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):
- 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 intothe 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
Robert Hellmann is a career and executive coach at Hellmann Career Consulting.