The basics of using LinkedIn in NHS resourcing - blog post

John P. Friel

Being responsible for LinkedIn talent solution’s public sector efforts in the UK puts me in a unique position to observe changes in the way the NHS are attracting talent. 

From talking to HR directors and resourcing managers at trusts up and down the country, it is clear that NHS recruitment is a tough gig! Almost everybody is struggling to find a way to deal with local and national skills shortages. A typical NHS trust needs to find and fill a huge range of vacancies throughout the year and doing that seems to be getting harder.

In fact, there are apparently over 350 careers available in the NHS. A quick search of shows thousands of open positions for ICT, HR, finance, and operations, and thousands of manager and director roles. Are there really enough talented candidates with these skills scanning job boards? If there aren’t, how are these roles going to be filled? Will the entire NHS soon be made up of flexible workers and interims? The question workforce leaders are really asking is, 

“How do we get better at attracting talented people to our trust?” 

Most don’t have an easy answer! The job ads sit up there on a job board waiting for somebody who happens to have just the right skills, to visit that website, find the ad amongst all the others, and then apply for the job. The result is thousands of open vacancies and costly agency fees for the NHS!

This guide is designed to help NHS teams make the first steps towards adapting their traditional methods to the modern social job market – where the typical candidate has access to more information than ever to make career decisions. It will help you apply the principles of social media marketing to recruitment. I recently held a webinar with NHS Employers on the same topic which you can listen to here.

Why use LinkedIn for recruitment?

Let’s first look at the current stats on the use of social media as a channel for corporate communication within the NHS.

The Guardian recently reported that nearly one in three NHS trusts are only using Twitter as a communications channel, let alone for recruitment purposes. This means that the majority of trusts do not see LinkedIn as a tool for communicating to the professional world or for talent attraction. Considering the pressure that recruitment teams are under, let me show you what a missed opportunity this is. 

Unlike other social networks, LinkedIn members generally share where they work and what they do. Now that there are nearly 18 million members in the UK, we can use this information to provide some interesting insights about the job market. For example, we’ve discovered that LinkedIn membership amongst people that currently work for the NHS has grown to approximately 315k - a quarter of the entire NHS! Not bad going and growing fast! 

We also know that the 25 per cent that do have profiles are mainly corporate professionals, managers, and specialists. As more and more NHS people join, the network has become an increasingly powerful tool for the NHS to engage with the professional community and, in particular, to target certain members about career opportunities. 

This rapid growth has led to several innovative NHS teams following central government and the private sector in implementing a modern social talent acquisition strategy through partnership with LinkedIn. They are investing to increase the number of people considering working at their trusts and making it easier to recruit. However, the majority of trusts are not taking advantage of LinkedIn’s free services.

For example, every trust has a 'LinkedIn company page' that can be used for free to promote themselves to the professional community. LinkedIn members who work at that trust can link their profiles to the company page and any LinkedIn member interested in hearing about the trust can follow the company page to receive updates in their newsfeed. Posting updates to your followers is the primary method your organisation can use to communicate on the platform. 

Even so, approximately half of NHS trusts have not even added their logo to their company page. Other trusts have hundreds or even thousands or followers - but are not posting any updates! This is a missed opportunity to communicate to the professional community. Perhaps this is because you are a bit weary of social media? If so, this helpful blog from NHS Employers should help alleviate any fears. 

But if you're ready to start using LinkedIn and its free features to help with recruitment, help is here with this guide which is designed to help you get the basics right. Following this guide will mean that you are on the way ensure you are on your way to becoming LinkedIn-for-resourcing experts!


Build your own presence

Anybody that interacts with external stakeholders is likely to be googled or searched for on LinkedIn at some point. Through your own LinkedIn profile, you are representing yourself and also your employer. That gives you two very good reasons to make sure you profile looks good! If you’re unsure how to do this, here is a useful infographic that will help you positively promote yourself and your employer. 

Two people join our network every second of every day - maybe you’re one of those people who are a bit unsure about the benefits of being a LinkedIn member. This video will help you or any colleagues that may want to learn more about what the typical UK member gets out of LinkedIn. 

Build a presence for your trust 

The next step is to get your ‘company page’ in shape. These pages are controlled by your colleagues that are set up as ‘LinkedIn company page administrators’. For those trusts already active on LinkedIn, your communications team are likely to be the existing admins. The resourcing team needs to find out who controls the page and what their objectives are with it. When communications supports HR on LinkedIn, everybody wins.

However, if your trust is not actively posting updates, you can easily take control by getting the head of the department to email requesting that they make you ‘company page admins’ and listing the names and profile links of those assigned. It’s helpful to have more than one admin e.g. one from comms and one from HR, but we don’t suggest adding too many! 

Your company page provides an opportunity for the trust to communicate what they do. There are nearly 18 million LinkedIn members in the UK so ensuring your trust is well represented by adding logos, some pictures, and a good description is essential. There are many online guides about how to do this including this help page here, or this video walkthrough

TIP: Many NHS logos are very long and don’t look any good in the square box that LinkedIn provides. Make yours look better by rearranging it into a more evenly-sided logo. 

Build out the network for your trust

With or without LinkedIn, every single NHS trust has an existing network of people. This includes your current staff members, past staff members, all of the individuals and organisations that those people interact with every day, and any other stakeholders you care about. LinkedIn simply helps to map that network by digitally linking the individuals and opening up channels of communication. 

