13 Sep 2015

LinkedIn - keeping it clean

This week, the news was full of the Human Rights Lawyer (female) who outed another (male) Lawyer after he had commented (favourably) on her LinkedIn photo. I've been mulling over this story to try to establish how I feel about it.  I'm certainly no fan of misogynist comments or sexism in or out of the workplace, but equally,  I do think that social media has made clouded professionalism in a work context and on a daily basis.  The argument in the media story is largely about sexism so I'm adapting the story to a recruitment context and how generally, LinkedIn can either add value or detract from a person's employability.

I see photographs and comments that make me question a person's mental state of mind if they perceive that their behaviour is 'appropriate' for the public domain.  I've read a lot of commentary this week in the press and genuinely, I don't think that the media know the half of it.  On a daily basis, I have to (diplomatically) suggest to candidates that they might perhaps tone down their picture on LinkedIn.  Too often I see holiday snaps which are more 'appropriate' to Facebook  - anything involving a cocktail or a bikini has no place on LinkedIn.  To say that some individuals get confused between their photographs for Tinder and LinkedIn is not an exaggeration.  Whilst I don't want to come over all curmudgeonly, I do think that we all need to remember that LinkedIn is a professional networking site and employers do use the site to vet potential employees as part of the hiring process. It's also typically the first port of call when one meets a new professional acquaintance.  First impressions do count and how you present yourself on a professional networking site is actually pretty important and a reflection of how you want to be perceived in the professional marketplace.

I don't think we need to all have portait photographs professionally done - and in fact, you can still convey personality and warmth without having to go for a cold and unfriendly business stare.  Lots of my clients are marketing and advertising agencies, and most seem to have got it right with decent photographs that don't look too formal and stiff but make individuals look approachable, friendly and still professional.  A simple head and shoulders portrait is fine.

It's not just the photography although I'd say this is what 80% of employers will judge you on.  LinkedIn is essentially a public CV, accessible to all.  It needs to be regularly updated and maintained.  If you are going to bother having a profile, make sure it is up to date and accurate.  I've come across several employees who have been caught out with inaccuracies on their profile - and in one case, this lost someone their job.   I'm not yet convinced by the 'endorsements' side of things.  Mostly I think people click on this link as a prompt rather than as a real endorsement.  I do think LinkedIn will continue to grow and we're all on a bit of a learning curve as to it's usefulness.  I  know some recruiters who have ditched their own databases and they're treating LinkedIn as the world's largest recruitment database.  That's not how I operate but it's worth remembering!

In the Laywer case.  It turns out that the Senior Silk sent the comments in a private message and whilst Ms Proudman (the Human Rights Lawyer) had sent him a private message in return, she then decided to out him to the Twitterati.  The comments weren't originally public so I do feel a bit of discomfort about the naming and shaming.

In summary, as with all things.  Use your common sense about what is professional and appropriate in a work context.  Never forget that LinkedIn is public and once something is up there in the public domain, it's very difficult to get rid of.

My top 5 tips:

A professional, yet warm photograph
Keep your work history up to date
Keep your status up to date (you can avoid unwanted approaches from Cowboy recruiters!)
Secure genuine recommendations - more powerful than endorsements. NB. Not just your mates where you've done one for them and vice versa
Follow industry experts or companies you are interested in and join groups which are relevant to your sector - you'll then get more out of it by staying in touch with these businesses.