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LinkedIn Premium: Why Free is not good enough & Recruiter is too much!

LinkedIn-LogoLast week I trained a team of agency recruiters in Cork. I had trained their Dublin office three weeks previous and a question was raised when I recommended that they should all consider paying for Business accounts (these cost UK£12.95 per month) on LinkedIn. The MD of the company was curious as I had recommended to his Dublin team that they would be fine to continue using Free accounts. “That was 3 weeks ago”, I told him. A lot changes in social media in 3 weeks!

Let me state on the record that I really like LinkedIn’s product. It has changed the face of the recruitment industry and every single recruiter I know uses it, and rightly so. I do have a problem, however, with how they price their product and how they fall short of telling their own customers how best to use the system. It’s not that I have a problem paying for a tool, I just won’t pay for premium features that I don’t need and I won’t pay an extraordinary premium for features that do not provide an extraordinary benefit.

2 weeks ago, LinkedIn rolled out a change to their database that effectively hides the entire profile of someone in your 3rd degreee network (and we in Social Talent have heard about instances where 2nd degree connection data is also hidden). Early last year, LinkedIn started hiding the full surname and this appears to be just another step in reducing the value of a free account. This move is smart business as up until now you could do everything you needed to do on a free account. You still can, but by adding this extra obstacle, I believe that a free account just became too much hard work if you really want to use LinkedIn as a hiring tool.

I know lots of recruiters who enjoy great value from a Recruiter Pro account (which costs anything from £4k to £8k per license, per year) and I can see some benefits. For most of you out there, however, you don’t need it. For less than £13 per month (approx $20) you can get 99% of what you need from LinkedIn, without having to resort to too many time-consuming “tricks”. The real trick to using LinkedIn is NOT getting access to “hidden” parts of the system for free, it is knowing 1) how to search effectively, 2) knowing how to prioritse your results and 3) knowing what do do AFTER you have found the perfect candidate! A LinkedIn Recruiter account (the really expensive one) does not help you in any of these three areas.

Did you know that there are 16 separate account types you can choose from? Yup, it’s more confusing than you think! Firstly, there is free, or “Basic”. When you upgrade from here, you face 5 different streams: Premium, Talent, Job Seeker, Sales and Recruiter. Within each of these high level categories, there are further options:

As a Recruiter or HR professional, you can pretty much ignore Job Seeker and Sales. In fact, if you are a Job Seeker, you should also ignore that product category. It’s useless. Stay on a free account or follow the Premium route. I could write for an hour on why the Job Seeker account is useless in its present form, but let’s save that for another day. The Sales account is good but you’re better off sticking with the Recruiter oriented products as they better serve your needs.

Aside from the Recruiter account, the other premium options essentially offer you InMails and advanced features such as premium filters (not worth the ink it would take to print those words), search alerts (we like these), folders (not bad) and access to more data when you view a profile (bingo, the real reason to pay for a premium account). Rather than go through all the different features and explain what’s good and what’s not, here are the five that you should think about:

1. Viewing more data.

It is important to understand that when you search LinkedIn for keywords, you always search all available data on every single profile on LinkedIn, regardless of whether you have a free account or a paid account. Try it. If you plug in some keywords and run a search side by side with a free account and a top-end Recruiter Pro account you will see exactly the same number of results. Exactly the same!! You don’t need further proof than that. However, the differences become noticeable when you start viewing the profiles. Three things will happen.

a) You will only be able to view the first 100 results in your search on a free account. As you upgrade you can see anything from 300-1000 results, depending on the level of your account. Trust me when I tell you that 100 is plenty! If you see more than that, you’re not filtering and prioritising correctly.

b) On a free account you will not see the full surnames of third degree connections and Group Members that are not within your first or second degree network. If you build a large but focused network you won’t come up against this too often. When you do, there are several aways to quickly see or find those surnames (I’m talking 5 seconds work, not a few minutes). For users outside your network you either have to buy the LinkedIn Corporate product (the most expensive of their products) or learn those tricks! If you are an agency recruiter, you are NOT ALLOWED to buy that product and see those names. LinkedIn have a product called Recruiter Professional Services that looks and feels like Recruiter Corporate but do not be fooled, you are not trusted with the full network of names!

c) Since the middle of September 2012 you can no longer read the profiles of LinkedIn users that are not in your first or second degree network. To get around this you need at least a Business Account (£12.95 per month) and it is definitely worth it as your 3rd degree network is your largest, therefore you’re going to come across a lot of profiles that match your search query but alas, you won’t know why! Context is everything so you need to be able to view this data.

