Your Linkedin profile – why you should tell the truth

By Neil Patrick

Last week, my good friend Axel Kőster at the Manhattan Group and I were chatting about the impact of social media on the recruitment industry.

At one point, Axel mentioned that many of the job applicants’ LinkedIn profiles he sees turn out to contain inaccuracies. Usually they are small, like exaggerating the importance of a project the person worked on. But sometimes they are huge, like alleging a qualification which the person hasn’t actually completed.

He also sees profiles where the person doesn’t list their full employment history. Others add time to show a longer length of stay in their appointment and remove positions which didn’t work out. And one of the most common exaggerations is a more senior title than the person actually held.

And Axel’s experience is verified by research. A study by recruitment firm Employment Office of 300 employers, found 82% of respondents believed candidates lied or exaggerated their skills and experience on their LinkedIn profiles.

The reasons this is happening are many, but most fall under these headings:
  • The jobs market remains fiercely competitive and people will try to squeeze any advantage they can even if that means exaggerating a bit on LinkedIn 
  • Many LinkedIn users approach LinkedIn primarily as a networking tool. Their profiles reflect this approach and if they are not actually job hunting, merely seeking to connect with others, they see no foul in being ‘liberal’ in how they present themselves on LinkedIn. 
  • There are no direct penalties for anyone who chooses to tell lies on their profile. 

This is counter-productive for both applicants AND employers.

How can this be?

Over at the Marketing Eye blog, Mellissah Smith tells this story:

A current employee brought to my attention a previous unpaid intern, who then became a one to two day per week marketing assistant during her University holidays. She was only a casual employee, yet stated the following on LinkedIn: 

I Managed up to 30 clients (the portfolio in that particular office didn’t have 30 clients, she had no management duties whatsoever and was given tasks from time to time, but was strictly a marketing coordinator who at times had the opportunity to put together the first draft of marketing copy, that then went to an in-house writer and marketing manager) 

I Managed up to 8 staff (the office didn’t have 8 staff and certainly as a marketing coordinator, with senior managers and the owner in the office, it is impossible she managed any staff at all). From time to time she gave unpaid interns work to do like following people on Twitter, search engine optimization or even having a go at writing the basis of a marketing strategy, but certainly NEVER did she manage any staff.

Since she left in January, she wrote that she worked fulltime as a marketing coordinator for 1.1 years at Marketing Eye. She has had two jobs since leaving in January – possibly the lies caught up with her but her equally impressive resume continues on LinkedIn. She had fulltime hours for 8 weeks only and that was broken up with 3 weeks holidays which she was not paid for because she was a casual.

So where’s the damage?

If the applicant gets away with their deception, then surely it is the employer’s own fault for not being sufficiently rigorous in their due diligence to verify the accuracy of the claims made? But this isn’t the point. The damage caused goes way beyond the costs of hiring a person whose abilities are not as great as you thought.

How come?

Here’s another case from Mellissah at Marketing Eye:

Last year I hired a person who on paper had exceptional qualifications and upon ringing her last supposed supervisor, received a glowing report.

We employed her, and within days, realised that she had never written a marketing strategy, engaged in any public relations activities, organised the booking of an advertisement, done any social media, direct marketing or any marketing other than working on a trade booth and coordinating companies who put their brands on Coles’ shelves.

Clearly, her reference was a friend and she did not have any experience in marketing. She later admitted to this confirming she took the job because she wanted to gain experience.

At a high-salary level and due to the fact she had worked with big brands, we let her loose after training her on the administrative side of consultancy and helping her get up-to-date with client work. She also took over from an exceptional marketing manager who excelled in every area of marketing and was completely thorough in every aspect of working with clients and in her hand-over – which made the issue even bigger.

The result: We lost clients, our reputation was in tatters with the clients she was let loose on and with some people, we will never be able to buy back that perception of our brand.

Inaccurate LinkedIn profiles do untold damage to employers and their reputations. 

The stakes are clearly high for employers. It is imperative that they do not place too much faith in a LinkedIn profile and must carry out thorough verification of the facts before hiring a candidate, even if their references are glowing.

But it goes beyond merely the hiring process. Your former employees haver the potential to do damage to your reputation AFTER they have left your organisation. So there’s a good argument for keeping on tabs on what your previous employees say on LinkedIn they did whilst they worked for you.

But what are the risks for employees of lying? 

There are no obvious downsides are there? I’d argue to the contrary:

Unlike your resume, everyone can see your LinkedIn profile … whereas the only people who see your resume are the people you choose to send it to. So if you are lying on LinkedIn you are much more likely to be found out.

Your LinkedIn profile must be treated with care and attention. Just as a sloppy profile suggests poor attention to detail, an incorrect one brings your trustworthiness into question. You are declaring to the world that this is who I am, this is my experience and these are my accomplishments.

Once you have been exposed as being careless with how you present yourself, your status as a diligent professional is at once brought into question. And that’s not helpful if you make your living based on your skills and credibility…

Finally, make no mistake that employers and recruiters are both getting wise to such tricks. LinkedIn lies might get you onto a short list, or even an interview… but you are more and more likely to get found out as recruitment processes adjust to close down this weakness. Don’t waste your time and other people’s…it will do you no good in the long run.

As for employers, it is clear that:

It’s your reputation that your former employees are representing on their LinkedIn profile. When they move to their next employer, it’s your brand that they are ambassadors of. Do you really wish to be seen as a business that for whatever reason hires untrustworthy individuals?

In this increasingly connected world, it makes sense to think not just about your own business, but the wider business community you are a part of. It pays to be a responsible citizen. By taking the time to do thorough reference checks, you are not only protecting yourself, you are also doing your bit to expose those who try to cheat and make them think twice about continuing with their deceptions.

Last, but not least, the internet is as good or as bad as the behaviours of the people that use it. See yourself as part of the solution, not a perpetuator of the problem. So, next time you are considering giving someone an endorsement on LinkedIn, ask yourself, ‘Do I really know this person deserves this?’

If you have experience of or opinions about this topic, do please share them below.

1 comment: