Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ethics of LinkedIn

In the late summer and early fall, many articles were generated about the ethics of LinkedIn, especially around a hot debate in the legal community. The think-pieces centered in on the ethics of endorsements, and the +1-style feature that other users could give other users. It was thought to be a way of providing a recommendation, but of course, there were some interesting ethical implications. Here are a couple of articles to explain that topic further, before we get on to our area of interest:

The rest of this post is going to focus on differing ideas about LinkedIn and its ethics from the controversial and possibly-guilt inducing “Job Seeker Premium” membership, to contacting employers ahead of an interview.

One claim leveraged against the site is that it “double-dips” because it charges employers money to post job ads and then additionally those who elect to pay monthly for the premium membership. It’s not that anyone needs to buy the membership, but rather, it places the resumes of users who elect to pay for LinkedIn’s services on top.(Note: You can only pay to move your application to the top of the recruiter’s list when you’re applying for jobs that employers pay to advertise.)

However, LinkedIn didn't’t start this way. It was initially entirely free to job seekers, but over a certain period of time, it transitioned into more of a job board than a networking site to generate higher profits. The particularly distressing part, according to Nancy Collamer, is that job boards have proven incredibly ineffective at matching applicants to openings.

That’s not to completely dismiss the social networking site. Employment Office suggests LinkedIn can be effective in “targeting passive candidates.” It’s a specialized method of direct candidate search and selection. The hiring manager approaches a targeted candidate who is already employed with an opportunity for an alternative position. It requires knowledge of the candidate and their networks. LinkedIn allows you to search user skills and to connect with people through others. It can help to know a mutual contact to get you in the door with that targeted candidate.  But, as always, the ethical lines are not always clear. Many LinkedIn users offer their profiles publicly so as to connect hiring managers with knowledge about their skills quickly. In countries like Australia with strict legislation regarding the protection of personal data, you must access people’s information in a way that is both legal and considerate. As well, you should never misrepresent yourself or your company. It’s a very high risk operation with its own ethical quandaries, but LinkedIn, in this case, can provide a more ethical approach to targeting passive candidates. 

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