LinkedIn Premium - Why it's Not Worth it

Most articles about LinkedIn Premium are on the positive side. When you read them, you think that LinkedIn Premium is a good tool. Which, interestingly, isn't the impression you'll get on online forums and social media. I've looked at many sources to try to look at this from many angles.

The Fast Company and CIO articles (and other high-ranking articles) are generally positive, and they mainly discuss the features gained. However, the value is often perceived by heavy networkers (B2B, business development, ...), less so by the unemployed. I'm not saying that all job seekers hate it. But they're not the ones who gain the most from it.

That's really what I've observed online (mainly through many Reddit and Quora discussions). To be fair though, there's a minority of job seekers who are absolutely enthralled with LinkedIn Premium. And we'll try to understand why.

Job seekers usually dislike LinkedIn Premium

LinkedIn Premium comes in many flavors. The "Job Seeker" is the cheapest, at $30 per month or so.

First, I'll tell you right away where this is going to end: LinkedIn Premium is not worth it, unless you become a heavy user. Further down, we'll look at a simple trick to know whether you can actually use it for all it's worth.

Ok, so what's the opinion of average job seekers? There's a clear majority in the "we don't like it" camp... Probably around 80% of people will tell you not to bother. Premium doesn't work. Is that a fair assessment? Well, first of all, let's consider that many new users have subscribed because the first month was free. The attitude was probably "why not?" more than "let's do this!"

When they talk about their experience, most just say it didn't do anything for them. Some did send out a few InMails (LinkedIn messages you can send to anyone you want), but it didn't really move the needle. And they haven't been found more, either.

Is that enough to conclude it doesn't work? Well, maybe that's not the right question. Sometimes, the problem is the tool. But it could also be a biological interface error: the user.

Who are the LinkedIn Premium fans?

We can't just ignore the 20% who seemed to like it. Because some were quite passionate about it. They think it's worth every penny.

What do they like so much? The ability to reach out before you apply. The idea is to look for recruiters and hiring managers because you've seen an actual job ad, or just because this company would be a good place to work for you. With the extra search features, it's easier to find the right people, and then they can send an InMail to open the discussion.

Here's some text you could use to reach out to recruiters or hiring managers:

"I'd love to join your team ... [saw the opening in network administration] / [think I'd be a good fit for Company ABC]."

"Last year, I Identified 20+ vulnerabilities by testing infrastructure security, using both automated tools and manual testing." (include one solid accomplishment.)

"If you can think of an opportunity for someone like me, I'd love to talk about how I could help the team."

Then you close off politely ("Thank you", "Yours,"...) with your name and email or phone number.

Now, you can tweak that as you want. The idea is just to be concise and to focus on the value you want to bring. Talk about what you can give, not what can get.

What I've just covered is probably where most of the value is with LinkedIn Premium (for job seekers). But I'll provide more details further down.

Can you make it a habit?

So when these heavy users of LinkedIn Premium lash back at the haters by saying they're not using it properly, I think they're right. But just because it works for them doesn't mean it's worth it for you!

It's like going to the gym. Or, more accurately, it's like NOT going to the gym.

People want to go to the gym to get healthy, be in better shape... And those who regularly go will often see good results. But there's a catch, right?

Signing up for the gym is one thing. But actually going 3 times per week, over an extended period of time, is much more difficult. And to see better results, you also have to adapt your eating and sleeping habits. Doing all these little things consistently isn't easy. And if you've never made it a habit in your life to exercise, buying a gym membership isn't a good first step to change that.

How does that compare to LinkedIn Premium?

People hope that shelling out the cash will push them to become better at networking on LinkedIn. The results seem attractive (expanding your network with people in your industry or field), but it's really the commitment to the process that makes all the difference. You need discipline in using the tool.

Are you part of the few who should get LinkedIn Premium?

Here's the 2-question litmus test to know whether LinkedIn Premium makes sense for you.
- Do you regularly use LinkedIn?
- Have you ever reached the limits of your free account?

If you answer yes to both, you'll probably get your money's worth with Premium.

Otherwise, maybe you just need to start using LinkedIn seriously, for 10-15 minutes per day. The basic features are very robust, and the sheer number of professional users already gives you access to tons of contacts, news, trending topics and discussions. If you're not sharing updates, participating in groups or commenting on Pulse articles, you're a LinkedIn ghost. If you haven't been growing and nurturing your network through these activities over the last weeks or months, nothing would change with a paying subscription.

Here are some thoughts on learning the basics of LinkedIn. Also, make sure you have a strong profile with the Big 3 of LinkedIn.

Digging deeper in the value of Premium for job seekers

Now that we've established that most of you don't need it at this point, we can still have a look at what you could gain with LinkedIn Premium. I've tried to cut through the marketing bells and whistles by separating what's offered into categories. Some features help you to reach out (active features) while others help you get seen (passive features). And a third subset gives you strategic competitive information for your job search (shows you where you stand among your peers).

Most of the value comes from what you can do by reaching out (as explained previously: find recruiters/hiring managers and contact them directly through InMail). Let's start here, then.

ACTIVE FEATURES - Reaching out

  • More search filters.
  • More search results (not capped at 100).
  • InMail (only 3 per month!).

Reaching out on LinkedIn is about finding people who can help you. Either recruiters or potential future bosses in companies where you'd like to work. With the additional search features, you can really dig through that database. Much more efficient than with the basic account, because you can zoom in on people with the right function and seniority.

Advanced search with LinkedIn Premium

And InMails are a significant tool! Now, while people like to say that InMails are 30% more effective than using regular emails, that statistic is already at least 5 years old. I'm not sure if still holds, but it's certainly as good as regular email. And, subscriber or not, anyone can buy InMails, for $10 each.

LinkedIn InMail with Premium

PASSIVE VALUE - Be reachable

  • Show up first in search results (that is, along with other premium members). It's called Featured Applicant. This will be very useful if you start applying through LinkedIn significantly. It is the strongest "passive" feature.
  • The icon next to your name is golden.
  • Your description shown is more substantial.
  • Open up your profile and get InMail from anyone.

LinkedIn Premium passive features

The best thing here is the Featured Applicant. It brings you to the top of the pile. If you're a very good candidate, that alone can work wonders. But if you're fairly average, recruiters won't remember you once they reach more solid profiles.

COMPETITIVE DATA - Compare yourself

More info on "Who Viewed My Profile" (everyone in last 90 days, instead of last 5 viewers).
How You Rank (compared to others who apply for the same positions).

This is interesting to know where you stand. Also, when you see recruiters have visited your profile, you can reach out to them (within 24 hours if possible). But the "last 5" function of the free account is usually enough...

Is it worth it for you?

If you're already on LinkedIn a lot and you want to crank it up a notch or two, go right ahead! It's a good tool, and $30 per month is probably really small next to your potential salary.

But for most people, I'm too much of a realist to think that it's a wise decision. If you're on the fence, the smart thing to do is to get going with LinkedIn for at least one month. Don't pay anything until you know that you'll be using that tool.