In the six years after I left college, not once did I attract the attention of a job recruiter.
But then, I was suddenly being contacted by recruiters once a month, asking if I was interested in interviewing for jobs. I even accepted one of the jobs, scoring a $22,000 raise.
And it was all because I figured out how to use LinkedIn to find a job.
Here’s how the platform’s unique recruiting tool works and why it might be more useful than big job boards that offer very little help.
What is LinkedIn’s recruiter feature?
Introduced by LinkedIn in October 2016, Open Candidates can make you feel like a hot commodity. The tool connects professionals like you and me with recruiters who are paid by companies to help fill positions.
That’s typically how it works. You receive a LinkedIn message and a follow-up email containing a job description. You might have to ask for additional information, such as the salary range.
Here’s a redacted version of one such pitch:
When I accepted one interview request, the recruiter arranged a 30-minute phone interview. After I passed that test, she recommended me to the company that had contracted her.
Then the interview process started with the company itself. I skipped the application stage altogether.
It felt like a friendly stranger had let me in through the side door. The company on the other side treated me like an in-demand hire from the get-go.
How to use LinkedIn to find a job
To find Open Candidates, visit LinkedIn.com/Jobs and select “Update Interests.” This part of the website is accessible whether you’re browsing on your smartphone or home computer.
All that you need to progress is a LinkedIn account and a fleshed-out profile.
After turning on the feature, you have the option of writing a 300-character introductory note to LinkedIn recruiters. You’ll also have the ability to narrow your audience by pointing out the following preferences:
- Job titles
- Job locations
- Job types
- Company sizes
If you’re a software engineer in Palo Alto, California, but are looking to make a move to New York City, for example, you might select:
- Software engineer, software developer, senior software engineer, software specialist, freelance software engineer
- Greater New York City area
- Full time, part time, contract
- Information technology services, online media
- 1 to 500
As you type keywords into these fields, the tool will auto-populate job titles or job locations, making it quick and painless to cover all your bases.
You can make changes to your choices at any time, and your account will remain active for 90 days. At that point, you’ll be asked whether you’d like to keep sharing your preferences.
4 things to know about LinkedIn’s recruiter tool
You can — and probably should — follow every piece of expert advice on landing a better job. Taking advantage of LinkedIn’s Open Candidates is another no-brainer, but it’s not without its drawbacks.
Learning how to use LinkedIn to find a job isn’t complete without these key takeaways.
1. It’s free to use — but you can pay for more features
Although you don’t have to have a LinkedIn subscription to use the tool, you could pay $24.99 per month to access LinkedIn Premium. That will allow you to:
- Message recruiters directly
- Appear at the top of recruiters’ list of applicants
- See who views your profile
I found success with Open Candidates without opening my wallet. When LinkedIn recruiters messaged me, I could message back. I just couldn’t be the one to start the conversation.
So if you’re job hunting on a strict timeline, you can try a free trial of the paid service before deciding whether the benefits outweigh the cost. They didn’t in my case.
2. Your information is protected
LinkedIn recruiters will only be able to view your career interests if:
- Their company has paid for a subscription
- Their company doesn’t currently employ you
That means you don’t have to worry about word spreading around the office that you’re looking to switch jobs. LinkedIn also says it will keep your profile from appearing in the search results of companies like yours. This might hide you from your current company’s top competitor, for example.
This fact also makes keeping your profile up to date especially important. While you’re at it, clean up your Google search results. You’ll want other companies to have the best possible impression of you and your LinkedIn profile page.
3. Watch out for spam
Recently, a LinkedIn recruiter sent me an attractive job description and asked me to reply with a bunch of personal information, including my birthdate, telephone number, and the last four digits of my Social Security number.
Had I been interested in the position, I might have complied with his request without thinking twice. But be wary of handing over sensitive information to a stranger with a strong sales pitch. Flattery makes fools of us all, and someone could conceivably take advantage.
Do your research on the recruiter, the position, and the company before moving forward.
4. Don’t rely solely on getting recruited
Just as you don’t fully lean on a job board to find your next position, you won’t want to completely count on this LinkedIn feature. Open Candidates is a nice-to-have tool in your toolbox.
It has its limitations. For one, Open Candidates can only be accessed by some recruiters, not all. Don’t assume that your dream company can find you on LinkedIn without doing the legwork.
A LinkedIn recruiter might tip you off to a job or company you’ve never heard of, but you should still go about your business as someone seeking a (better) job. Nothing replaces networking or writing a rockstar resume, for example.
I was in the fortunate position of having one job while looking for an upgrade. I also had the skills and level of experience that my new company was looking for when the recruiter hit my inbox.
Open Candidates didn’t make me a more attractive hire, but it did put me in front of the right audience — and quickly. That makes knowing how to use LinkedIn to get a job a valuable skill.
It can do the same for you even if you’re currently unemployed. UCLA researchers studied a bias that if you don’t have a job you’re less likely to get one.
In the world of Open Candidates, temporarily being out of work isn’t as big of a deal — as long as you have the LinkedIn profile to back it up.
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