Do Recruiters Ruin LinkedIn?


What do I mean by “ruin?”

I’d rather let you run with the concept, but if you need a little more direction, this may help:

In general – do you think that the activities undertaken by recruiters on LinkedIn have any negative repercussions on the LinkedIn experience for non-recruiters?

If so, why, and how?

If not, why?

This is the first in a 3 part series examining the opportunities recruiters have to raise the level of their game and give recruiters a better name in the hearts and minds of the people who matter most in recruiting – the talent they are looking to recruit.

I’m going to give you some of my observations and thoughts on the matter of whether or not recruiters “ruin” LinkedIn, but the main motivator behind me writing this post is to get you thinking, hear from you and get your perspective, and ask for your help in making LinkedIn a better place for everyone.

How Many Recruiters are on LinkedIn?

This is hard to nail down precisely, but by some searches and calculations, I’d estimate it’s around 1% or less globally.

For example, if you search LinkedIn for people with one of these terms in their current title: (recruiter OR recruiting OR recruitment OR sourcer OR sourcing OR talent OR “executive search” OR staffing), you’ll get a little more than 611,000 results globally.

For those who are interested, out of curiosity I did search for recruiting related titles in Spanish, French, and Chinese (e.g. 招聘), but that didn’t add much to the results.

You get a big boost when you add HR OR “human resources” to the search above, netting you around 1,600,000 results.

Of course, it’s hard to say how many HR folks are on LinkedIn and actually sourcing, recruiting, or at least posting jobs in groups and such, but it’s interesting to see the total number of sourcing, recruiting, and HR folks on LinkedIn nonetheless.

If you go with LinkedIn’s latest published figure of 160,000,000 users, and even if you include HR folks in the search for recruiting professionals, they only account for about 1% of the total user population of LinkedIn.

Of course, we know that that 1% accounts for the vast majority of LinkedIn’s revenues as well as a good chunk of general usage:



So how could  1% or less of the total user base of LinkedIn possibly have a negative impact on the other 99%?

I see two primary areas, if any exist.

LinkedIn Groups

Have you ever noticed that sometimes it seems there are more recruiters in non-recruiting groups than the people that “should” be in the group?

Like seeing more recruiters than SAP professionals in an SAP group? (hint: it might help in some cases if you switched your results sorting from “relevance” to “keyword”)

Check out this breakdown of the top industries represented in the Java Developers LinkedIn Group:



Now, any good sourcer or recruiter follows the golden rule of “go where your talent lives online,” so we can’t fault people for doing what they are supposed to do.

However, the mere presence of recruiting professionals in groups, even at high percentages of the total group population, doesn’t have any negative impact upon the non-recruiting group members.

It’s their behavior and activity, or lack thereof in some cases.

A quick Google search pulled something interesting up from the “Chef Network” group on LinkedIn.

Overlooking the spelling errors (hey – it’s authentic, right?), check out the the discussion and the “latest updates” section.

I blanked out the recruiter who posted all 3 of the latest updates, which actually consisted of a job posting in the discussion area and 2 “likes” for their own job posting, all in a 3 minute span.



I see many recruiters “like” their own jobs – is it just me, or isn’t this lame for obvious reasons?

Now, the majority of my experience in sourcing and recruiting has been information technology, finance and accounting, health information management and clinical research – I’ve never had to source and recruit chefs before.

I’m inclined to say that if recruiter spam has penetrated down to chef groups, it doesn’t bode well.

You can see one of the comments saying that the spam from recruiters “has reached the point where I am considering unsubscribing from this group.”

We have reached a sad and unacceptable state in recruiting when our behavior makes people think about leaving a group, and in some cases leaving LinkedIn altogether.

If only the recruiters posting jobs would simply post jobs in the jobs section and not flood the discussions with job posts, recruiters would be more welcome and more warmly received when they do comment.

However, if you run this Google search for [group spam recruiters linkedin], you can see that recruiters simply aren’t following the rules and respecting group moderators and members.

