In October 2015, I wrote a blog post introducing a new LinkedIn product: ProFinder. LinkedIn ProFinder is an online portal that allows freelance/consulting professionals to be hired on a project-basis for their expertise. I recently had a call with a LinkedIn rep regarding ProFinder and was surprised to learn that the tool will be a passive resource for the Pro (read on to learn more) and that Pros are only accessible when ProFinder is rolled out to their city. Imagine my disappointment on both fronts.
I want my network to know that I am listed as a Pro so they can refer me to other professionals who may need my services. Without having a way to promote this, LinkedIn ProFinder acts as a passive portal. Does that make sense to you? No, me either.
While on the same hand, LinkedIn ProFinder is now accessible to (certain) professionals in San Francisco and New York City, meaning: you can only search for Pros in those two major metropolitan cities. So, even though ProFinder is accessible to consultants in any industry and location (I have created an account/profile), you cannot search for me because I am not located in one of the two currently active territories. Big bummer. The conversation warranted a blog post with feedback for LinkedIn to take into consideration as they iterate and improve this product.
Here are a few gaps or, more positively, areas of opportunity:
- Integrate with LinkedIn: While ProFinder could be powerful in bringing new clients to my business, there is currently no way to promote that I am a Pro on LinkedIn. I was shocked to hear that ProFinder, at this point, intends to be a stand-alone product. Of all the gaps with this product, this is the biggest missed opportunity. Why wouldn’t LinkedIn integrate ProFinder (yes, a LinkedIn product) with its own platform? If LinkedIn’s mission is truly to “Connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful,” why in the world wouldn’t these two tools talk?
My expanded network lives on LinkedIn. Even though the majority of my first degree connections know my area of expertise, the power in my network often lives beyond my immediate network and into those second and third degree connections. People want to connect the dots as quickly as possible and seeing which connections we have in common is a critical component to validating my credibility.
- Navigation Bar: To beat my above point into the ground, adding LinkedIn ProFinder to LinkedIn’s navigation bar is one suggestion. While I’m not the biggest fan of the Interests tab (it has always seemed like an afterthought where LinkedIn dumps, usually, cool and useful tools that enhance their platform), ProFinder could fit there. Maybe it gets its own button on the navigation bar.
If ProFinder does get integrated with LinkedIn, I can tell you where I hope it does not go: in the drop down menu when I hover over my profile picture in the top right corner. I already have eight other areas to dive into from that menu. Please, LinkedIn, do not lose my engagement by hiding another item in that menu.
- Length of Experience: I understand LinkedIn wants to roll this product out by city in order to control and manage the ProFinder’s progress. I’m guessing there may be some algorithmic explanation in there too. However, since I do not think location should have a stake in the access to Pros, why not roll the product out based on the Pro’s length of experience?
When a Pro fills out their questionnaire to join the marketplace he or she will indicate their length of experience in the said-service he or she is providing. Frankly, this could help replace the budget piece too. Wouldn’t you assume that someone who has more experience is going to cost more? I would.
- Budget: It is very atypical for someone to know how much freelancing services cost, in any area of service (i.e. design, business consulting, finance, etc.). So, when someone is looking to hire an expert and budget is part of the search criteria, it just does not make sense. Plus, at this point in ProFinder, budget is indicated by dollar signs, not specific amounts. So, what does that really mean anyway? Nix it.
- Location: The beautiful part about being a freelancer or consultant is that you can (usually) do work anywhere. I work with professionals all over the country; location is not a factor of whether or not they hire me. I do my job just as well in person as I can remotely. With that said, searching for Pros based on location is an unnecessary restriction. Nix it.
- Private Link: When you become a Pro, you are given a ProFinder page. However, no one has access to your page; it is only visible to you. Notice the “Start conversation” button in the screenshot below. I am told LinkedIn is removing this button…No wonder! If I am the only person who can see this page, how can someone start a conversation with me?
Take a look again at the screenshot. It looks just like my LinkedIn profile, doesn’t it? This is a big disconnect for me. Why would I need another website link with my LinkedIn profile populated, when I can just go directly to LinkedIn.com instead? Nix it.
Here are just six considerations for LinkedIn on ProFinder. This post is not intended to be a rant, but a dialogue of recommendations to improve ProFinder for its users.
This post will be shared with LinkedIn’s CEO, Jeff Weiner, and VP of User Experience, Steve Johnson. Another team I am working with (SocialSalesGPS – Brynne Tillman, Colleen McKenna, Michael de Groot, Beth Granger, Ted Prodromou, Bob Woods, Viveka von Rosen and Mario M. Martinez Jr.) initiated conversations with them recently with our feedback for improving LinkedIn. We live it and breathe it every day.
Please share in the comments, the features you would like to see in ProFinder that would improve your experience and likelihood of you using the product. I’m sure this goes without saying, but please keep it positive, professional, and productive.
Content in this post is current as of its publication date: 1/26/16.