If you are a recruitment company, you should be very scared at this moment in time. The world as we know it is changing. For the last two decades there has been change in the working environment and the existence of recruitment companies is now under threat.

That’s the message being spread in some quarters about LinkedIn’s recent announcement that has revolutionised the recruitment landscape, using – a plug-in.

Yes, this seismic change to the future of recruitment is apparently coming about due to a new button on a website.

The “Apply with LinkedIn” button enables jobseekers to easily submit their LinkedIn profile for job opportunities on an employer’s website. This might not sound particularly groundbreaking but, according to the professionals’ network, it is.

“In this challenging jobs environment, LinkedIn’s ability to connect talent with opportunity at massive scale is more essential than ever. ‘Apply with LinkedIn’ is the next phase of our open-platform effort and, we hope, an important catalyst in creating economic opportunity for our members,” says Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn chief executive officer.

“Companies also gain access to one of the most qualified and coveted talent pools, of more than 100 million LinkedIn professionals around the world,” Weiner adds.

Direct contact between employer and employee

The doom-mongers may believe that allowing direct contact between employer and potential employee in this way removes the need for the middleman and that this is the beginning of the end for recruiters. But those in the industry are unconvinced that this is anything more than a marketing tool that will simply complement a much more robust recruitment strategy.

Vanessa Robinson, head of HR practice development at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, says: “At the moment there is room for everybody. We’ve seen in surveys that 16% of employers are using LinkedIn, which is up 2% from the previous statistics, but there’s still a long way to go before people commit entirely.”

This type of application, she believes, is geared up to certain types of people, but if employers were to rely solely on it to find new recruits, they would be missing a lot of opportunities. “Employers should be very wary of investing in one route,” she warns.

Recruiters’ role still vital

Recruiters, in the meantime, are all too aware that the world is changing, but quick to point out that their role is still vital.

“While social media has altered some of the ways in which job-seekers find employment, including applicants now applying directly with their LinkedIn account, it does not eliminate some of the challenges that employers continue to face in the recruitment process,” says Neil Owen, director of London operations at Robert Half International.

“Recruiters spend their entire day focused on resourcing the best talent on the market through multiple sources, not just LinkedIn. A good recruiter will be looking to add value over and above just the supply of a CV, including extensive due diligence into the candidate’s suitability for a role. Skills testing, background and reference checks, and guidance around remuneration packages, as well as insight into job-market trends, should be seen as standard.”

Owen adds that there will always be the need for a specialist internal or external recruitment function. “With companies increasingly trying to do more with less, many hiring managers do not have time to sort through large volumes of CVs, so using a specialised recruiter – with existing contacts within the industry – will allow companies to effectively source top-calibre candidates, while also managing their existing job responsibilities,” he says.

Employers’ viewpoint

And what about the employers? FM Global is a multinational commercial property insurance company. The company’s UK-based HR manager for Northern Europe, Bar Holmes, is of the opinion that tools such as the new LinkedIn plug-in can complement, but will not supersede, other parts of the company’s recruitment strategy. “We have not yet used professional networking sites for our recruitment in the UK, although other parts of our global business have,” she says. “We are interested in using these types of sites but it would be alongside our other sources for seeking candidates, such as recruitment agencies, advertising and headhunters. It’s interesting to note that many of the recruitment agency contacts we use are posting roles on professional networks. I suspect the recruitment market will seek ways of utilising networks to the advantage of their clients and candidates.”

Ultimately, Robinson believes, no amount of technological advance or excitement over a plug-in will be more important than face-to-face contact, meaning that social and professional media will never completely take over. “With recruitment, there has to be a fit from both sides, the employer and the employee,” she says, “and you only get that through personal contact.”

Recruitment networking

“LinkedIn is an interesting and valuable resource, not only for direct recruiting by employers, but also as a very effective, professional networking tool with great reach,” says Una Corning, director of Kestrel Search, a specialist executive-search firm.

“However, any potential target-candidate pool for a specific role will be populated by individuals who might range from those who are proactively seeking a new role to those who might not be considering a new role at all, as the latter might be pretty happily employed in their current role.

“It is pretty similar to placing a recruitment advertisement in the national press and putting all your trust in the concept that the ideal candidate will happen to be reading your advertisement on the particular day your advertisement appears; or that they will indeed be motivated to apply for that role, based on the limited information they can glean from that advertisement without the personal contact and engagement in that opportunity that might be otherwise afforded via a headhunter.