I’d like to share a few of the results with you because I think it’s all too easy to have this kind of content be “out of sight and out of mind.”



As you can see from this next group post, some folks welcome job postings – just as long as they are in the right place!



I’m encouraged to see recruiters calling other recruiters out on their bad group behavior, as can be seen here:



I especially like the sentiment of “nuking the recruiters who flood the group with a wave of openings in the discussion section. There are plenty of recruiters who add valuable contributions to the Job Discussion area. Time to get tough with the drive by recruiters.”

Note: don’t be a “drive by recruiter.”

The sad thing is in many cases, I’d be willing to bet that the offending recruiters aren’t being malicious or even consciously neglectful – just completely thoughtless.

Mindless might be more accurate.

What good do recruiters think they are accomplishing by posting jobs in the discussion section of groups?

I’m sure they don’t get a high rate of response, or any response in most cases – so why do they do it? I have my thoughts – I’d like to know yours.

I can almost guarantee you that some of these serial offenders don’t even read the group content (embarrassing!), or at least I hope they don’t.


Because if they read the complaints from the group members and continued to post jobs in the discussion area then they don’t have an excuse when they continue to ignore the negative responses and reminders about the group rules!

For as long as I can remember, there have been some groups that simply won’t even allow recruiters into them.

What’s sad about this is that the group moderators and members likely don’t actually have a problem with recruiters joining their group – if they could be assured that the recruiters would behave properly and respectfully.

The real issue here is how some recruiters behave – not obeying group guidelines and rules, and being thoughtless and inconsiderate.

Why do you think chefs join a chef network group on LinkedIn?

The same reason why Java developers join Java groups on LinkedIn – to network and discuss their area of interest with people who share similar interests – not to be preyed upon by recruiters.

Let’s face it – crocodiles and lions don’t ruin water holes because they happen to be in and near them, they “ruin” water holes for zebras, antelopes and other animals coming to get a drink because they get attacked.

LinkedIn Messaging (Inmail and Group)

The second major way in which recruiters can detract from the average non-recruiting LinkedIn user comes in the form of messaging, both paid InMails and free group messages.

It’s surprising to me to continue to find so many recruiters who don’t put much thought into their messaging, especially how their messages and content will be received by the recipients.

Sending bland and boring messages seems to be all together too common. Have you ever been on the receiving end of a bad, or at the very least, an uninspiring InMail? I’ve actually had candidates send me some of the InMails they’ve received, unsolicited. Very interesting indeed.

A quick Google search for [recruiters horrible InMails] will give you some insight into how some InMails are perceived.

It appears some are the result of a recruiter being clueless as to who is actually on the receiving end – here is a very mild example:



News flash: If the person receiving your InMail is confused as to why they’re getting it and how to respond to it, you haven’t done a very good job in your messaging.

And did you ever think that your InMails might end up as a Google search result?

If not, think again.

In fact, I’d argue it would be a good idea to assume that any InMail (or email, for that matter) could show up on the Internet. It might make you think twice about what you put in your InMail.

Non-customized form/template InMails are just as bad as form/template emails. It’s pretty easy to identify the fact that someone didn’t take any time to actually read a person’s LinkedIn profile, and that they’re getting the same InMail that 5 or 50 other people are getting.

These are received about as well as the junk mail you get in your mailbox.

Here’s an example from Michael Johnson, SVP of Sales at Avature:


When recruiters send messages like the two examples above, they are contributing to a negative experience with recruiters on LinkedIn.

It should be embarrassing when recruitees feel like they need to give guidance to recruiters on how to do a better job. That’s like going to Nordstrom and having such a bad experience with the salesperson assisting you that you feel compelled to offer them advice on how to be a better salesperson.

Getting one of these InMails might be mildly annoying, but imagine if you got a couple of these a day. What kind of perception would you have about recruiters? Would you enjoy this byproduct of being on LinkedIn?

Do you even know how many messages the people you reach out to daily get every day?

