LinkedIn is the world’s “largest professional network”. With a growing net of over 187 million professionals, it has become the world’s best regarded professional networking tool.
After filling in your career history from school to the present day, not forgetting hobbies and volunteering, you have a profile that can be shared publicly as an online business card or CV. You can give and receive recommendations (references) from people you’ve worked with. You can meet like-minded folk and discuss industry topics. Future contacts can find you and decide if you’re someone they might like to work with.
As a social media channel, LinkedIn is often referred to as the ‘grown up’ network. A place where you can avoid photos of babies, drunken status updates and invites to play games.
But there are issues with LinkedIn. Namely accuracy.
LinkedIn appears to have no system to monitor the accuracy of data on their network. Indeed, they openly admit that there are bogus profiles and that some people have more than one profile.
This year, Australian recruitment advertising service Employment Office completed a survey of recruitment managers which determined that they really don’t trust LinkedIn profiles. A whopping 82% believe LinkedIn members lie or exaggerate in their profiles. They value LinkedIn as a social networking tool – they just don’t rely on its information.
And neither they should, I reckon.
Increasingly I too have noticed blatant misrepresentations on people’s profiles. I have hundreds of contacts on LinkedIn. Many of these people are quite well known to me. Some have worked with me or I have worked for them. And even though these people know that I can see their profiles, some of them create online résumés that are as fictional as the Twilight Saga.
More often than not, people are giving themselves what has been dubbed a ‘LinkedIn Retrospective Promotion’.
Of course people are less likely to provide false information on easily verified facts such as employment history and educational qualifications which would be, eventually, double-checked after a conditional offer of employment is made. However, it can be very easy to get away with exaggerating skills and responsibilities in previous roles, even if you don’t go so far as to change your job title. However, it is my experience that those of us who have a “way with words” tend to be the worst offenders because we are trained in “management speak”. And graduates appear to be the best at being the worst. Understandably so, given the competitiveness of the ever-decreasing job pool.
A recent graduate, for example, who has the grand total of 9 months work experience in an agency, probably making coffee and photocopying, becomes:
“…a social media expert with a strategic mind and a track record delivering results”
A more experienced employee who has jumped from one administration role to the next becomes:
“…a communications professional with 5 years experience managing large-scale events for big name brands”
I personally love LinkedIn. I update it regularly. I don’t use it to actively seek employment and I’ve never been head-hunted (sniff, sniff). But it’s great to have an online profile that can also host old contacts, references and links to online examples of your work – when you have a writing/design job this can be particularly useful.
But I do prefer to work with the truth. Because everything else will eventually come back to bite you in the behind!