LinkedIn also helps its corporate clients understand how they're stacking up against rivals when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. By combing through the profiles of every member who currently or previously worked at a certain company, they can determine how often a firm tends to lose talent to its competitors.
"We can share with a CEO, 'Did you realise that Microsoft is winning talent from you three to one versus you to them?' " Shapero said.
It would all come together in the map. Weiner explained how he thought such a tool could be used.
"With the existence of an economic graph, we could look at where the jobs are in any given locality, identify the fastest growing jobs in that area, the skills required to obtain those jobs, the skills of the existing aggregate workforce there, and then quantify the size of the gap," he wrote in the blog post. "Even more importantly, we could then provide a feed of that data to local vocational training facilities, junior colleges, etc. so they could develop a just-in-time curriculum that provides local job seekers the skills they need to obtain the jobs that are and will be, and not just the jobs that once were."
Such a tool is hardly imminent; Weiner writes that it is an innovation he expects to materialise "a decade or more" in the future.
Even as many recruiting professionals say LinkedIn has dramatically transformed the way they do their jobs, some analysts say there are limits to the value that big data can bring to the talent search process.
David Lewin, a professor of human resources management at UCLA, described using LinkedIn to search for talent as "a data mining exercise that I think is broad, but not deep".
Lewin said certain characteristics are critical to one's success in the workplace but are difficult to measure from a LinkedIn profile or from any algorithm-driven search process.
"The issue of predicting fit and performance with the company, that still remains, in my opinion, the big issue," Lewin said.
This could explain why the old-school referral, a highly personal recruitment approach that is much more art than science, remains the top source of external hires at many employers.
"The social tools are good for reaching out to people and creating a brand," said Josh Bersin, principal and founder of talent consulting firm Bersin by Deloitte. "But they end up eventually coming through the normal channels" to apply and interview for a position.
While its data strategy seems to be the very fulcrum of its future, that's not the only area in which the company is pushing hard to innovate.
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