Friday, March 27, 2015

College Students and Recent Grads, Standout and Be Found: FAVAR Education Codes

In my last post we discussed the challenges college students and recent college graduates face on LinkedIn.  The complexities of attempting to find a recent college grad with a  specific degree and major is a formidable task, to put it mildly. 

LinkedIn search is not designed to efficiently handle such a search.

Recruiters and employers are forced to accept the fact that they will not be reasonably able to explore the complete talent pool. It would take too long.

Oftentimes it is fair to assume that the best candidate may not have been given any consideration as it was just too difficult to find and filter through the profiles.

Recognizing this problem, we went to work on a solution and developed “FAVAR™ Education Codes”.

FAVAR Education Codes is a systemized way of expressing educational degrees.  The Codes can be used on LinkedIn, other social media outlets, and resumes.  Simply adding “#” to the front of a Code makes it searchable on Twitter.

There are three components to every Code:

  1. Degree Level
  2. Year Graduated
  3. Major

Here is the code for someone graduating in 2015 with an MBA:

Mqq15BUADq (we use “q” in the Code to make the Code unique)

The Codes enable recruiters and employers to instantly identify people with specific educational background.  They are like heat to a heat-seeking missile for recruiters and employers – when they are used.

Go ahead, copy and paste "Mqq15BUADq" into LinkedIn search and see for your self!

Recruiters may run a search with the following criteria to get broader results over several years:

"Mqq14BUADq OR Mqq15BUADq OR Mqq16BUADq"

The Codes will work for everyone who has a degree, but they are most beneficial for college students, recent college grads, and those with highly specialized areas of study, or advanced degrees.  It actually gives them a chance to standout and be found!

They are also free to everyone and can be downloaded from our homepage: www.MaxOutLI.comwithout providing any personal information.  We want everyone to use them!

The downloadable PDF also includes detailed instructions, or you can watch the video.

The codes will only have value if they become widely used.  Please tell others about FAVAR Education Codes!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Recent College Grads: LinkedIn Disadvantage

Recent College Graduates are at a competitive disadvantage on LinkedIn.

There are at least two major aspects of the functionality of LinkedIn that make it more difficult for recent college graduates, or soon-to-be-graduates, to be found, evaluated and contacted for suitable opportunities.

Overcoming these challenges is critical to their success with LinkedIn.

With the emphasis LinkedIn has been placing on growing their student market – claiming to have over 39 million students or recent college graduates as members – one would think that LinkedIn would want to find ways to improve the outcomes for this membership segment. Instead, many become frustrated and pursue career opportunities through other avenues.

The two aspects are:
  • The LinkedIn search algorithm tends to operate under the concept that “more is better”
  • The Advanced People Search is not designed to easily identify students or recent college grads

There is probably very little LinkedIn can do about the first issue. Typically “more is better”. Someone with 10 years of experience should rank higher than someone with two years of experience, right? Someone with more relevant skills should also rank higher than someone with fewer skills.

But, not everyone wants to hire the candidate “with more”. Sometimes less experience is in order.

I don’t see LinkedIn changing their “more is better” search algorithm, nor should they. Members of LinkedIn need to accept how the search algorithm functions and create their profile to obtain maximum results – especially the relatively inexperienced members.

The second limiting aspect, the fact that the Advanced People Search is not designed to easily identify students or recent college grads – even in LinkedIn’s pricey Recruiter Corporate account – is disappointing.

Quick, find someone who graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor’s in Accounting within 25 miles of Des Moines, IA. There isn’t an efficient way to identify all such LinkedIn members.

At the minimum it would take hours to consider all members matching such basic criteria!

Why? To select by an Education “ending date” in the Advanced Search, a user must first select a “school”.

Even after selecting the school, or schools, the search doesn’t look for profiles matching the Education criteria in a single Education entry. Instead the search criteria can come from multiple Education entries within the same profile.

Therefore, someone who majored in accounting from 1975 to 1983, attended a university through 2014, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Recreation in 1986, and lives in the Des Moines area – would be included in search results. Not exactly the type of candidate the employer seeks to hire!

When running a search with the criteria above, 256 results were returned (taking into consideration the top 16 represented schools) but only two of the first 25 search results were of members who actually graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor’s in Accounting!

