LinkedIn says: “You wouldn’t be in the top 50% of applicants for this role”

It’s job hunting season so I finally decided to take up LinkedIn’s offer of a free month of their ‘premium job-seeker service‘. There’s not much different about it to notice but there is this: for every job position LinkedIn advertises it offers and assessment of your chances of getting the job, like this one:

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 11.32.04 AM
LinkedIn says this. I say: “whatever”.

You can imagine how they come up with this assessment: your qualifications, experience, keywords that match between your profile and the job ad crunched together, generating a score that ranks you against those who have already applied. To me this process seems folly. And arguably irresponsible.

For one thing, LinkedIn is seldom the only way to apply for jobs, but only its applicants are analysed. That’s selection bias right there. For another, there is apparently no consideration of the immigration status required for each role, a factor which is incredibly important, if not determinative. This says to me the algorithm isn’t especially well thought through.

But mostly I’m just skeptical that candidates can be effectively ranked by LinkedIn (and on a related note I really hope that’s not a service LinkedIn is peddling to employers). You need a lot of assumptions, like how an individual employer values academic qualification, even though that plainly varies greatly, even within a single industry. You have to assume that a job description is an accurate representation of what an employer wants, and it’s often just a cut and pasted jumble. When they see a particular candidate they might rethink or realise they’d written the first JD wrong.

Then even if all your assumptions are right, or right enough, I still like to think there are things a candidate can convey in an application, like their motivations and values, that are important, and aren’t sitting in plain sight on their LinkedIn profile.

'Insights' LinkedIn offers on other candidates.
“Insights” LinkedIn offers on other candidates.

Look, I know big data can be incredibly powerful. The much cited example of Walmart predicting when its shoppers are pregnant is an excellent case in point. And maybe my skepticism is just naivete dressed as understanding. But I for one will be taking no real heed of LinkedIn’s assessments of my job prospects. I might be inclined to browse the “get more insights” section that shows me characteristics of other candidates (pictured above) so I can play up comparative advantages. But I won’t shy from applying from applications where LInkedIn says I haven’t a shot.

My concern is that if  job seekers buy into LinkedIn’s assessments more than I do, it may well be encouraging the wrong candidates to make applications. That wastes candidates time and messes with employers’ chance of getting who they need. Applier beware.

12 thoughts on “LinkedIn says: “You wouldn’t be in the top 50% of applicants for this role”

  1. Hey Joe, as stupid and inaccurate as the algorithm is, it still might be useful to you. I’ve been told that big firms in big cities use bots similar to the LinkedIn one to weed out CVs at the first cut, using key words from the job description in particular. Sure, they miss good candidates as a result, but they get enough applicants that they can afford the Type I errors. So the LinkedIn bot might be good at telling you how similar the language in your CV is to the job description. Adding a few more key words from the JD might hope you get past the bot, if there is one, so that your CV is more likely to be read by a real person.

    1. Well I guess that might be better than the (possibly apocryphal) stories of investment banks just dumping half the application pile, confident that there were enough good candidates in the other half.

      So the message is mimic JD language. Yea, sure, that makes a certain amount of sense. But the LinkedIn algorithm won’t help you to do that. They’re not assessing the specific application you’ve made for a job, just your generic profile. I guess you could change your profile around and around until you get a better result, but that’s gonna be helluva cumbersome exercise.

  2. As a job seeker on Premium Linkedin, I note that when perusing certain job postings LinkedIn produces a ranking (percentage-wise) on how I would fare if I applied for the role against current candidates. Obviously there’s criteria such as 10+ job applicants minimum before Linkedin assesses you based on your profile & how it fits with the job spec.

    However, some job postings I view which have had over 30 applicants via Linkedin don’t show me what my rank would be. Any idea why this is so?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *