Loyalty in the Age of LinkedIn

3 Nov

The small company that I work is hiring for a senior position, and I have been tasked with doing initial phone interviews with candidates. This includes talking to candidates who applied through LinkedIn, through Monster.com, and through a recruiting firm. We had a brief conference call with the recruiting firm, and they discussed finding candidates who are not necessarily actively looking for new opportunities but who can be persuaded. Now, I am realistic enough to know that this is because recruiting firms need to place candidates successfully in order to get paid. But the recruiter’s discussion of peeling away job candidates who are otherwise happy (or seemingly so) at their current positions made me wonder if there can be any loyalty in the age of LinkedIn.

And I say this not just from the point of view of one who interviews candidates for my current employer. I am on LinkedIn and have been contacted by recruiters numerous times. I imagine that the advent of LinkedIn has revolutionized the world of professional headhunting, making it easier to find potential candidates. As someone who has been contacted, I can say that some of the offers have been quite intriguing. Some just didn’t pan out, while others  were for companies and jobs that were clearly not a good fit. And yet every day seemingly content professionals are pulled away from their jobs for greener pastures.

I remember going to the company picnic for my Dad’s employer when I was a kid. He worked for that employer for I don’t know how many years. My mother worked for hers for 26 years. Back then, there was an implicit understanding between employer and employee. The employee worked hard and was rewarded with promotions and steady employment. That era and its stability are over. Professionals are now more like free agents, ready to jump ship for the best offer and highest bidder. As free agency liberated professional athletes to make as much money as they could and not be stuck under the yoke of the same team, so too are we all now freer than professionals in the recent past, of my parents’ era. This is mostly a good development. If employers want to retain their best people, like a good coach or a good agent, they must ensure that their best players are too happy and well-paid to consider leaving for greener pastures. Or else recruiters will be the ones who benefit.

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