Why I Failed the LinkedIn Recruiter Certification Exam

By now you have most likely heard the news about LinkedIn’s new Recruiter Certification program. For only $200 and a 90-minute exam, sourcers and recruiters can obtain their LinkedIn Recruiter Certification and advertise to potential candidates that they have an unquestionable mastery of… LinkedIn Recruiter.

To kick off their new certification program, LinkedIn generously offered free registrations to the first 500 people who signed up. The price was right and I eagerly added my name to the list, but with one stipulation: I would not study any of the materials provided by LinkedIn and would have to pass solely upon my current sourcing, recruiting, and LinkedIn Recruiter knowledge.

Needless to say, I failed. And rather spectacularly, I might add. Hopefully my failure will illustrate what this new certification is all about and if it is worth your time and money to pursue.

So, did I fail because I am a terrible sourcer and unable to effectively recruit a candidate to save my life? Had I forgotten the basics of passive candidate generation and engagement? Have I misunderstood the difference between AND, OR, and NOT over the years? Do I just not grasp the concepts of semantic and contextual searches? Hardly.

So what went wrong?

Despite the warnings and grumblings heard around the web, my mistake was thinking LinkedIn’s Recruiter Certification would revolve around sourcing or recruiting. I was doubtful that certification for what is arguably the most utilized sourcing and recruiting tool on the planet would pay little-to-no attention to actual core sourcing or recruiting skills. Let me be clear: It does not, at least not in any meaningful way that is likely to add value to your core sourcing or recruiting skill set.

This concern has been echoed before on SourceCon, but it bears repeating: The LinkedIn Recruiter Certification should not be considered a skills-based sourcing or recruiting certification. Instead, I would describe it as a LinkedIn Recruiter Best Practices Certification (Note to LinkedIn: If you’re reading this, please feel free to appropriate the name).

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Who should take it?

This is a question I have a difficult time answering. Getting certified, LinkedIn says, “boost[s] your professional reputation among your peers and demonstrat[es] that [you’re] invested in your career.” Yet I cannot see how. To me, a professional certification should strengthen your existing skills while challenging you with new ones and actual certification is awarded to those whose skills have been demonstrated as top-tier. In the Sourcing / Recruiting world I can imagine these core skills falling into the realm of candidate generation techniques, messaging, candidate engagement, and perhaps closing skills. LinkedIn Recruiter Certification will not demonstrate to anyone your ability to find, engage, and close candidates at a superior level.

Instead, the LinkedIn Recruiter Certification celebrates wizards of LinkedIn efficiency: sourcers and recruiters who live, breathe, and die LinkedIn. If you are an expert with the nuances of InMails, know how to share LinkedIn information quickly with your team, or literally use LinkedIn Recruiter for every facet of your sourcing or recruiting organization, you may want to get certified. Even then, certification will simply tell the world that you are a LinkedIn Recruiter power user – something I doubt the candidates whom you are contacting through LinkedIn will even care about.

If you are looking for new sourcing knowledge or want to bolster your actual recruiter skills you should definitely look elsewhere. If you have $200, hours of free time with which to prepare, and want to tell the world you know how to use LinkedIn Recruiter, you may have, at long last, met your perfect certification.


17 Comments on “Why I Failed the LinkedIn Recruiter Certification Exam

  1. One more thing to add, I went looking last night for a practice test I had heard about but couldn’t find. In response to an email I sent, I got this reply this morning:

    Unfortunately, the practice Certification is no longer available.

    Please refer to the information available on the LinkedIn Recruiter Training Centre for revision purposes.

    Apologies for any inconvenience that this may cause you and best of luck with certification.

    Thank you linkedin!

    1. Interesting. I paid $20 extra for the practice exam…. Hmmm. I have yet to receive any practice materials from them and I’m taking the test in 2 weeks.

  2. Thanks for the post; great story. I have heard rumors about the certification exam; it seems you are verifying their accuracy, it reminds of the CPC (certified personal consultant) exam (for you that remember that far back); it wasn’t about recruiting and sourcing–it was about “how many words are in a proper business sentence?” It sounds like we need to understand the rules of the game (aka certification) before we take the test. Thanks for sharing.

  3. They gave you materials to study and you chose not to study them and you expected to pass the “Linkedin” exam that was created by Linkedin to use for Linkedin Recruiting/Sourcing????
    Had you read the materials, you probably would have scored higher, if not passed. Certification mean you have studied the materials and are ready to become a recognized member of a industry program.
    Not studying for the exam is a failure on your part to do your part, not a failure of the program.

  4. the best italian race car driver would probably fail the CA driver’s license test… your analysis regarding the certification is definitely correct; the test is a holistic view of someone’s knowledge of linkedIN recruiter (5 categories, 67-questions), not just how you source and find the best candidate. i was pleasantly surprised at how much guessing i had to do.. luckily for me, the tried and true pick “C” methodology was a success!

  5. I passed but only after studying and even then I’d say 70% of the stuff on the exam wasn’t covered in any of the training/webinars designed to prep you.

    All the Linkedin Recruiter Certification exam measures is how well you know Linkedin’s product and if your an efficient user – not how well you can source and recruiter…which is lame, but what I’ve come to expect from Linkedin…unfortunately.

    1. I agree that this is exactly what the exam measures: How well you know the product’s features and how efficiently you use them.

  6. We need to take it from the perspective of LinkedIn and their business intentions. Of course that this certification is to lure more people into paid LinkedIn Recruiter and make the LinkedIn Recruiter more important (psychologically at least). LinkedIn does not want you to do recruitment with basic account. And personal premium accounts are not as interesting as LinkedIn Recruiter neither from the revenue point of view. LinkedIn wants us to educate us what we should do regardless of what is more effective. I would do the same in their shoes for sure.

    I was expecting more LinkedIn specific and recruitment/sourcing-like questions as well.

    Anyway passed: )

    The broken-arm author of “People as Merchnadise: Crack the Code to LinkedIn Recruitment”


  7. I had the chance to take the Beta test (3 hours, 180 questions) for Linkedin when I was contracting there. I was a power user, using all the different features besides the job posting tool. My advice to anyone considering the exam is to study all of the materials. As of a couple of months ago almost all of the topics were covered in the online trainings and what you learn is the way to answer the multiple choice questions in the same fashion or with the same opinion as ‘Linkedin’ expects.

    As stated by others, this is not a test of your soucing skills but only on how to use the Linkedin Recruiter tool effectively.

  8. Passed it today in Amsterdam.. The exam is much more about common sense if you ask me. The first 30 questions are about Boolean search which, if you know the operators, are a walk in the park. The rest about pipelining, jobs & the LinkedIn recruiter account, which you can easily answer by just using your head and medium linkedin usage (I bought a Recruiter Lite account just yesterday to check it out). I cannot really believe any heavy LinkedIn user failing this…

  9. I’m curious why you thought a $200 certification exam would “strengthen your existing skills while challenging you with new ones”. Anything that doesn’t involve hours of study/practice or transference of knowledge from an expert isn’t going to do that. I think the certification does exactly what it’s intended to do – make you look just a little better than the other guy they’re interviewing…or at least that you had $200 and an hr of free time.

  10. I’m 100% with David Perque on this one. I immediately knew the certification would relate to the user of LinkedIn. I mean in some countries the only sourcing process available for viable candidate is through LinkedIn, so it would only be fair game that they offer this certificate to their users. And for those in-house or agency recruiters this certification will definitely play well for them with a client.

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