8 LinkedIn Profile Warning Signs

March 5, 2015

Recruiters and hiring managers have become quite adept at eliminating candidates based on resume red flags. Embarrassing typos, messy formatting, or off-putting language are easy ways to thin down that resume pile.

But, how about scanning LinkedIn profiles? Do you know what warning signs you should look for?

With LinkedIn, individuals can constantly edit and amend their job profiles and add in details that are hard to fit into a resume (videos, slide decks, recommendations). This has created new ways for recruiters and hiring managers to assess candidates.

With that in mind, here are some "red flags" that you should consider before moving a candidate forward in your hiring process.

1. Inappropriate photos

Selfies, extravagant makeup or clothing, party photos, cleavage, anything out of focus, out of date, or a "cutesy" pose (or no photo at all) are the first warning signs.

A strong candidate for a professional position should be able to present a professional image to the business world. A LinkedIn photo should therefore be either a recent studio portrait or an amateur shot that shows them in their work element.

2. Too much information

Candidates who describe in vast detail every position they've held may be unable to understand the difference between what's crucial versus trivial. At the very least, such candidates, when hired, are likely to be long-winded in meetings.

By contrast, strong candidates communicate the essentials of their employment history with precision and brevity. While they may not exhibit the skill of a professional business writer, they stick to the point and seldom waste words.

3. Fluent biz-blab

Unlike technical jargon, which allows techies to communicate in "shorthand," business jargon muddies the waters with vagueness and imprecision. Not to mention, workplace clichés suggest a lack of original thinking.

While you might forgive the occasional buzzword, a candidate whose written job experience involves (for example) "enabling disruptive technologies to leverage monetization in a digital economy" is likely to be a huge windbag.

4. Weasel words

Beware of a candidate who overuses phrases like "participated in," "helped with," or "familiar with." Such wording suggests that the candidate wants to claim knowledge or experience in areas where the candidate's participation was minimal or marginal.

A candidate's description of work experience should ideally consist of achievements or (less ideally) activities relevant to the job-at-hand. While some experiences will involve teamwork, a candidate's specific contribution should be immediately obvious.

5. Typos and bad grammar

The Internet in general and social networking specifically has tended to make business communications less formal. Even online articles in major business publications sometimes contain typos that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago.

However, a LinkedIn profile represents a public record of a job candidate's achievements. As such, even a single typo or grammatical error indicates a slapdash attitude and haphazard work habits.

6. Purposeless job-hopping

Back in the days of the hand-typed resume, recruiters and hiring managers alike looked askance at candidates who jumped from company to company. Today, candidates who've remained too long at one company may seem to lack entrepreneurial spirit.

Even so, a candidate's job hopping should exhibit an overall direction or theme rather than simple wanderlust. Above all, you don't want to hire a candidate who's had one year of experience, ten years in a row.

7. Fake self-employment

Long, unexplainable gaps in a candidate's job history have always been a red flag. In today's consultant-heavy business environment, candidates can reasonably claim to have started their own business to conceal a period of actual unemployment.

Candidates who are truly self-employed leave easily-followed digital footprints, such as an up-to-date website, a state business license, and customers who can be proven to actually exist.

8. Boilerplate recommendations

Ideally, LinkedIn recommendations represent unsolicited opinions of the individual's experience and contributions. However, even when a candidate solicits them, recommendations should represent their authors' true opinion.

Beware, therefore, of multiple recommendations (from different people) that sound as if they've been written by the same person. If so, the candidate may be writing those recommendations, pressuring friends or colleagues to post them.

*Image by Robert Couse-Baker

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