Monday, January 23, 2017

Your LinkedIn Profile Is Who You Are - Until It's Not

Last year we employed well over one hundred consultants. In just about every case we reviewed the consultants' LinkedIn pages to try and gain more information or insight into their experience or skills. One of the beauties of LinkedIn from a recruiting standpoint is that it quickly and easily gives you a good idea about the persons' core skills, experience, education background, interests and involvement within their professions. I find that I am thrown to making quick assessments, both positive and negative, based on the persons' profile:

Positive assessments are generated from things like having an easily understood summary section,  a large number of professional recommendations, having a clear career progression, graduating from top-tier universities, and listing some of the tools that are in demand within my industry. When these items do not appear, I am thrown to making negative assessments.

What is important is that neither the positive assessments or negative assessments that are generated are necessarily true. In my industry having the ability to create an excellent LinkedIn profile is not one of the core competencies we look for. The fact that a number of professional recommendations does not appear on the page does not mean that the person is not highly qualified with a number of peers willing to rave about their skills and experience. But it is important to know that your LinkedIn profile will produce an assessment so you want to do whatever you can to generate a positive assessment as often as possible. There are a number of excellent resources out there for how to create a great, impactful LinkedIn profile and I will leave it to the experts to weigh in there.

For all intents and purposes, your LinkedIn profile becomes your public persona. That is until the information contained cannot be validated. We are all responsible for every word that appears on our LinkedIn profiles and every word needs to be factual and verifiable. We recently had two instances where the exact opposite occurred. 

In checking professional references we asked to speak with one of the people that had published a recommendation on the candidate's page. It turned out that the conversation was very different from the words that appeared on the LinkedIn page. It turned out that the person that left the positive comment had only worked with that person for 2 months and they were only peripherally working on the same project. I just don't know why you would want to publish a recommendation from someone in this kind of situation. Additionally, why would you have not mentioned the fact that you had only worked with that person for a couple of months and offered up another person that could speak in greater detail about your skills and experience? The entire experience left me wondering about who and what I was potentially hiring. This should never be the case after checking a professional reference.

The second instance came when we conducted a background verification on a consultant for one of our clients in Illinois. The consultant indicated that they had a bachelors degree and listed the year the degree was awarded. Our background verification company was not able to verify the degree and it turns out that the consultant had completed all the class work but not all of the graduation requirements. Had the LinkedIn profile listed "All coursework completed" or some other qualifier there would not have been an issue but that was not the case. None of this was an indication of the person's skills and experience. But it did raise questions about their judgment and integrity - questions that could have been easily avoided with more care in what appeared on their LinkedIn page.

So the big takeaway is that everything that appears on your LinkedIn page needs to be accurate and verifiable. You and only you are responsible for what appears on your page and also what it provokes. Many of us work in niche marketplaces and industries with broad networks of people that span a large number of companies. More and more employers are tapping into that network to gain insight on potential hires. When situations like those listed above occur, people remember. It makes absolutely no sense to include information on your LinkedIn page that can cause negative assessments, or in the worst case, sabotage your chances of landing a job or assignment in the future.