'Talent knows talent'

When it comes to finding good people to work at the trust, your resourcing team is sitting on a goldmine of talent. The question is, how do you tap this goldmine? If you’re reading this, it is likely that you work in HR – how many other HR professionals do you know from previous jobs who might be interested in working with you? Probably one or two at least! The same goes for other functions, for example, doctors are very likely to be connected to other doctors that they have worked with throughout their careers - the idea is that ‘talent knows talent’. 

By making an effort to get your employees to support your use of LinkedIn, it will become easier to navigate your existing talent network. It is best coming from the HRD of course. Explain that you’re hoping to develop LinkedIn into a channel to find top talent (like them), ask them to update their profiles, associate it with your company page (not a generic NHS page), and then follow the trust. Remember, growing your followers means extending your marketing reach - free advertising! 

Once you start posting updates on LinkedIn, your colleagues that are following you will see these updates and can share them with their own networks. For example, if you're looking for radiologists; your existing radiologists might help you out by sharing it with their network of other radiologists. Your colleagues may have forgotten that they even know certain people so LinkedIn helps you realise the power of these existing networks and referrals.

As a company page administrator you can measure your engagement by clicking the ‘analytics’ tab on the ‘career page’. This will show you how engaging your content is to your followers and also give you a breakdown of who those followers are so you can track if you're attracting the right sort of people. 

Tip: 79 per cent of LinkedIn members are interested in job opportunities from companies they follow so building followers should be a top priority for NHS resourcing teams! 


Employer brand

Every trust has an ‘employer brand’ whether you’re active on LinkedIn or not. It is up to the resourcing team and communications teams to take control of that brand by positively engaging your networks with messaging that promotes the trust. 

Ideally, you will have already done some work in developing your ‘employer value proposition’ and know the sorts of people you want to communicate it to. If you haven’t, it might be time to get HR and communications together and agree this messaging. The CIPD provides some guidance and LinkedIn’s hugely popular playbook on employer branding will also be useful. 

If your trust is doing well, then it’s obviously a good idea to promote the good news on all channels. Your followers will automatically see your updates in their LinkedIn newsfeed and be able to share it with their own networks in turn. Marketers call this ‘organic’ advertising or ‘earned media’ The more followers you have, the further the reach and the better the result! 

If you’re currently operating in challenging conditions or with negative perceptions, you can still use these channels to share information about the transformation or ‘turnaround plan’ that your trust has. You should also promote any activities you are involved with such as career fairs and anything that helps your audience learn about the trust. If you’re already using twitter, you can copy some of those updates and share them on LinkedIn. 


LinkedIn groups are another free resource and are a great way to engage with specialists in various fields. LinkedIn groups allow like-minded members to congregate in one place and share content of mutual interest, answer one another’s questions and network – publicly or privately. Social recruiters have been using groups for years! 

Use the search bar at the top of your LinkedIn page to explore the groups relevant to your target audience. There are many blogs on how to best engage groups including this one from MSB and this video from undercover recruiter.



We've recently improved the LinkedIn people search experience. You can now view the full names and profiles of anyone in your extended network (1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree), regardless of whether you're connected or have a premium account. 

A progress bar appears in your search results when 30 per cent of your searches are left, and continues to remind you in 5 per cent increments. After you've reached the limit, you can continue to search, but will see a limited number of results. Your free monthly usage resets at midnight PST on the 1st of each calendar month. 


If you’ve followed everything so far, you’re well on your way to becoming a social recruiter! You may already have experience of using a company credit card to purchase targeted LinkedIn jobs which match the job advert to relevant profiles so only qualified candidates can see and apply for the job. If you have, or are considering doing so, here are the most common pitfalls to avoid. 

Common pitfalls for using NHS using LinkedIn Jobs 

  • Use standard job titles. LinkedIn’s matching algorithm will not recognise titles only used in your trust. Think about how your existing staff members are describing themselves on LinkedIn. For example, adding pay bands or location to the job title will yield poor results every time. You can always add this information to the description. 
  • Do not copy and paste the official JD into the LinkedIn JD field. This will also confuse the algorithm and result in poor results. Try and use words that are likely to be on their profiles so LinkedIn matches the job to well qualified candidates. 
  • Do not expect great results for clinical roles. As you now know, a quarter of the NHS is on LinkedIn so far (May 2015). At the moment, the majority of these (25 per cent) are non-medical functions plus many specialists so, if you’re investing in LinkedIn, use it to find managers and corporate roles. 
  • Up to three functions and industries can be selected for each job so make sure you use them all. For example, HR people that work in the NHS may not use the healthcare industry on their profiles so look to your own employees for guidance on how your target candidates are describing themselves. 
  • It is more cost-effective to buy jobs slots as an annual corporate subscription. This way, you can pay by invoice and retains ownership of all the data. 

Understand the difference between active and passive talent

There's some debate in the recruiting industry as to whether you're better off going after active candidates who are looking for a job or passive ones, who aren't. Whatever the case, if you're just considering the former, you're screening out about 80 per cent of the market. Just because someone's not looking, it doesn't mean you can't recruit them. Many of the best people are doing a good job somewhere else and LinkedIn provides unprecedented access to these people. 

Taking things to the next level

If you‘ve been following these steps for a few months, you will have realised by now that the social web has fundamentally changed the modern candidate profile. Leading NHS trusts who have decided that it is unacceptable to wait around for NHS Jobs applications and unacceptable high agency bills, have started to invest in adapting their recruitment process to take advantage of that modern candidate profile which is more connected and mobile than ever. This two minute video will help you see what is possible with LinkedIn Talent Solutions. When your HRD is ready to begin this essential modernisation, contact LinkedIn by filling out this form and LinkedIn’s NHS specialists will get in touch.

Blog post by: John P. Friel, UK Public Sector Practice, LinkedIn Talent Solutions

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