Academy for Chief Executives Blog Rotating Header Image

Case Study: Recruiting using LinkedIn

Adrian Spink is CEO of Company85, an independent IT consultancy specialising in IT transformation and security. Based in London, the company provides advisory, implementation and managed services to FTSE100 clients and public sector organisations across the UK and EMEA. Adrian is a member of Academy Group 1, Vince Tickel’s Central London group.

Why did you try LinkedIn as a recruitment tool?

When we first set up the company five years ago we were unknown, so attracting talent of any kind was difficult and attracting good sales people – who look for a business with a track-record so they can earn their commissions – was even harder. But over time we’ve become well-established and have a visible and successful brand now. It’s important to have that credibility if you want to try the LinkedIn route for recruitment.

Adrian Spink

Adrian Spink
Academy Member

Over the years we have used a variety of recruitment methods. We recruit people directly through our networks, but we also use recruitment agencies and even job boards for simple to-fill-roles.

The idea to use LinkedIn to recruit surfaced about nine months ago when we tried to recruit new sales people. Initially, we worked with a couple of IT sales recruitment consultancies, but didn’t get the results we were hoping for. They simply weren’t able to deliver a short-list of the calibre that we were looking for. So we decided to take a completely different tack and try to use LinkedIn to find people directly.

My sales director and I divided up our LinkedIn networks. We started by researching an initial list of 20 or so prospects and made contact. We felt that a direct approach from a CEO or a sales director would be something that good salespeople would notice. Time wise, this initial stage took a couple of days spread over a few weeks.

Was it difficult making such a direct approach?

It was actually very simple. I’m a blunt Yorkshireman. It was just a question of explaining that we were looking to extend our sales team and that their LinkedIn profile suggested they were just the sort of person we were looking for.

If they said ‘thanks but no thanks’, I apologised for taking up their time. That said, most agreed to have a chat. People are more used to this more direct approach than they were five to ten years ago. And frankly, a conversation like this where they are in control offers a more direct and authentic experience than using a recruitment intermediary.

How long did all this take?

We started the process at the beginning of 2015. Initially we wanted to recruit three new sales people over a two month period, but we didn’t limit ourselves. Our strategy was to grab any top talent that came our way, and in the end we recruited five sales people from LinkedIn.

But just because we used LinkedIn to find people doesn’t mean that we weren’t very careful to follow the correct due diligence and reference-taking process that you would expect from a professional recruitment firm.

It sounds as if great thought and care was applied to the whole process.

Yes, reputation is everything for a professional services firm. So we went through a very careful process on all levels. But interestingly, although using LinkedIn as a tactic worked very well for sales people, when we tried to recruit a marketing assistant in the same way – it didn’t work. Perhaps, people in more junior roles are less comfortable having a direct conversation with a CEO, whereas seasoned sales professionals are more at ease with this sort of thing.

What does this say about working with recruiters?

As I mentioned earlier, we do still work with recruitment agencies. But whilst we did save money, this was not designed to be a cost cutting exercise. One thing I noticed about using LinkedIn was the authenticity of the process. With traditional agency recruitment, the presence of a middle man means that filters can get applied in both directions. By talking directly we could cut through that chatter and have more meaningful conversations from the start.

Kirsten Hurley was one of the five sales people recruited through Company85’s LinkedIn campaign.

“I wasn’t actually looking for a job at the time, but when you get an interesting approach from the CEO of a business you know and share mutual contacts, it’s not something that you’re going to turn down as out of hand.

Whilst the opportunity sounded very interesting, I explained that I couldn’t think about it before the end of the year. However, as Company85 were local to me, I said I’d meet Adrian for a cup of tea.

When we met, I was immediately struck by the way Adrian spoke about the company and how he embodied its values. That was very reassuring. I was sufficiently impressed to say that I would be interested in talking further if he could wait. Luckily that wasn’t an issue.

In the meantime, I met up with Bill, the sales director, and other key stakeholders. It was vital that there was a good fit. All went well and I joined the company three months ago.

Being on LinkedIn means that you get approached by a lot of recruiters trailing opportunities that just aren’t relevant, which can be a bit of a time-waster. But it will always be flattering to get an approach directly from the CEO. And they backed it up with a totally professional recruitment process and good communication all the way through. It also means that you can get the low down right away. And even if the role isn’t the right at the time, you’ve made a useful contact for the future.”

Leave a Reply