I encourage you to ask a number of the prospects and candidates you speak with this week about the number of InMails, emails, and phone calls they get every week, and then ask them what they think about the quality of the messaging that gets sent their way.

You might be unpleasantly surprised.

It is important to note, however, that the average person isn’t bothered by getting InMails from recruiters, provided they are well crafted and make sense – this will be the subject of the second part in this blog series.

So, What do I Think?

Do I think recruiters ruin LinkedIn?

No, of course not.

However, I do think that thoughtless and careless recruiters definitely detract from the LinkedIn experience for many people through job spamming, blatantly disregarding group rules/policies, and sending embarrassingly poor messages to people.

I also think that collectively the recruiting community can, at the very least, police other recruiters’ behavior in groups.

If you see job postings in the discussion section of a group, do your part and flag them as jobs just as Will has been doing in the .Net Developers group example that I featured above (good on you Will!).

I think if you’re one of the recruiters who continues to post jobs in the discussion section of groups, you should stop it ASAP– you’re ruining a good thing for the rest of us.

Lastly, I think recruiting managers need to take responsibility for their recruiters and inspect the InMails their recruiters are sending to candidates to identify training opportunities and to work to ensure the messaging of their teams is relevant and high quality.

What do YOU Think?


  • Tom Furlong

    Right on target (again) Glen! You can break recruiters into 3 groups: A) just starting and not knowing how to do it B) in it to make some quick money before moving to the next step in their career C) dedicated to the profession. The spammers belong to Groups A & B- there is hope those in Group A will learn but no hope for Group B (because they just don’t care). Unfortuneately for those of us in Group C, Groups A & B don’t read/know about Boolean Black Belt and understand how their actions ruin the “Linked In” experience for everyone else.

  • Glen,
    This is my post on the same topic
    This was my most viewed post ever so it must of hit a note. I think LinkedIn shares some responsibility here for the way the platform is being used for the following reasons:
    > To network, search, connect,and message it is in a recruiters interest to belong to the full 50 groups. This means belonging to groups without contributing to them. I would challenge anyone to contribute to 50 groups equally.
    > Share with groups on updates goes to stream rather than jobs in groups. It takes moments to share to groups in this way without going in to them. It is probable that most people who post to groups dont go in to most of the groups they post to. This means the negative comments like the ones you have featured are never seen. LinkedIn could fix this by adding the option to share a job update to jobs rather than discussions through the share with groups option.
    > Jobs posted through LinkedIn are charged for. i have no problem with this, but the net result is that the majority of links to jobs are posted as updates rather than jobs, and updates can only be shared in groups as discussions without going in to each group individually.
    > LinkedIn updates are shown promoted according to how much they are liked/shared. The more interaction with the update, the more people the post gets promoted to. This is great for delivering content to the right people and raising the prominence of relevant content. As the most popular updates appear at the top of your connections home screen, it is in the interest of recruiters to like their own job updates and get others to do so (eg: colleagues etc.) Whilst jobs in the form of links on updates are promoted in this way it is only going to get worse. The majority of recruiters don’t want to pay for LinkedIn advertising, which means links to jobs outside of LinkedIn going in to the news feed. The only solution i can see is for LinkedIn to either introduce some content control and move job updates on links to a different feed (which might compete with the paid for options) or automate filters to not promote job content.
    This is a challenge for LinkedIn. By far their biggest revenue earner is hiring solutions indicating the principle use is as a sourcing channel. If jobs and recruiter behaviour by source and spray approaches is damaging this as people seek to hide their profiles or keep information sparse, then they will clearly need to act and decide if the real revenue is in jobs as they are served now (PPC would be the alternative) or going all out on hiring solutions. The latter makes sense to me,

  • Great article. Note that even worse are those fake job postings made by SEO spammers who wants to create traffic to pages full of keywords – just to promote selling useless links to innocent webmasters. I predict that this will be the end of Linkedin unless they find a way to stop it.

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  • Well said Glen and I’m looking forward to the next 2 posts. Jerry Maguire had it right when he said less is more. To me, the key is less candidates, more focus, highly targeted approaches and well planned & researched engagement. Recruiters should be restricted to 5 Groups and Recruitment Managers should ban Bulk InMailing. Before you allow a recruiter to pick up the phone, send an email or publish to the web, they should be taught how to communicate. Communication is actually 90% of what we do in our profession. It never ceases to amaze me how so few do it well.

  • As an ex-recruiter I can probably see both sides here, but I just want to comment on the element of spamming groups. As LinkedIn allow posts to be shared amongst multiple groups with a default setting of them being published to discussions pages added to how different groups are managed, inevitably the discussion pages will be swept with spam. The only way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to have the group manager(s) approve all postings before they are published. I manage an HR group with 8,500 members and spend 5 minutes daily to ensure only relevant posts appear in the discussions pages and job board. If a person wants to build an effective group I think it’s only fair they put the time in to build the community. I may be bias but I feel this gives the group far more credibility as the members never see any spam.

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  • Glen, superbly written, and with a few nice new angles. the problem is not new on Linkedin, and has been a pervasive issue, really since the inception of Groups. Without rehashing all the good points you and others make here, (IE – Bill’s post and FOT) there’s a real underlying issue we need to address here. Maybe this is something that you’ve got in the hopper for parts 2 & 3, but I think that the issue lies within recruiter training and development.

    For SO (too?) long, we’ve thrown people with good “intangibles”, “skills”, “personalities” and those who just “seem to GET IT” into recruiter roles, presuming that if they, for instance, could sell gym memberships they could lure in the country’s best HTML5 or Ruby developer. Not so. We wouldn’t give a grocery store clerk the keys to the Mars rover, because there is training and discipline that is required in order to be successful in such a role.

    Save for companies like AIRS, Recruiter Toolbox, et al, where is the true learning and development opportunity for those in the recruiting profession? Mentors seem to be found by those who truly seek them out, and not something that is an inherent part of training development. Lack of development virtually ensures that we will continue to perpetuate a cycle of crappy recruiters who take a “one size fits all approach” For most, its a matter of self-directed learning. Good for some, not for others.

    I think that we stand at a critical juncture, where recruiters who are well trained, and who also understand the talent dynamic (read: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE), will be the ones standing at the end of the day. Other elements such as a degreed program in talent acquisition (not as an elective as part of an HR Masters program) and vocalized intolerance of those ruining the profession by spamming will help to turn the tide. It’s a long term view and maybe lofty, but it’s what I believe. Local recruiting groups in cities like Seattle, San Fran, NY and DC (like recruitDC) provide a forum for recruiters to share, learn and enhance their skills, but it’s got to go beyond grassroots. No question about it.

    This was a truly well timed piece and just really well done. Thanks for addressing this critical topic. Apologies for the long bit here.

  • Well said Tom.

  • Jesse Samuelson

    Agree, and unfortunately Groups A & B vastly outweigh Group C. Recruiters generally aren’t bring trained properly with the big agency model of churning and burning through very green recruiters, letting “the cream rise to the top”, and getting rid of the rest. Until that changes, we are going to have the majority of recruiters out there making a bad name for us, whether it’s on LI or any other site.

  • Agree with Tom and Pete–great post. The only thing I’ll add is the idea of the pressure on recruiters to fill and fill fast. So they mirror what job seekers do–“it must be better to mass-spread the word and reach everyone then to dig in and really customize, personalize and target a few really good fits.” Until we stop the obsession with time to fill and focus on the skills of a good recruiter and what we save by finding the right candidate instead of the average one who eventually fails or leaves this behavior will continue (and yes by groups A & B).

  • Amen on TTF.

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  • Glen,

    Great article! I liked when @twitter-21199000:disqus and @twitter-23849711:disqus commented that when the people who commit these acts such
    as posting jobs to discussion walls won’t even know they are offending people
    since they may not take the time to read the discussion groups in the first
    place. Thank you for reminding me @Glen Cathey to spend more time with
    the staff to ensure that these “sins” aren’t perceived as best
    practices when in reality they are worst practices at best. This is an
    opportunity to train and retrain the staff to ensure they aren’t stepping in it
    and potentially ruining their reputation or even worse, the reputation of
    company they are recruiting for.

  • Glen: This is a wonderful article! I have sooooo much to say about it, but will only cover the items I feel are most important.

    1. LinkedIn group moderators need to be responsible for managing their groups. They need to be accountable and take appropriate action with any type of spammer. I was moderating a group and had someone spamming her programs relentlessly. I didn’t even bother to warn her (the rules are clearly covered in the group rules). I just deleted her from the group…period. I’m glad you showed an example of the rules on the .NET group about banning recruiters from their group for spamming. This is a no-brainer. Moderators must be diligent and accountable for this. You just can’t put the onus on idiots.

    2. Saying, “The sad thing is in many cases, I’d be willing to bet that the offending recruiters aren’t being malicious or even consciously neglectful – just completely thoughtless. Mindless might be more accurate.” is giving them way too much credit Glen. The best recruiters are in the vast minority (I’d analogize this to Realtors) and it has gotten abundantly worse since the Internet came about. Companies thought, as many still do, that all they need to do is hire some knucklehead with little experience about recruiting, pay then exponentially less than the best recruiters, and let that person can post “glorified classified ads” to boards, groups, etc in hopes of finding great candidates. Herein lies the problem.

    3. By and large, recruiters don’t want to spend money to earn money. The email that Michael Johnson shared is classic. I can’t tell you how many people I speak to that get all sorts of emails that are poorly written and constructed because they think they can do it themselves. I contribute to 3 sites and am far from an expert writer, but I can tell you that when it comes to business correspondence I have professional marketing writers take my content and make it beautiful. I just launched a marketing campaign for my business (geared to CXOs, Presidents, and VPs). The response has been very positive. Here are the first few sentences of a four paragraph email I received from one CEO:
    “Dear Carol.
    I absolutely adore your email. It’s written so well. Hopefully this letter will generate some great enthusiasm for the special work you are doing.”

    I also received a call from an executive in Hollywood who said he gets unsolicited emails all the time and mine is the first one he has ever responded to. My point is you get what you pay for. When you do things like a pro people respond positively.

    I spent 16 years in Exec Search prior to building my current business and always made it a point to be professional, respect every candidate I called, build relationships, and did NOT take shortcuts. This article really points to the pervasive problem that exists not only in recruiting, but all over business…many, if not most, people are picking the low hanging fruit.

  • I agree with Ed Scrivener LinkedIn make it too easy for Recruiters to mindlessly post across multiple groups without spending time reading rules or thinking of the consequences. As a Recruiter it’s incredibly annoying to see post after post of jobs in the Discussions page so I can only imagine what potential clients and candidates must think.

    Maybe I’m being naive in saying so but I do believe the majority of ‘culprits’ are just being mindless and don’t always realise the impact on the Group. I recently wrote my first guest blog on Social Media and was perhaps too honest in admitting I used to be one of these Recruiters and probably still would be had it not been for the eye-opening training I received.

    It’s very easy to pick fault and point the finger but what we should be doing is sharing our knowledge and experience and educating people. If Recruiters then persist in breaking the rules then absolutely boot them out of the Group.

  • NickM181

    Suck it up and get used to it people. It won’t be long before job boards are a thing of the past. With so much information available online, we no longer sit back waiting for you to think about a change, we chase you down and pry you out of your precious little groups and tempt you with a role you can’t help but be intrigued by. And you know what? You love it. Face it, decent recruiters make your life easier. We keep things fresh and interesting and we keep an eye out for better opportunities for you and your family. Taking the hassle out of trying to find a new role when you want means you have even more time to discuss things in your groups so suck it up and move on. Besides, by your own admission Recruiters may make up only 1% of the LinkedIn population, but we make up the vast majority of its revenue. So without us, you wouldn’t have your forums. End rant.

