Published on www.smartcompany.com.au on 12 February 2014 and written by Brendon Booth.
The LinkedIn function ‘people you may know’ recently popped up on my screen displaying a guy I had worked with back before I started pbHC. It was pretty strange that we weren’t already ‘linked’, as we had nearly 300 connections in common, but I dutifully clicked on his profile and had a look to see where he’d ended up.
Just as I was about to send a connection request, I noticed something strange. At the firm we’d both worked at, his title wasn’t listed as ‘consultant’ (as we both had been) but rather something like ‘director of recruitment in commodities, energy and sustainability’.
Now Barry (as I’ll call him) had always been one who liked to stretch the truth a little bit, but this blatant elongation of the facts gave me real pause to think: just what is the etiquette when it comes to presenting a profile on social media? And just how common is the odd porky-pie on LinkedIn?
Mellissah Smith from the popular Marketing Eye blog thinks that it is inevitable that LinkedIn liars will get found out, but I wonder if this is always the case. None of my other former colleagues have called out this bit of fiction, so what’s to say there aren’t even more blatant misuses of the ability to self-enter titles and responsibilities on social media platforms?
One particular occasion, just after I started pbHC, highlights the case for online diligence. We were approached by a senior individual for a job with one of the leading investment banks. The CV we received was impeccable; the person appeared perfect for the job. We spoke over the phone and were impressed; she immediately connected to us on LinkedIn and her profile read just as her CV had suggested. On meeting her, she was calm, confident and knew the lingo. She quoted deals we were aware of and claimed responsibility for the transactions.
At the end of the coffee meeting (just as we started to count the dollars from our success fee), she shook our hands, said she had to head back to work and then went in entirely the wrong direction.
Some careful cold-calling (remember kids, we’re experts) revealed that she didn’t, in fact, work at the business as she’d claimed.
Examination of her LinkedIn account revealed that she was only connected to two people – the managing director and head of her department at the bank she claimed to be working at. Coincidentally, they too were only connected by two people.
You guessed it; she had gone to the effort of creating all three profiles in an effort to swindle a recruiter, and eventually a business, into giving her a high-paying executive job.
Going back to the original case, perhaps stretching the truth on the title of a job is a minor sin, but equally, it may be endemic of a bigger issue with an individual’s candidacy. For instance, it was well known when I worked with Barry that while he indicated he held a Masters of Business, he was in fact still studying for it and only attained it in the past couple of years.
So, how should you present your LinkedIn profile to make yourself attractive without drawing too long a bow?
1. Be scrupulously honest
If your title was ‘dish monkey’, say exactly that. If your responsibilities read more like a head chef, indicate that in the blurb. No one likes a fibber, and if you get caught, you might miss out on a new job or lose the one you have.
2. LinkedIn doesn’t have to read like a job description
By this, I mean that you can take liberties with the way you describe a job, just not the title. For instance, at one of my early jobs, I became responsible for nearly $20m worth of turnover and the vast majority of the overall business. I turned it around from a loss-making enterprise to a labour hire money machine, and was given 10% of the business for my trouble. That’s all true – but my title was Senior Consultant, and my LinkedIn profile reads in exactly that way.
3. Make sure your CV matches your profile
With whatever social media platform you favour, simple cross-checking can make fools out of even the most creative job seeker. I’ve seen CVs and LinkedIn profiles so far apart from each other that they seem like different people altogether. Don’t take the chance – always present a consistent view.
Meghan Casserly, writing for Forbes, goes into the mistakes you can make on LinkedIn in a lot more detail. But she isn’t a recruiter and she doesn’t have to wear the pain of mistakes like this.
Thinking of stretching the truth on LinkedIn? Don’t. Even if you don’t get caught immediately, someday, just like me with Barry, a colleague will find you and call you out.
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