Lies, Damned Lies and LinkedIn Profiles

Lies, Damned Lies and LinkedIn Profiles 

This blog was directly inspired by a comment I overheard a recruitment consultant make to a client. He was describing an individual that he had located via LinkedIn but not yet spoken to. The client was clearly interested in the individual but the consultant recommended caution with the comment that

“It’s only a LinkedIn title and I never believe those. People can say anything on their LinkedIn profiles.”

How right he was.

Now if you are like me and use LinkedIn for business research it can be useful to know what to look out for – so here are four of the most common ways in which people mislead, obfuscate, or basically lie on LinkedIn:

LinkedIn Profile Picture

The two ways that profile pictures can be false are:

a) It’s not the person at all – for example companies will sometimes add a pretty girl to a profile to solicit connections. Yes, I know it’s sad but companies really do that. (What is arguably sadder is that it works!)

b) It’s not a current picture – you might assume that this is the cliché of an older woman wanting to shave a few years or pounds off by using an older picture but I’ve known an equal number of men using this trick. Vanity is truly uni-sex it seems!

Whether this false picture thing really matters or not is debatable. I think that if you regularly go out and meet people then you should ensure you have a reasonably current, good quality profile picture. It can be a bit embarrassing if people think you look like one thing and in fact look another way when they meet you. 

Inaccurate Job Titles

Personally my job titles are accurate (and my profile picture looks like me to before you ask) but it is very common for people to ‘rephrase’ their titles. 

I personally don’t think it matters much unless it is a factual lie or deliberately misleading in a fraudulent way. A LinkedIn profile isn’t a CV and sometimes a person’s actual title, as per their contract, doesn’t quite reflect what they do. If you need to alter it to be more accurate then I don’t have an issue with that.

The key is that when you see a job title on LinkedIn you can only take it as a guide for their actual title. If their specific title is important then check it.

At the end of the day job titles, whether on a contract, CV, or LinkedIn profile are only ever a guide to what a person does. If you want to know what they do, or have done, then  contact them and find out directly as the recruitment consultant I mentioned at the start of this blog was going to do.

Omitted Companies

A lie by omission is still a lie and here we have a hard to spot lie that permeates many, many profiles. People simply don’t list companies or roles that they have held.

There can be many reasons for this and many of those reasons are quite legitimate and understandable. For example people don’t always leave companies on the best of terms and consequently might remove that company from their work history so as to not promote it. 

I have no issue with someone doing this so I list this lie simply so that you realise that it happens and it happens a lot! Consequently if you want to know if a person has worked at a particular company then you need to ask them.

Inaccurate Dates

Two of the most common reasons people put inaccurate dates are

a) To cover up  missing companies and roles as mentioned above

b) To make themselves look more experienced when they are in a new role

Personally I have a bit of an issue with this one. I don’t mind people not wanting to list a particular company or role but I’d like to be able to see that gap on their profile. 

The first seems like an understandable selection of what parts of one’s history to present to the world but the other seems like a straight factual lie.

Whether my view is right or not is not the point. The point is that dates on LinkedIn can be entirely untrue!

If it is important that the person you are speaking with has the experience that they say then ask some good questions about what they have been doing, or what they did, to ensure that you get an accurate understanding of their true knowledge.

Summary

So people lie for different reasons on LinkedIn. It is still an absolutely brilliant business tool for research purposes just don’t accept things at face value and when it’s important to know the truth – check thoroughly!

Until next time; be vigilant!

Stephen Hart

Headline picture created by me from stock from http://poppymilton-tomkins.deviantart.com/ and used with thanks.

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