Job Seekers: Be Careful Using LinkedIn’s “Open to Work” Feature

Professional woman sitting on sidewalk holding job search signLinkedIn’s “Open to Work” feature to help you let employers, recruiters and your network know you’re looking for a job. You can share your open-to-work status by checking either “share with recruiters only” or “share with all LinkedIn members.” To access, click the “Add New Profile Section” button to the right of your profile picture and then click “Looking for a new job” in the Intro section at the top.

So should you use this feature, and if so, which option should you pick? My thoughts:

Select Share with recruiters only.” When you choose this option, only a small subset of recruiters on LinkedIn are notified, namely those whose organizations have paid for access to LinkedIn’s “LinkedIn Recruiter” platform. From my experience training recruiters on this platform, these recruiters do use the open-to-work field in their talent searches. And since they use this field, check this option to be found in their searches.

For those currently employed, a word of caution: LinkedIn prevents recruiters at your firm from seeing this option turned on for you, to safeguard your privacy. But that’s no guarantee a recruiter at your firm won’t ask a recruiter-colleague at another firm who uses LinkedIn Recruiter to look up who is open-to-work at your company (I’ve overheard recruiters discuss this).

This unlikely prospect that your firm will discover you’re open-to-work should not, in my opinion, prevent you from using this feature. You can always say “I love it here and hope to be here for years, but I find it helpful to see what other firms are doing. You should turn this on too!” Or they may want you even more if they think you’re looking to leave.

DON’T select “Share with all LinkedIn members.” When you choose this option, LinkedIn simply puts an open-to-work graphic around your profile photo, so people looking at your profile will know you’re open to opportunities. Don’t select this option because:

  1.  You’ll be contacted anyway: If an employer is using LinkedIn to source candidates and your profile shows up in their search, they know to contact you regardless of whether or not you show the open-to-work indicator (as long as you fit the bill).
  2. You could hurt your chances of being contacted: In fact, employers or recruiters may actually be turned off by the open-to-work designation because of the well known preference for “passive candidates” i.e. those who don’t seem to be actively looking (it’s like playing hard to get). I’ve seen this bias in action when working with recruiters and employers, it’s real.
  3. You could get the wrong kind of attention: You may see a sharp increase in connection requests from less scrupulous search firms, which you should ignore. Only accept requests to connect from the quality search firms that you know and have already spoken with (the best firms will talk to you first before sending an invite to connect). The bad ones can actually hurt your search. They might even be scams or fishing expeditions to see who you’re interviewing with, so they can send their clients (not you) to these employers.
  4. There are better ways of notifying your network to get help with your search. You should send emails, LinkedIn messages or posts with content that is far more targeted than is possible with the few fields that LinkedIn makes available using this feature. You want to make it easy for your network to help you, and this LinkedIn feature falls short vs. direct outreach. It’s also passive; individuals in your network have to stumble upon your profile to see that you’re looking.

In fact, I recommend that you instead send out a mass email (or Facebook post, LinkedIn message, etc.) to your entire network. Think broadly about your network; aim for sending this message to 200 people by including those you worked with years ago, former classmates or professors, family, friends, your neighbor, and so forth (you never know who knows someone). In this message:

  • Include your job target, i.e. job title and type of organization
  • Include your pitch, which indicates what differentiates you from the competition
  • Ask for help with contacts they might have at organizations you’ve listed at the bottom of your message (seeing the organization names can jog the reader’s memory)
  • Say you will not be asking for a job, but rather a 10 minute conversation to learn about how the company is organized and where you would fit down the road.

Don’t attach your resume as it announces “please hire me,” which will reduce the number of introductions you receive. Your goal should be to have lots of meetings with the right people whether or not there’s an opening now, and then keep in touch so they think of you when something does open up. A strong pitch is enough, and include a link to your LinkedIn profile if you’ve filled it out properly. Make sure to blind copy all the recipients; don’t expose their e-mail addresses! Then supplement this broad outreach with individual messages.