I have a love/hate relationship with LinkedIn right now and I’m formulating a theory around the social networking movement that makes me think that it is the future for job markets supplanting job boards and websites like Monster, CareerBuilder and Indeed to name a few.

The reasons are quite simple:

From an end user standpoint, LinkedIn allows you to establish your professional credentials, history, recommendations, knowledge, skills, experience and the network of people you have associated yourself with over a period of time.   The recommendation feature is fairly valuable to get insight into what others have to say about you and how you treated them.

From a business user (hiring manager) standpoint, LinkedIn allows you to review all of the things above but saves a great deal of time of trying to figure out if a person is a good fit for a particular position.  For example, imagine there is a group (cluster) of LinkedIn members who have all worked at the same company for the same period.  Now imagine that this group of people have all endorsed each other and recommended each other except for one lone individual.   A person would begin to wonder why the cluster has good/positive reviews and recommendations of each other yet the lone individual has no one to speak up for him/her.   Clearly, an astute observer would make note of this and perhaps bring it up during an interview and question why there are no endorsements.

Unfortunately, LinkedIn has a growing problem that might end up crippling its usefulness.  What is this great problem?   A huge HORDE of recruiters are coming onto the board and requesting to be “LinkedIn” to everyone and everybody.   I’m seeing professional profiles so saturated with recruiters now that it’s becoming concerning.    You can read any recruiters profile and see it inundated with dozens and dozens of recommendations and endorsements which dilutes the whole system.   The particular dilemma for me at the moment are these recruiters dangling “job carrots” but only making them available if you become Linked to them.   This creates a problem because you essentially open up your network of associates to these recruiters who don’t always have the best intention.    The long term problem that this is going to create is of course, huge volumes of SPAM.

I’m not going to hold my breath but ultimately, I can foresee advertising, SPAM and other crap start flowing into the LinkedIn system to the point where people will just abandon it.   Regular readers know that I started a LinkedIn category in April of last year as I anticipated the housing and economic mess to take it’s toll.   Last year I had 80,000 people in my extended network, today I have 673,000 “professionals” in my network.  I can imagine half of those are recruiters!

Doing the math, growing from 80,000 in April 2008 to 673,000 in February 2009 that translates to 741% growth in 11 months or about 54,000 people per month added to the network.

A few years ago, someone sent me a request to join LinkedIn which is essentially a business networking social site. I reluctantly joined and had about two “connections” with one from the person who sent me the link and one other friend that joined the network.

I had pretty much forgotten about the site but a few months ago I started getting a trickle of requests from former co-workers to join networks. It was fun to exchange e-mails with former co-workers that I hadn’t heard from in a while to catch up.

At first, it was co-workers from my last employer, then from a previous employer, then from an employer from 10 years ago! I’m now getting at least one or two e-mails per day from people wanting to join networks. I’m getting requests from people I’ve never met before too! It’s not sales people asking to join my network either, it’s people simply looking for a lead in to get their foot in the door.

My network is pretty funny though because I have links to CEO’s, legal counsels, directors, vice presidents down to clerks and I can only surmise that things are getting really bad in the job market now to be getting requests out of the woodwork from so many people. There are now some supposed 80,000 people in my nested network and I can’t imagine ever connecting with so many people!

I’m now hooked on trying to determine an algorithm for my newly created “LinkedIn Desperation Exponential Ratio” which will track the rate of growth of requests on a per month basis of linking requests.

I might create a new category for it! Be on the look out.