How Do Recruiters Use LinkedIn to Find Engineers?

July 30, 2013

LinkedIn is more than a social platform and resume host. Increasingly, recruiters use their network to track down promising engineers.

Landing a job is often a networking problem. Engineers use LinkedIn and personal networks to find positions, while recruiters use those same networks to find engineers. We spoke with Greg Wahl, Janine N. Truitt, and Tom Armour about LinkedIn’s use as a professional recruiting tool, and what you can do to get their attention.

Is LinkedIn an Effective Recruiting Tool?

More than half of the LinkedIn’s revenue stream derives from their effectiveness in attracting and cataloging talent. In their fourth quarter 2012 earnings report, LinkedIn claimed $303.6 million in revenue, of which $161 million was attributed to Talent Solutions products and services, such as LinkedIn Recruiter.

“LinkedIn is a great tool for locating appropriately skilled candidates,” says Tom Armour, co-founder of High Return Selection. “It is quickly becoming the tool of choice.” Trends in the workforce as a whole reinforce this; JobVite’s 2012 Social Job Seeker Survey reported 41% of its respondents maintained active LinkedIn profiles, and 38% of them used the network as part of their job search strategy last year.

Greg Wahl, with the executive search firm SkyWater Search Partners, says that LinkedIn “can be helpful to identify potential candidates, assess their experience and skills, and assist us in determining if that individual could be a good potential match for our client.”

From the recruiter’s perspective, LinkedIn’s networked database of employees, companies, and interest groups present a rich field of willing candidates. Janine N. Truitt, Chief Innovations Officer for Talent Think Innovations, cites LinkedIn as among her most trusted tools for locating and recruiting talent. “I use LinkedIn groups to promote my positions,” she says. “Since we use LinkedIn Recruiter, I will target pertinent groups and cross post there for more granular visibility.”

“It is also a great way to connect with local associations that you may not have known about,” Truitt says. “I have had great success in recruiting top engineers from within niche groups on LinkedIn.”

How Useful is LinkedIn for Evaluating Candidates?

“Evaluating someone based on their LinkedIn profile can be part of our due diligence in initially identifying a potential candidate,” Wahl says. As employees post detailed profiles and job histories on the network, a number of inferences can be made based on the location, duration, and responsibilities cited in their background.

SkyWater checks candidates’ job history for patterns that imply suitability – or lack thereof. “We’re sensitive to ‘rotation’,” Wahl says, “someone who can succeed and move frequently within the organization, or remain in a given position for a longer period of time.” Job changing, on the other hand, can indicate that an engineer is unable to thrive in a position over time and is continually seeking a fresh start. “This can be a deal breaker if the candidates have never established themselves in a position for very long.”

“We’ll also look at the individual’s educational background,” Wahl continues, “along with other achievements they have listed and what their personal likes are. Hobbies, community service, other areas of interest can help determine if there will be a cultural fit with our client.”

Still, recruiters stress that while LinkedIn is great for locating candidates and performing an initial assessment, it’s no replacement for direct contact. “LinkedIn is not a huge part of my evaluation process,” Truitt says. “I don’t typically decide not to contact or proceed with a candidate based on the completeness or quality of their LinkedIn profile.”

Armour agrees, adding that the network is “very limited in its ability to help employers evaluate the candidate. Employers still require a very thorough phone interview and in-person interview process.”

How to Stand Out on LinkedIn

Given LinkedIn’s enthusiastic adoption by professional recruiters, how can engineers position themselves to best advantage?

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is a detriment to engineers if they aren’t on LinkedIn,” says Truitt, “but it is a missed opportunity. My advice would be to take your LinkedIn profile serious by completing and maintaining it. LinkedIn is a great way to increase your visibility and to show you’re a credible professional in your field.”

As a number of recruiters use LinkedIn’s Recruiter and similar search tools, you should craft your profile accordingly to make it over the first hurdle. Armour emphasizes this, recommending engineers “make certain their profiles are clear, well-written, and do not use jargon that may not be picked up by recruiter’s search criteria.”

“Engineers looking for work,” Armour says, “should anticipate the search criteria an employer will use and include that information in their profile, as well as any articles, updates, or group comments they provide.”

Once you’re positioned to appear in the search results for your field, you can reinforce your value through group participation. Not only is this among the best ways to expand your professional network, but the quality of your contributions to group discussion can be a factor in the recruiter’s analysis. “The participation in groups gives me the impression that they are engaged in their field,” Truitt says. “Depending on their answers, you can make quick evaluations of their knowledge base. It is a way for candidates to become a thought leader in their field of expertise.”

Recruiters vary on how much emphasis they place on a candidate’s participation in relevant discussion groups. Some view it as an absolute requirement, others view lack of participation as a sign the engineer is engaged elsewhere. “The engineers I’m after don’t have a ton of time to spend on email, far less social media,” Truitt says. “That said, if they are active participants in the online discussion in a meaningful way, it can only improve my impression of them.”

LinkedIn cultivated its professional networks to serve as a potent recruiting platform for the social media era. By all accounts, they’ve succeeded; recruiters repeatedly cite LinkedIn as one of their most valuable tools. Engineers would do well to study recruiter’s LinkedIn search tactics and adopt individual social media strategies which turn this development to their advantage.


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