LinkedIn is not your friend
How LinkedIn applications can hurt your chances and how you can use LinkedIn to your advantage.
In the past 3 years of coaching jobseekers, I’ve seen every single person use LinkedIn to search for and apply to jobs. LinkedIn is particularly useful to early career jobseekers or career changers who might not have an established network: you don’t have to know people, you don’t have to know which companies are out there, just create an account, put some blurbs on your profile, and you can immediately browse an endless amount of jobs and “Easy Apply”. It’s as if your opportunities are endless too, right?
However, if you’ve ever looked at any LinkedIn job ad, you’ll know the competition is fierce. I opened a random entry level product job ad, and LinkedIn tells me there are already 159 applicants, a week after the job was posted. And if the company is a bit more well-known like in the case of Klarna, there could be as many as 1171 applicants for a single job posted less than a week ago.
How can the average jobseeker even stand a chance when these numbers are so intimidating? Time and time again, I hear jobseekers tell me that they’ve applied anywhere between 50 to 100 jobs and never heard back for most of these companies. I once interviewed a jobseeker Tom, who told me “If it weren’t for LinkedIn Easy Apply, I wouldn’t have found my job.” Tom applied to 600 jobs over 15 days. He received 35 recruiter screens, 30 moved to the next stage, and he had to take 2 weeks off just to finish the remaining interviews. “That was the only reason why I landed a job.”
The vicious cycle of mass applications
Not only should no one have to go through what Tom did just to find a job, mass applying actually considerably hurts the chances of jobseekers. This is what happened when I was working as a recruiter:
In most companies, each job and its hiring process is handled by one recruiter. When my company received 500 applications in a week for a junior data analyst position, we realized one person would never be able to finish reading all the applications while still doing their other tasks. Meanwhile, this was just a junior data job, most of the 500 people could probably do the job well, but we had to select just one person. How can we make the selection process fairer and more efficient?
The team decided to add another selection stage — a cognitive test. Candidates who applied were asked to complete the test within 7 days. This wasn’t just to test the logic reasoning abilities of the candidates, but also to see which candidates were really interested in our company rather than just blindly applying to everything. Those who completed the test early enough, scored top 10%, and passed our CV screen, would be invited for a first interview.
When there were too many applications, hiring teams had to raise the bar and essentially made the hiring process more difficult for jobseekers. It’s like going to see a show — if someone stands up to get a better view, the people behind them would have to stand up too, and in the end no one has a good view (check out the fallacy of composition).
When there are 500 applicants for a job and when the selection criteria gets stricter, each jobseeker is more likely to be rejected even when they could have totally done the job. This then leads the jobseeker to apply to more jobs to increase their chances, which leads us to the start of the cycle again.
LinkedIn Jobs are designed to make jobseekers fail
LinkedIn might charge the average jobseeker $29.99 per month for a Premium account, but it earns $8,999 per year from the pockets of companies for every Recruiter account (also called Talent Solutions), and each InMail a recruiter sends costs an additional $2. Out of all revenue streams, Talent Solutions brought in the most amount of money to LinkedIn in 2022. This means LinkedIn prioritizes the needs of companies over individual jobseekers.
LinkedIn Jobs don’t have a set price, but they work like advertisements: the company defines a budget, defines the demographic it wants to show the job ad to, e.g. Berlin, then it’ll show the ad campaign to LinkedIn users in Berlin, and charges per click until the budget runs out. The cost is around $1.20 to $1.50 per click. My company posted a LinkedIn Job back in 2020 with a budget of €500 to Berlin-based users, and the budget quickly ran out within a week yet didn’t bring us any relevant candidates.
For reference, this is a notoriously expensive job posting option. Many other job boards could cost anywhere between €90 to €500 for a month. If we had shown our job ad for the same price for a month, we could have spent the same amount and hired another recruiter!
Because it charges by number of clicks on the job ad, LinkedIn is incentivized to get as many people to click on and apply to jobs as possible. Jobseekers are not paying hundreds of dollars to apply, so of course LinkedIn can disregard candidate experience and doesn’t really need to care about the success rate of the applications.
Don’t rely on LinkedIn and use it to your advantage
Given what we now learned, let’s think about the right strategy instead:
Companies don’t want to paywall their jobs. They want to find the ideal candidate asap, and without knowing where that person could be, they need to show the job ad to as many as possible to increase their chances.
If job board ads like LinkedIn Jobs are expensive, this means companies might not always post jobs on LinkedIn. In fact, at any given point, LinkedIn probably only display a small portion of all the jobs that are really open out there. Companies will always post the job on their website under the career section because that’s one place they can post for free.
This means, the companies’ own websites will have the most up-to-date and complete list of open jobs. If you narrow down your search with a list of companies first, then go through their career websites, you’re much more likely to find jobs that suit you.
There are many other more niche job boards out there that are way cheaper and more targeted. I found my job on WeLoveProduct which is a board for product and design roles. My previous manager told me he hired his best people from Angel List which targets startup people. A former client told me he hired the best iOS developers by posting on iOS Dev Weekly.
Now you’re probably finding the jobs that weren’t flooded with applications. Want to increase your chances even more and reduce competition?
Might I suggest: apply to less jobs instead.
In turn, use the time and energy for 2 things: finding referrals, and company intel. At the end of the day, that’s what LinkedIn truly built for individual jobseekers — the world’s most powerful networking website. Networking when job searching is about getting referrals from people not normally accessible to you and getting information which are normally not accessible to you. With these templates, you can start networking today to get what you want.
By applying to less jobs, you save yourself from squeezing in applications that might only have a 0.1% chance of success, start sending customized applications that come highly recommended and have a 10-50% chance of landing an interview. Is it a good deal now?