  • rvdontheweb

    A few years ago I became utterly frustrated with “recruiters” calling me about positions they were desperate to fill. I was disappointed by their lack of knowledge about the positions. After some complaining on LinkedIn, in the Answers section, I received some valuable advice, and a new perspective. Recruiters ‘can’ be like used car salesmen – focused on a quota, not on quality. The context was clear that this did not apply to all recruiters. However, high unemployment resulted in and Tom, Dick or Sherry self-designating him/herself as a recruiter. Additionally, it was shared to watch for Contingent recruiters as they may be competing against other placement agencies. Retained recruiters usually offer a better experience as their income has already been addressed in a blanket agreement.

    So I wonder if there is a parallel and the contingent (and the self-designated recruiter) recruiters are the ones more apt to blemish and bruise LinkedIn?

  • I don’t know how things stand on other continents, but in my
    opinion, there is a reason for which Recruiters lack the knowledge about the
    positions they try to fill.

    As a Recruiter, everybody tells you that in these hard times
    you have to do more with less (less money, less time, less information); when
    you receive a new technical job description from your client / hiring manager,
    you have to be creative and go on the internet (clients / hiring managers don’t
    have time to answer to your questions) and use – fast!! – all the sources
    possible to try to make something out of that job description. You have to do
    it fast – the position should have been filled yesterday, less money – no technical trainings, visits to to factory…- and with
    less information – because the client / hiring managers are busy and don’t want
    to be disturbed by your 20+ questions about the role. Btw, there was a
    statistic made by someone, which showed that the biggest challenge that recruiters
    encounter is to get the hiring managers involved in the recruitment process (to
    give info, to screen CVs, to sit down and have an open discussion with the
    recruiter). This happens especially when you work in an HR Agency, where some clients
    – whether we like it or not – just expect you to check boxes when you send them
    a recommendation. So, when you are a junior recruiter, what can you do? We have
    a saying in my language: you try the sea with your toe (I’m sorry if it doesn’t
    make any sense in English).

  • Mark

    It is quite simple recruiters are in essence “career/job brokers” and are trying to facilitate and make your life easier. As with anyone you need to be careful with whom you conduct your business. If a recruiter is honest and is presenting you with all the information they have, the fact that they have a lack of knowledge in your technical expertise should not bother you as they will ultimately get you to the contact that does. The service they bring is making you aware of company that may need your services with which you may have never found on your own. Common Sense will lead you to dealing with the an ethical recruiter that will follow the rules. 215 667 8585

  • Every channel we’ve ever used in recruiting is only as good as the
    person using it; while I don’t believe recruiters ruin LinkedIn, the bad
    ones sure do promote “regression to the mean” and might even “force”
    really great people to go into LinkedIn stealth mode or worse, shut down their profiles for good.

    Th real learning for recruiters has always been on an ad hoc basis – try
    something new and if it doesn’t work, seek out others and ask
    questions. Frankly, this is what distinguished ERE in its early years –
    total love of the craft and an openness to sharing and mentoring others.

    But now with the barrier to entry so low and the pressures to perform so
    high, lots of crap rises to the top and obfuscates the cream. If not
    for forums like recruitDC, various assoications, national recruiting
    conferences, and blogs like BBB, I shudder to think how close the
    profession would be to selling used cars (not to denigrate all the fine
    used car salesmen).

    For the record, do you remember this?

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  • Jake Stein

    Recruiters are the new pests on Linkedin. They ruin group forums with endless spam for jobs and positions, spam email inboxes with unsolicited offers. Most could care less about the people they are trying to get. People seem like cattle to them. I am glad certain forums ban them altogether from posting their inconsiderate tripe.

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  • rootlesscosmo

    Any remote recruiting services or ad recruitment agencies out there who offer InMail capabilities? In other words, folks who can accept a job req via email and reach out to qualified candidates on LinkedIn via InMail?