Look­ing For A Job? Don’t Tell LinkedIn


While hav­ing a re­sume means you’re look­ing for a job, hav­ing a LinkedIn pro­file does not send the same sig­nal. As a re­sult, many job seek­ers think they need to say on their pro­file that they are ac­tively search­ing. Other­wise, how else would a hir­ing man­ager or re­cruiter know to con­tact them? So they’ll add phrases like “open to new op­por­tu­ni­ties” or “seek­ing the next ex­cit­ing chal­lenge” or “seek­ing a po­si­tion in…”

I al­ways tell all my clients, how­ever, not to add these phrases to their pro­file, or any­thing else that in­di­cates they are look­ing. Here’s why.

They will con­tact you any­way.

Ev­ery­one who uses LinkedIn for hir­ing (in­clud­ing both re­cruiters and hir­ing man­agers) knows to con­tact peo­ple who don’t ap­pear to be ac­tively look­ing, if these peo­ple fit the bill. In fact, some re­cruiters will of­ten un­fairly give a pref­er­ence to what they term “pas­sive” can­di­dates, i.e. those not ac­tively look­ing. This pref­er­ence is partly the re­sult of the psy­chol­ogy around play­ing hard-to-get, and partly be­cause of a bias against those who are un­em­ployed.

There is a bias against hir­ing the un­em­ployed.

This un­fair and un­for­tu­nate bias has been doc­u­mented; see this UCLA study for ex­am­ple. So you don’t want to put any ver­biage in your pro­file that serves to un­der­score your cur­rently un­em­ployed sta­tus.

If you do hap­pen to be cur­rently un­em­ployed, by the way, here are a few ways to over­come this bias (I’ll dive into this is­sue in more de­tail in a fu­ture post).

1. Don’t just ap­ply or rely on head­hunters, be­cause that’s where your cur­rent em­ploy­ment gap will hurt you the most. Net­work to get in­tro­duc­tions, and con­tact strangers di­rectly. That is, tap into the hid­den job mar­ket. Then you will be seen as a per­son, not just a piece of pa­per. Get­ting in­ter­views us­ing these chan­nels makes all the dif­fer­ence, and this is how most of my clients land jobs these days.

2. Fill the gap with un­paid work. Some un­paid ex­pe­ri­ence can be even more valu­able than your paid ex­pe­ri­ence! Don’t rel­e­gate this work to the “Vol­un­teer” sec­tion at the bot­tom of your re­sume; put it right at the top of your ex­pe­ri­ence to fill that gap. For ex­am­ple, join an as­so­ci­a­tion that rep­re­sents your job tar­get, and run a com­mit­tee for them. Or if you’ve helped friends, fam­ily or col­leagues for free us­ing your ex­per­tise, you are now a con­sul­tant. You don’t need to ad­ver­tise that you weren’t paid for your valu­able con­sult­ing work.

3. If you’ve taken a few classes, fill that gap with a job called “Con­tin­u­ing Ed­u­ca­tion” or some­thing sim­i­lar and then list the classes you’ve taken that will res­onate with your tar­get au­di­ence.

You’ll get the wrong kind of at­ten­tion.

Clients who have in­di­cated they were look­ing for a job on their LinkedIn pro­file have been bom­barded with re­quests to con­nect, as well as other mes­sages that wasted their time. Worse, some clients made the mis­take of ac­cept­ing con­nec­tion re­quests from these strangers who re­ally had no in­ten­tion of help­ing them.

Be­cause my clients con­nected with so many un­help­ful strangers, when they conducted “Ad­vanced Peo­ple Searches” on LinkedIn to get in­tro­duc­tions through their net­work, the peo­ple-search re­sults were clogged with these strangers who would never help them. A net­work filled with these use­less con­nec­tions dras­ti­cally re­duced the abil­ity of LinkedIn to help them tap into the hid­den job mar­ket (we ended up us­ing LinkedIn’s “Re­move Con­nec­tions” fea­ture to tidy-up their net­work).

The one ex­cep­tion: a new LinkedIn fea­ture.

LinkedIn has a new fea­ture called “Let Re­cruiters Know You’re Open” that tells a sub­set of re­cruiters that you are open to new op­por­tu­ni­ties. The only re­cruiters who see that you’ve turned on this in­di­ca­tor are:

Re­cruiters whose or­ga­ni­za­tions have paid for the pre­mium “LinkedIn Re­cruiter” add-on.

Those who don’t work at your cur­rent or­ga­ni­za­tion. If you’re cur­rently em­ployed, this in­di­ca­tor will be hid­den from re­cruiters who work at your or­ga­ni­za­tion, to pro­tect your pri­vacy.

While the uni­verse of re­cruiters who see this in­di­ca­tor is there­fore lim­ited, I know from the LinkedIn Re­cruiter classes I teach that those with ac­cess to Re­cruiter are ac­tively us­ing this fea­ture as part of their can­di­date sourc­ing. So, I rec­om­mend cau­tiously turn­ing it on. I say cau­tiously be­cause the pro­tec­tion LinkedIn pro­vides from re­cruiters in your own or­ga­ni­za­tion is not fool­proof. For ex­am­ple, I’ve heard re­cruiters in my classes dis­cussing how they can get a friend at an­other com­pany to tell them who in their com­pany has this fea­ture switched on.

But is this lack of fool­proof anonymity a bad thing? Not nec­es­sar­ily. You can al­ways say, “I’m not ac­tively look­ing, I love it here, but switched it on be­cause I’m al­ways in­ter­ested to see what’s out there.” Or they may use this in­sight to try and keep you! Just be aware of the lim­i­ta­tions re­gard­ing anonymity.

To use this fea­ture on LinkedIn, go to “Jobs” on the main menu, then se­lect “Pref­er­ences.”


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