design team formulated this for sure! If yes, kudos to them for a neat job.

This, I believe has immense potential for yet another segment. Consider University alumni networks. A busy professional keeps his profile on LinkedIn more updated than that on his online alumni network.

LinkedIn specializes in providing a professional networking platform, while schools specialize in knowledge dissemination (and not in software platforms & IT systems). Can LinkedIn provide the university pages in some form to these alumni network associations? Schools will benefit from a better managed online platform at lesser hassle & perhaps lesser costs. The student network will benefit from more updated information of the alumni network. LinkedIn will benefit by monetizing this service in some form. Subscription based revenue models will generate recurrent revenues over a large user base – students & universities. Surely a lot more possibilities can emerge out of this.

While the recent user interface changes have been good, sometimes basic features seem to get lost. For e.g If I search for people in Amazon, there is not way for me to ‘sort’ the results based on relevance, degree of connection et al. Now I click on Advanced – I don’t know why but it sets the default radius around my location – every time! Is this a feature or a bug – is for the product team to declare, but often a cumbersome experience for a user like me. Nevertheless, for now it is a tools of immense utility – I hope it continues to be.

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