Looking for a Job? Don’t Tell LinkedIn

While having a resume means you’re looking for a job, having a LinkedIn profile doesn’t send the same signal. As a result, many jobseekers think their profile needs to say that they are actively searching. Otherwise, how else would an employer know to contact them? So they’ll add phrases like “open to new opportunities” or “seeking a position in…”

As I discuss in my book Advanced LinkedIn, however, you’re making a mistake if you add anything to your profile that indicates you’re 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: Let recruiters know you’re “Open to Work.”

LinkedIn’s “Open to Work” feature (accessed via a button under your profile picture in Edit Profile mode) gives you two options:

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. for all the reasons described above.