SHRM All Things Work

Dan Shapero on LinkedIn’s Democratization of Talent Acquisition

Episode Summary

LinkedIn has played an integral role in the evolution of recruiting. In this episode of All Things Work, host Tony Lee speaks with LinkedIn Chief Operating Officer Dan Shapero about the paradigm shift from job listings to social networking and how AI will help shape the future of talent acquisition and retention.

Episode Notes

LinkedIn has played an integral role in the evolution of recruiting. In this episode of All Things Work, host Tony Lee speaks with LinkedIn Chief Operating Officer Dan Shapero about the paradigm shift from job listings to social networking and how AI will help shape the future of talent acquisition and retention.

Music courtesy of bensound.

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Episode transcript

Episode Transcription

Speaker 1: This episode is sponsored by UKG. UKG offers HR, payroll, and workforce management solutions that support your employees. To make your fairytale workplace a reality.

Tony Lee: Welcome to All Things Work, a podcast from SHRM. I'm your host, Tony Lee, head of content here at SHRM. Thank you for joining us. All Things Work is an audio adventure, where we talk with thought leaders and taste makers to bring you an insider's perspective on All Things Work. As we continue to commemorate the 75th anniversary of SHRM, we're looking back at some of the most transformative changes across HR. Talent acquisition certainly has evolved dramatically in recent years, and LinkedIn has played an integral role in those changes. In fact, in 2023, LinkedIn is fast approaching almost 1 billion members worldwide, 58 million companies listed and more than 19,000 employees. Joining us today is Dan Shapero, the Chief Operating Officer of LinkedIn, and a longtime veteran of the company, having joined it in 2008. Dan, welcome to All Things Work.

Dan Shapero: Thanks for having me, Tony. It's a pleasure to be here.

Tony Lee: Well, it's our pleasure. Thank you. So, let's start with looking back at your 15 years at LinkedIn so far. So what do you think have been some of the most interesting changes in how companies are recruiting, that you've seen over that time?

Dan Shapero: I think it starts with the realization, that companies had over the past two decades, that companies win or lose on their people. That it's not the real estate you own, it's not necessarily the factories you've built, it's your talent. And I think that that realization of the power of talent has led to many transformations in the HR and people's space. And I think in recruiting, it really started around the popularization of passive recruiting, realizing that oftentimes the best people aren't the ones that are actively looking for work. And that's doubly the case amongst professional roles that we've seen.

Unemployment rates amongst professionals has been low and continues to be low for the last two decades. And it's really hard to find great people with in demand skills. And so you have to start to open yourself up to recruiting folks that aren't actively in a job hunt. And when we launched LinkedIn back in 2003, it wasn't long before recruiters found the platform and realized that this would be a place to find people that were otherwise invisible to the recruiting landscape. And I think for us, that was the starting point for LinkedIn's journey.

Tony Lee: I have to share, since we're looking backwards instead of forward, I recall very vividly, I was at the Wall Street Journal back then and we were running 10, 15 page classifieds sections in the journal at the turn of the century. And when Reid Hoffman launches LinkedIn, I remember people saying, this is going to change things. And to your point, it's about social networking, not about job listings, right? That was the big shift?

Dan Shapero: Yeah. We're a platform for economic opportunity. And if you were someone that was doing a great job at a company in a role, before LinkedIn, in many ways you were invisible to the outside world. And LinkedIn opened up tremendous opportunities for people that joined the platform and really became a place to be discovered, to get credit for the things that you've learned and your contributions. And I think that it's really opened up lots of career opportunities for people all over the world. It's something we're incredibly proud of.

Tony Lee: Yeah. Well, as you should be. I mean, something else that seems very interesting to me is that it democratized, be able to get your profile out there. I mean, you didn't have to be at a Fortune 500 company for someone to notice you. You could have been at a small company knocking it out of the park in a small city somewhere, and you're treated just as equally online. Right?

