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CHICAGO (Reuters) June 14, 2012 — For job seekers and employers alike, LinkedIn provides a valuable service. While many features are free, the professional social networking website dangles an array of additional tools — for a price. For those on a budget, is a LinkedIn Premium account worth the money?

The answer depends on how you use LinkedIn, which has more than 160 million members. For recruiters or those in cold-call sales, LinkedIn Premium's access to potential clients is a boon. However, others say they can find job seekers who use the free LinkedIn site without paying the extra cash.

“If I'm a casual user or a job seeker, it doesn't appear that the value is there, at least at this time,” says Sharlyn Lauby, who writes HR Bartender, a human resources blog. “But if I were tasked with doing some heavy-duty recruiting, I'd give a LinkedIn premium account a whirl.”

The price of a premium account varies depending on the services. For about $20 per month, a Premium Business account allows users to send three InMails a month. An InMail gives Premium clients access to LinkedIn members, even if they aren't already personally linked, and offers a seven-day response guarantee.

The next tier up, Business Plus, offers 10 InMails monthly at about $42 a month. A subscription to Premium also allows the user to see more results per search — 300 for Premium Business, 500 for Business Plus, compared with 100 for free LinkedIn users.

InMail is helpful for users who want to skip the middleman, says Matt Kerr, director of executive search and talent at BPI group, a global management and HR consulting firm in Chicago. “Instead of waiting for one of your connections to pass along your information to their contact, you can proactively introduce yourself by sending an InMail,” he says.

Elissa Barnes, who works at Profiles, a Washington, D.C. employment agency for online marketing, Internet and IT professionals, says LinkedIn Premium “has completely changed our way of searching for talent, especially in a field that's white-collar and very, very technical. We’ve been so successful with LinkedIn that we've stopped using Monster and CareerBuilder. It is absolutely the strongest tool I've ever seen for recruiting in the past six years.”

© 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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