With all of their technological capabilities, LinkedIn can do a much better job of helping employers identify recent college grads. It would only require adjusting how the Education entries are searched.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

7 Critical Issues Regarding LinkedIn (Part 1 of 7)

LinkedIn is a tremendous tool to find jobs, recruit talent, or build a business.  It may be the single biggest advancement in job hunting and recruiting since the advent of the professional recruiter.  As a recruiter who has used LinkedIn’s high-end “Recruiter” membership (app) for the past two+ years, I can’t imagine recruiting without it.

However, most members of LinkedIn do not understand how to use it to their maximum benefit, or escape the perils of LinkedIn.  Is there any doubt that most casual members don’t even know the perils?

You will note that our Mission Statement posted on refers to LinkedIn as an enigma.  Because it is difficult to understand, LinkedIn is truly an enigma. 

There are a lot of aspects to LinkedIn that are extremely positive, including:

  • It’s a FREE billboard about you, AND you determine if it’s hidden deep in a forest or on Times Square!
  • Unparalleled ability to research the job market and career paths;
  • Ability to participate on-line with groups of people who possess similar professional interests;
  • Receiving updates on jobs that may interest you;
  • Staying current with peers and competitors;
  • Developing your network and profile so that LinkedIn is working for you!

There are also a number of aspects that aren’t so positive, leading to unintended consequences: 

  • Uncomfortable “chats” with your boss due to your LinkedIn activity;
  • Displaying your failings for the entire world to see;
  • Looking like an amateur as every update to your profile is broadcast - separately;
  • Putting too much information on your profile – to the delight of identity thieves;
  • Wondering why no one is reaching out to you after you posted your profile – without any connections;
  • Losing your current job, after two months, because of being distracted by all the other companies LinkedIn suggests you should “follow” or “picture yourself at”;

After much thought, I have pared my list to seven of the most critical issues with LinkedIn.  Before you think I am going to be negative about LinkedIn - that is not my purpose.  LinkedIn has a lot to offer, and a lot to improve. My interest is in generating thought provoking discussion on issues that may not be obvious, and therefore aren’t receiving enough attention. 

Since LinkedIn emphasizes that it is a “members first” organization, hopefully some of the concepts and issues discussed will encourage LinkedIn to make changes that will be for the betterment of their members. 

For each issue raised, at least one solution will be provided.  The solutions will fit into three categories:

  1. Things an individual member can do;
  2. Things LinkedIn can do;
  3. Solutions we have created at MaxOut LI;

So, what are the seven key issues with LinkedIn from the perspective of someone who:

  • Heavily uses the top-end LinkedIn “Recruiter” app in pursuit of top talent;
  • Has deeply analyzed the functionality and dysfunctionality of LinkedIn;
  • Has observed the level of understanding others have of LinkedIn; and
  • Has guided people regarding their use of LinkedIn;
This week we will examine Issue #1:

#1 LinkedIn could do more to help their unemployed members

As a recruiter, I work with many candidates who have felt the sting of unemployment - “sting” is a gross understatement.  Many of their voices are desperate.  Some of them are fighting to hold back tears as they face the reality of being unemployed and possibly running out of money. 

Many of those candidates have turned to LinkedIn for help.  They optimize their profile, add connections, join groups, etc.  They are taking action.  Unfortunately, with more than 277 million profiles on LinkedIn it can be very difficult to stand out.

Certainly these individuals need to do much more than rely on LinkedIn for their next career opportunity, but LinkedIn could do more to help them stand out and be found.

LinkedIn – which at its heart is about matching appropriate job candidates with relevant career opportunities - could do a better job of helping recruiters and employers identify the unemployed members. 

Much to their credit, LinkedIn does offer a free one-year Job Seeker premium subscription to U.S. military veterans. 

What does LinkedIn suggest?

To find out LinkedIn’s suggestion regarding the best way to search for members who are unemployed, I asked them.  The response was less than satisfactory: 

“Use this keyword search string: seeking OR seeker OR “looking for” OR “in search of” OR “open to” OR “new job” OR “actively pursuing” OR “pursuing new” OR “searching for” OR “new opportunity” OR “new opportunities” OR “available for”.” 

How many hiring authorities do you think would use that keyword search string to identify a potential new hire?  Anyone? 

Even if they did use the suggested keyword search string the results would render the search useless.  Try it yourself; paste the recommended search string in the “Keyword” field of an advanced search, make a few more selections to narrow the results, and run the search.

See the problem?  It generates a huge list of profiles – more than 25% of all profiles in North America - with many of them gainfully employed.

There has to be a better way!