Dan Shapero: Absolutely. I think the thing that's been powerful about LinkedIn is that if you are someone with the skills that are demanded in the world of work, then you can be found, and you can be given credit for what you've contributed. I think the other thing is that it's not just your pedigree. It's about the people that you've worked with and what they say about you, because oftentimes the strongest signals of whose able to do a particular job is what people say about having worked with them. And LinkedIn surfacing that kind of information in a context of your career search is, I think, one of the big unlocks.

Tony Lee: Yeah. And one other aspect of that I think that really changed was the whole concept of sourcing, finding people, to your point earlier, who may be actively and happily employed and not knowing that there's another opportunity out there. I mean, is that a big change that you saw through LinkedIn, and frankly other platforms, that kind of all emerged in terms of social networking?

Dan Shapero: Absolutely. The labor market in the past two decades, particularly for professional roles, has gotten, and continues to be, incredibly tight. And as it got tighter and tighter, companies were looking for new avenues to find the talent that they needed. And it wasn't just the most senior roles in the C-suite, companies were winning based on large swaths of highly capable professionals in many ways. And so the question is how do you find them? And it was very, very hard. And what was interesting was the evolution of recruiting from an administrative function where you posted a Job Rack in a classified section and then you waited for applicants and you helped them through an interview process to what really approached a sales and marketing technique.

What's my product as an employer to this talent? How do I market myself as a place where the best people want to work? How do I then reach out and ultimately close people against opportunities that my company needs with respect to roles to fill? And so this idea of recruiting becoming more of a proactive sales and marketing approach was really fundamental to how we thought about the evolution of the market and is how sourcing became a mainstream activity, and if not the fundamental approach, that many modern recruiting organizations are taking.

Tony Lee: And how did that change HR? I mean, prior to this, HR did everything and then you suddenly had recruiters, and then it evolved into talent acquisition specialists with lots of specialties under that. Is talent acquisition different than HR?

Dan Shapero: I don't know if it's different, but what I can say is that 20 years ago, it wasn't given the same recognition in terms of importance with an organization that it has today. I think it is widely understood now that talent acquisitionists are some of the most capable, professional, and highly skilled people that work in any organization. And I don't know that that was as widely believed a decade or two decades ago. You've seen a whole new set of leaders come into this profession. You see data professionals, you see people with operational skills, you see people with sales skills, and there has been a sea change in the professionalization of TA as companies have realized how important great hiring really is to their success. And I think it's been a wonderful change and one that we've been really proud to be a part of.

Tony Lee: Yeah. So you mentioned shortages, talent shortages have been with us on and off for 20 years, and here they are acute yet again, despite economic headwinds. So, what are you seeing people do to address those shortages? Any interesting tactic strategies that are emerging?

Dan Shapero: Absolutely. I think that there are strategies from a recruiting perspective, and I think there are strategies from an internal talent perspective. On the recruiting side, I think we've seen a continued expansion of the talent pools that recruiters are focused on. 20 years ago, it was all about active seekers, and then it became more popular and more common to focus on sourcing to target passive talent. But typically the passive talent that we would focus on were at companies or industries that were very close to home, very familiar to the organization. They might have had a short list of organizations to go target. I think what we're seeing now is that by broadening the talent pools that companies are focused on, looking at different industries that have common skills, where if you think of skills as the rubric from which you evaluate talent, a skills first mindset, it really opens up a sea of potential candidates that you weren't looking at before.

We've seen it improve diversity numbers. We've seen it really help companies fill roles that are otherwise been nearly impossible to fill by taking a skills' perspective on recruiting, as opposed to one that's very much based on your historical pedigree.

Tony Lee: Yeah.

Dan Shapero: I think the other talent pool is internally. We're seeing more and more companies use LinkedIn as a product to find internal talent, which is very interesting. It's not what the product was originally built for, but it can be very powerful, particularly for larger organizations where it's hard to find skills across the organization. And oftentimes that skills data doesn't really exist on any other platform. So, we think of this as almost a 360 degree view of the talent landscape, active talent, passive talent, expanding the talent pool, and then internal. If you can see that whole landscape, you're really able to find the talent that you're looking for.

Tony Lee: Wow. I'm interested to dig deeper in both of those, but let's start with that skills gap issue. So you're talking about transferable skills and people able to move from industry to industry because they have the right skillset, but we've seen real gaps in skillsets as well. I mean, there are people who simply aren't trained and the market's changing and people who are trained to do one thing don't necessarily know how to do what's in demand today. So, how do you address that? How should employers be addressing that?

Dan Shapero: If you look at the traditional way that recruiters search, it would be companies and it would be roles. And that's a good way to narrow your focus, but it often overlooks lots of talent that have the skills you're looking for, just not described in the way that you're used to looking for them. So, I'll give a simple example. Product management, it means many different things at different companies. There are lots of people with product management skills in the way that your company cares about them that live in marketing in some organizations, there are some industries where product management skills exist that are outside of tech or software. And so, when you start the search from the perspective of the skill you're looking for, you often see people that you otherwise wouldn't have seen. And oftentimes those people are ready out of the gates.

Now, they may need some context with respect to entering a new industry. They may not have done exactly the work that you're asking them to do, but it opens up a completely new set of individuals that often have the majority of the skills that you're looking for. Now, one thing that we've realized, is that in some cases you need to tweak your onboarding approach. You may need to create a pathway for this person to be mentored by someone to transition from the industry that they're in to your industry, or a different set of educational experiences. But the skills that you're looking for is often outside of the historical ways that you've searched as an organization.

Tony Lee: Yeah. Now I could see that certainly being true for professional positions, but frontline workers as well, even blue collar?

Dan Shapero: Well, I think what we've seen is that people are able to learn new skills at a faster pace than employers often acknowledge in their hiring process. And so, we've seen organizations be very successful in finding new audiences to go after when talent is short. I'll give a professional example, I think it speaks to the point. At the stage where LinkedIn was growing very fast, one of the things that we learned is that teachers often became very good salespeople. Now, they needed a different onboarding approach, but their communication skills, their ability to have calm under pressure, as you might imagine in a classroom, their ability to simplify complex topics is very important to building a relationship with a customer. And so, an audience that was otherwise overlooked was a wonderful place for us to build our team, but we did need to adapt the onboarding process to make sure that it catered to them.

Tony Lee: Yeah. All right. So, I've got to ask you more about this, the idea of identifying internal talent. So, you've hired this teacher.

Dan Shapero: Yes.

Tony Lee: You've put him in the sales position, they've been at your company for four years. You have 5,000 employees. You're thinking that you've forgotten this person and they're not being recognized and advanced as they should, or what are you getting at?

Dan Shapero: So what we find is that at roughly the three-year mark, if you haven't found a new role or a new way to grow your skills, that likelihood to leave goes up very considerably. And if you look at most companies, the process of finding new jobs internally can often be very organic. I know someone, they share with me a role. There aren't often systemic processes to help people land into new roles. So what we're finding is that some organizations are starting to empower recruiters to not just look externally, but also look internally, particularly at landing people that have had a few years in the tenure of their job. And those people, I think there's a narrative in the world of people want to switch companies. And that hasn't been our research. Our research suggests that people often want to stay where they have stability, they've made friendships, they've built their life around, they just don't know how to continue to progress.

But if you give them an avenue to progress, then they're going to take it. Now, the key is to marry ability for recruiters to find these folks with a way to ask people what kinds of roles they're interested in, and then give them a way to learn the skills that will showcase their interest and commitment in that path. So, we have a product, LinkedIn Recruiter, where we can surface people that are internal and external, but we also have a learning platform, which is increasingly capturing people's career intent. And then by connecting those two platforms, we can bring this data to life.

Tony Lee: Okay. So I understand the need for technology, but people managers, isn't this their job? To motivate their people and help them advance into the next role?

Dan Shapero: I think it is their job. It's also true that as the organization gets larger and larger, it is hard for anyone to know what opportunities are out there and to make sure that the people on your team are seeing opportunities as they come around, and that they're being promoted to the people that are making decisions on those opportunities. So when your company's very small, everyone can get in a room and talk about talent, but as the organization gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger, it gets harder and harder, and then this is where systems and technology can be very useful.

