The LinkedIn Clone Theory
We know that LinkedIn is hugely successful, particularly so here in Singapore where there are (at the time of writing) 1,667,069 LinkedIn users residing in the country, 166,207 of whom are open to new opportunities, which rather nicely equates to 10%. But what we are seeing is that sometimes this success can lead to some negative behaviours.
Previously I discussed how LinkedIn killed the rejection letter with the sheer volume of LinkedIn adverts making it unfeasible to respond to all applicants resulting in applicants no longer even expecting to hear back unless they are successful in securing an interview. For example, here at Elliott Scott Singapore, we posted an advert on LinkedIn in January for an HR Director, Asia Pacific and received an astonishing 1,092 applications. What we know is that Singapore has the highest penetration of LinkedIn users in the professional world at 98%, therefore LinkedIn adverts in Singapore do enjoy a very high response rate.
The Clone Problem
The problem is that with such high response rates, it becomes impossible to actively screen every candidate. Companies can even click a button to prevent them from receiving overseas applications. So what ends up happening is that a recruiter has to get from perhaps 200+ applications down to a shortlist of five or six candidates for interviews. Unfortunately what this means is that candidates are not selected, but instead deselected. Overseas based candidates will often be the first set discarded, followed by candidates who are neither Singaporean nor a Permanent Resident. Next, candidates who do not come from a multinational background are side-lined, and then candidates who do not fall precisely within the specific number of years’ experience.
And so this goes on until ultimately, you end up with a homogenous shortlist of candidates of the same demographics, industry background and number of years’ experience. In short, you get clones. However, this is often what the business wants. They want the option that presents the least risk to the company, and this is what LinkedIn can provide.
The converse happens with the paid for version of LinkedIn for recruiters, LinkedIn Recruiter. Recruiters will start the search by entering the location and job function. For example, in Singapore we have 44,698 human resources candidates at the time of writing, of which 6,073 are open to new opportunities. To trim this number down, a recruiter would refine the search by specifying the years of experience and industry type and would keep adding specific criteria until obtaining a more manageable number. But the outcome is the same, you get a standardised shortlist of candidates, characterised by similar industries and demographics.
‘Jobs You May Be Interested In’
The problem is further exacerbated by the “Jobs You May Be Interested In” feature. When you use LinkedIn to look for jobs for yourself, LinkedIn’s algorithms suggest opportunities for you, and of course, these will be based upon your own LinkedIn profile which often means jobs in the same industry with similar roles and responsibilities.
Diversifying Candidate Pools
So how do we prevent ourselves from falling into the trap of hiring such homogenised candidates? One can argue that algorithms remove the human bias from candidate selection, but a human still has to enter the search criteria. So then the problem becomes how do you program an algorithm to think “outside of the box”, which is an issue for the programmers.
For recruiters searching LinkedIn for candidates the answer is relatively simple - we should remove the ‘Industry’ field altogether, but of course this is much easier said than done and doing so would mean investing significantly more time.
We could make our own LinkedIn networks more diverse. We should consider not simply rejecting a request to connect because the person does not come from the same job function or industry as ourselves. We should also actively join Groups on LinkedIn that may not be within our immediate sphere of influence but instead join Groups on topics that are of more personal interest to us. As joining LinkedIn Groups is by far the fastest way of increasing our first level connections, this would significantly help in building a more diverse network.
Finally, just like how American Football has the “Rooney Rule” that requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs, I would suggest that when compiling a shortlist for interview that you do include a candidate from a different industry or demographic background, throw in a “left field” candidate, someone whose experience has led them to different ways of thinking and problem solving than is the norm in your organisation.