2. Openlink

It’s all very well for our industry to tell job seekers that they should “get on LinkedIn” but unless those same users are connected to you directly or paying LinkedIn for a premium account, they won’t be able to message you directly. Yes, they can request an introduction but who seriously does that these days? Not “in demand” talent I tell you! To make it easy for absolutely anyone on LinkedIn to message you for free, you need a feature called “OpenLink” that is available on every single paid account from Premium Plus (£5.95 per month) and above. This is a no brainer for recruiters. Make sure you have it.

3. InMails

If InMails were free, I would try to avoid using them. Three or four years ago they provided a unique way to approach candidates. These days they are more like spam. Any recruiter with a Recruiter Pro account can “spam” up to 50 LinkedIn members in seconds, and they do it all the time! If someone is worth reaching out to, it is worth taking the time to personalise that approach and selecting a more unique method of first contact. However, sometimes you won’t be able to think of a better away or find a faster route so it’s always good to have a few InMals “in the bag”. 3 per month is plenty. 5 if you really want to go crazy (don’t forget 3 InMails is actually 3 responses, not 3 outbound messages). InMails kick in at Business and higher (£12.95 per month). Have a few ready and use them only when you really have to.

4. Who’s Viewed your Profile

Some recruiters I know hate that other users can see when they have looked at their profile. You can turn this on and off if you need to but to do this is missing the point. Think of this as a lead generation tool that qualifies prospects. You do a search and view 50 profiles. If they can all see that you have checked out their profile and 10 of them check your profile back, they are your “qualified” leads. They are likely to be more interested in speaking with you than the 40 who don’t care that a recruiter checked them out. It’s a nice tool to use to pick up the phone and say “Hi, I saw that you had checked out my profile so I’m calling to see how I can help!”. So what if they say “well, you checked me out first!”? You’re talking to them! Go do what you do best, ask probing questions and see if they may be interested in your vacancy! Although everyone can see who viewed their profile to a certain extent, you can see the full list and get some interesting stats when you have any premium account (starting with Personal Plus at £5.95 per month). Be warned though that if someone has their settings turned to “Anonymous” in this section, there’s no way of seeing their name, no matter how much you pay LinkedIn!

5. 3rd Degree Surnames

If you have a strong, relevant network and use tools like Rapportive, Xobni and Outlook Social Connector to ensure that you are always connecting with people whom you transact with, then you’re not going to see too many missing surnames or private profiles. However, if you’re just starting out or getting into a new market, it might be worth upgrading to a Premium Executive or Talent Finder account (£48.95 per month) to see all of these surnames. Our Blue Belt training shows you how to see all these surnames (and the Private “LinkedIn Member” profiles) and there are plenty of other resources that can do the same so I personally don’t think there is a massive value but it’s there, and not too expensive at less than £600 per year. It just depends how much budget you have to spend and what else you might be foregoing to have this feature. £600 per year per recruiter probably won’t break the bank.

A Business acccount, which costs £12.95 per month provides you with the first 4 of these. It’s great value. Buy it.

Those of you currently paying for Recruiter Pro or Recruiter Professional Services, you might think about downgrading. If you use LinkedIn as your main database and therefore don’t have to spend any money on another ATS, you should maybe stick with what you have. Agency recruiters, there is absolutely no good reason in the world for you to be on a Recruiter Professional Services account. If your account manager has broken their internal rules and sold you the Recruiter Pro version, then you probably make plenty of placements from LinkedIn so it justifies itself. I only wonder if you could make the same number of placements from a less expensive version and re-allocate that budget to something else that could make you even more placements (job boards, cv databases, a new website, off-line marketing, PPC ads, etc). Corporate Recruiters who just feel “comfortable” with the premium version, you are being fleeced for the minimal additional features of Recruiter Pro compared to a £12.95 per month account. If you disagree, and many of you might, just make sure that you are using features that are truly valuable and not available on a less expensive version.

Tell us, what do you think? Am I missing the hidden value of a Recruiter Pro account? Do you think that a free account is still fine? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us at @socialtalent

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