Tony Lee: Yeah. No, that makes perfect sense. I want to talk about AI. I mean, it's advancing so quickly and we are seeing so much innovation going on out there. Where do you see it going? Where do you think, especially in regards to talent acquisition?

Dan Shapero: I think it's going to be a huge enabler of recruiters being effective. We've already seen it be useful in writing job descriptions. You can often very quickly figure out how to market your role as well as capture the qualifications through AI, particularly if you've already launched a number of roles historically. So that's one area. I think the other area that we are starting to see success in is how to build customized messages for recruiters to send in the sourcing process to applicants. Because the AI has an understanding of the role that's being recruited for and on LinkedIn, the AI also has a sense of who the person is and perhaps based on their career path, what they might be attracted to.

So you can start to build this really interesting outreach message that's related to the person, and the opportunity, that will save the recruiter a ton of time so that they can focus on getting the conversation, building a relationship with a candidate, ultimately closing the candidate into the role. As well as obviously navigating all the internal dynamics around what the hiring manager cares about and what the organization's looking for. So I think AI's going to be incredibly helpful.

Tony Lee: Yeah. No, absolutely. So I have to ask you about something that I heard very recently from a recruiter who uses LinkedIn extensively and says, the only challenge is that if you're trying to find somebody who truly is the needle in the haystack, the unicorn who doesn't want to be found, they may have a LinkedIn profile but they won't use their real name, they won't list their real company. They're very hard to find that way. But the person said, however, their feeling is that if you tell AI, if you create a model in AI that basically says, I want to go find these skills in this type of company, in this location, whatever it is, it will supersede whatever barriers a candidate might create. Do you see that? Is that an opportunity?

Dan Shapero: I think what AI is good for is taking what you've asked for and interpreting who you might want to reach out to. Historically, we're used to these very, it's almost like a filtering methodology. Start with everyone and then just show me the people that meet these criteria. But what AI can do is say, this is who you've asked for but there's also these other folks. That based on maybe their interests on the platform, maybe content that they've shared, maybe their career path, these are people you should consider because they have a lot of the qualities that you're looking for in your search. And so for me, AI opens up visibility into talent pools that otherwise were harder to find directly on your own.

Tony Lee: Yeah. One last thing I want to ask you about, and that's kind of the global talent workplace. I mean, now that you see many more people working remotely, it kind of opens up the opportunity for companies to recruit folks wherever they may be. But at the same time, you are hearing CEOs say, we need people together in person so they can innovate, and the serendipity of just having conversations is important. Where do you think this is going?

Dan Shapero: I see both of those trends happening at the same time.

Tony Lee: Yeah.

Dan Shapero: So, from an executive perspective, there's been some research done that suggests that 80% of executives feel that people are more productive when they're working together. Now, they believe that people can do work from anywhere, but they also believe that when people come together something special happens. Now, on the flip side, 80% of individual workers believe that they can get their work done as productively as possible from wherever they want to be. So there's this dissonance, there's this disconnect. I think that you're going to see, as the economy slows, more organizations ask people to have deliberate touch points with their coworkers. To come into the office on some periodic basis to make sure that those connections are being built.

I think you'll also see organizations be more careful about the degree to which they let new hires be further away from offices because of this idea of getting people together being so important. So you're seeing one trend that looks like that. On the flip side, you're seeing organizations really ask themselves, can we be more creative about where different roles are located? Can they be located in different countries? Can they be located in places further away from metropolitan areas? And that opens up new talent pools. So I think you're going to see a wide range of approaches across different companies, and I think we will learn a lot over the next handful of years about what worked best and what we can learn from.

Tony Lee: Yeah. That's great. Well, that is going to do it for today's episode of All Things Work. A big thank you to Dan Shapero for sharing his insights on the evolution of recruiting and the role that LinkedIn has played there. Before we get out of here, I want to encourage everyone to follow All Things Work wherever you listen to your podcasts, and also listener reviews have a real impact on a podcasts' visibility. So, if you enjoyed today's episode, please take a moment to leave a review and help others find the show. Finally, you can find all of our episodes on our website at Thanks for listening, and we'll catch you next time on All Things Work.

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