Is LinkedIn Cheating Employers and Job Seekers Alike?

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Is LinkedIn Cheating Employers and Job Seekers Alike?

In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares how he feels about the popular site LinkedIn and job boards more generally. LinkedIn, CareerBuilder and Monster declined to comment. Next week, he’ll return to providing insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

You’re a job seeker. You pay LinkedIn $29.95 per month for a “Job Seeker Premium” membership so that, when you apply for jobs, you can artificially “move your job applications to the top of the list as a Featured Applicant.” But the employer sees a “badge” beside your name and knows you paid for the position. Do you feel a little slimy for doing it, or wonder what the employer thinks of you now? More to the point, did that 30 bucks pay off?

You’re an employer and you’re hiring. You pay LinkedIn $3,950 for 10 job postings to help you find the best, most qualified hires. When LinkedIn delivers job applicants, do you care that those at the very top of the list paid LinkedIn for their positioning — while possibly better, more qualified candidates who didn’t pay are pushed to the bottom? Do you care that you can’t even turn this “feature” off?


Whether you’re the job applicant or the employer, you’d probably feel cheated. Imagine LinkedIn was a headhunter who charged the employer to fill a job, but also took money from an applicant to submit her resume first. That’s called double-dipping.

Welcome to the “job board” model for recruitment advertising, where the middle man charges everyone and manipulates the database, and where matching qualifications to job requirements is way down on the list of concerns, right beside those poor “basic users” who didn’t pay to play.

(Clarification: Since I first wrote about this, LinkedIn has confirmed that you can pay to move your application to the top of the recruiter’s list when you’re applying for jobs that employers pay to advertise. When employers pay to search the entire LinkedIn database, LinkedIn says positioning is not for sale. So LinkedIn is double-dipping only some of the time.)

It’s no secret that once a job is filled, a job board like LinkedIn loses two sources of revenue: the employer and the job seeker. So a successful business model requires that everyone keep searching. Job board revenues go up when employers and job hunters keep returning to post and search, and when both pay to play.

Recruitment Advertising

In the old days, before the Internet, only employers paid to fill jobs. They bought ads in newspapers and magazines to solicit job applicants, and they paid recruiters and headhunters for help. Charging the job seeker was virtually unheard of, especially for skilled and professional jobs.