LinkedIn Open Candidates is a Dismal Failure. Here’s Why.

Let’s say I am launching an adulterous cheating site similar to Ashley Madison. But users must divulge their real name and intention to everyone on the site except their spouses. How successful do you think this site would be? It would bomb!

Which brings me around to job searching with LinkedIn Open Candidates. Now, I am not implying that someone quietly looking for a new job is like a cheating spouse. The similarities end with both needing to be extremely discreet. And both would be fearful of the consequences if their intentions became known.

On the surface, LinkedIn Open Candidates seems like a well-intentioned tool for members who want to signal they are open to new opportunities. LinkedIn even makes the effort to achieve anonymity for members by not listing their job-seeking preference on public profiles. They also block employers from seeing their employees Open Candidates status. Unfortunately, it pretty much ends there.

Open Candidates is visible to anyone who pays for LinkedIn Recruiter, including third party recruiters. The dilemma deepens because an employer can simply ask anyone outside the company to see if current employees are on Open Candidates.

Employees are Not Open to Open Candidates

The percent of LinkedIn members who elect to use Open Candidates speaks volumes. As of late 2017, 10 million LinkedIn members have turned on Open Candidates. Compare this to the more than 500 million users. This means just 2% of LinkedIn members are interested in the program. According to LinkedIn research, 25% of their members are actively seeking a new job. The low 2% Open Candidates adoption rate shows how much of a failure the program is.

Open Candidates is Not Discrete

As mentioned, LinkedIn Open Candidates uses just a basic exclusion policy in their effort to reasonably safeguard employees wanting to leave their current company. Members need to be wary of Open Candidates because many companies hire external firms to help with recruiting. These third-party companies would not be under the LinkedIn ban and thus could see all the Open Candidates for their client’s company. And of course a recruiter can call his counterpart at another company to check for him. This disclaimer from LinkedIn further emphasize the weakness:

“We take steps to not show your current company that you are Open, but can’t guarantee that we can identify every recruiter affiliated with your company.”

The old saying that it is easier to keep a customer than to attract a new one may or may not be relevant to employee retention. But a cottage industry servicing the retention of employees could be built upon the Open Candidates feature. In an extremely competitive market where employers are already scanning Indeed and installing email sniffing technology to ensure that their employees are not being poached, checking employee’s Open Candidate status is just another preventative effort.

Open Candidates Goes Against User Habits

While the privacy issues partially explain why Open Candidates is being used by just 2% of LinkedIn members, other members stay away from Open Candidates simply because they are not active on LinkedIn. Changing a default setting is an unwelcome task; just ask the billions of Facebook users who have unwittingly shared personal information because they have never changed their default privacy setting

Not As Simple as this Image Would Imply

Linkedin Open Candidates

In the end, “do nothing” is as great an enemy of Open Candidates as any privacy concern. Recruiters who overly rely on Open Candidates will be missing out on a vast number of people who may be open to new opportunities.

In the age of big data, Open Candidates is useless. LinkedIn doesn’t need it to know when a member is interested in new jobs. They monitor user activity. Not just members clicking on job ads, but infrequent users who now log in regularly, updating their profile, adding connections, asking for testimonials, and so on. All signals that they are ready for a new job.

Open Candidates serves a function for those not yet ready to post their resume on Indeed but who are a little bit dissatisfied with their current job. It’s a valid part of an employee’s arsenal, but not to be overly relied on.

As one of the key features used to sell LinkedIn’s very expensive Recruiter Corporate tool, Open Candidates falls completely flat. Until LinkedIn enacts a “do not recruit” list, it would be wise to consider everyone open to new opportunities, regardless of their implied status.

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