Of course, there is a way for members with a Job Seeker Premium account to be identified as currently exploring new career opportunities – they can choose to display the “Briefcase” badge next to their name on their profile and in search results.   Here is an example:

Having the ability to add this “Hey, look over here, I am available” badge to ones profile is a step in the right direction.  However, there is a lot more that can be done to help the person who chooses to pay monthly fees for the privilege of adding the “Briefcase” badge. 

The Solutions

What can an individual member do?

I am not a shill for LinkedIn, but right now the best thing a member can do is to Purchase a Job Seeker premium account and display the “Hey, look over here, I am available” badge.  Unless LinkedIn steps up and improves the functionality of the badge, this will only be somewhat helpful.  With LinkedIn’s current functionality, the badge truly is a “Hey, look over here, I am available” badge – amongst a forest of 277 million profiles.

Unfortunately, many, many people can’t afford to spend $19.95 per month for the minimum Job Seeker premium membership.  These individuals must learn how to leverage LinkedIn without the benefit of a premium membership.  With LinkedIn continuing to further restrict the ability of free members to utilize LinkedIn, it is getting tougher for those with tight finances to stand out on LinkedIn.

What can LinkedIn do?

LinkedIn could be addressing a way to make it EASY for employers to find the unemployed.  In times of low unemployment there is a bias against hiring an unemployed person.  Our weak job market has caused millions of well-qualified people to join the unemployment ranks and many employers realize they may be able to hire someone who would become a loyal, productive employee – in part because their new employer saved them from the unemployment ranks, or foreclosure on their home, or worse.

There is a very simple solution, but is can only be undertaken by LinkedIn.  Members can’t create the solution – unless they do it en masse.  Companies like MaxOut LI can’t create the solution, either.  Only LinkedIn can create the solution.

Fortunately, the solution is VERY simple and cost-effective.  While it is my hope that LinkedIn would create the solution and make it available for free members (remember, LinkedIn profits from free members in other ways, i.e. selling job postings, advertising, recruiter memberships, etc. ) they could include it as a feature exclusively with their Job Seeker premium memberships. 

It makes good business sense for LinkedIn to create the solution.  LinkedIn would profit either way, through increased engagement as members step out of the woodwork, or increased engagement and fees for premium memberships.  They would probably end up selling additional high-priced “Recruiter” seats as well.

The solution would change the “Hey, look over here, I am available” badge into a genuine “I am available” badge.  Rather than the current method, which just draws attention to a profile, if it appears in search results, they could make the badge “searchable” or “findable”.  In other words, make it so recruiters and employers would be able to search for profiles with the badge, not just stumble across it as is the case now. 

Clearly, LinkedIn has the technical capability to make the badge searchable.  That is not even debatable.

Why LinkedIn hasn’t made the badge a searchable field is a mystery.  Why does LinkedIn think it is more important for recruiters and employers to be able to search for someone who is interested in providing reference checks, or wants to be a deal-making contact, but not be able to search for someone who is unemployed? 

They could revise the search options like this:

Perhaps they don’t understand that it would increase the value of their Recruiter Corporate seat - which is now quoted at $8,639.40 per year?  If you were paying for a Recruiter Corporate seat, which selection would you find most valuable?  Which selections are able to be made today? 

  • “Deal-making contacts”, or “Finding someone unemployed”;
  • “Entrepreneurs” or “Finding someone unemployed”; 
  • “Reference check” or “Finding someone unemployed”; 

Perhaps they don’t understand that it would help their members who need it the most?  That is a point for which many of the people who make decisions for LinkedIn may have a hard time relating.  One has to question how much empathy they can truly have for the unemployed, unless they have gone through similar situations.  By “similar situations” I am not referring to just being unemployed, rather being unemployed AND not having the funds for a Job Seeker premium account. 

Perhaps they don’t understand that this powerful badge would increase the engagement on   

Rather than spending hundreds of millions of dollars acquiring and developing “bells and whistles”, doesn’t it make more sense for LinkedIn to invest very little time and money into a solution that would bolster its stated mission: The mission of LinkedIn is to connect the world's professionals to enable them to be more productive and successful.”  That is a broad mission statement, but unless you are well-to-do it is hard to be successful and productive if you are unemployed.

Whatever LinkedIn may be working on to improve their site, doing something to make it easier for the unemployed to be found will add value to their service and may cause more members to think that LinkedIn really is a “members first” organization.  If such a change benefits its members, doesn’t it also benefit LinkedIn?

It’s a simple solution. 

Please share your thoughts regarding Issue #1.  Next week we will dive into Issue #2.