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LinkedIn Users Sucker-Punched by Wrong References

In the November 11, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, we examine yet another questionable LinkedIn “feature” that could cost you a job.

Question

The New York Times just did a story about a group of people suing LinkedIn for selling possibly invalid references to employers. Now LinkedIn has gone too far. This is causing employers to reject job applicants, and the applicants didn’t even provide the references! What do you think of this career sucker-punch?

Nick’s Reply

Here’s the bottom line: There is zero integrity in LinkedIn’s “Trusted References” sales pitch. While LinkedIn sells employers a reference checking service, it defends against the lawsuit by saying it’s not really selling a reference checking service — it’s just selling a list of names.

And LinkedIn thereby throws its own integrity into the toilet. I don’t see how any employer could even contemplate using such a “service.” in-your-faceIt really is a sucker-punch — LinkedIn connects an employer with wrong “references” and you can’t even defend yourself.

I’ve got over 500 LinkedIn connections — most of whom I’ve never met. Some may have crossed my path at a company with thousands of employees. How irresponsible is it of LinkedIn to sell those overlaps as my
“trusted references?”

What are references?

What if I’m a food critic and I write a newspaper column that tells you a restaurant is no good? You buy the paper and avoid the restaurant. Can the restaurant sue me for loss of business? Even though money changed hands for “data,” do you really think a restaurant critic could go to jail?

I think the New York Times did a poor job covering this story, because it confuses several issues and fails to clearly point to the real problem.

Before we get into that, let’s remember that references make commerce possible. They are an important part of business. People’s opinions and judgments about us — and about products, services, brands and companies — are the coin of the realm in any economy. When smart employers hire and when good headhunters recruit, we check relevant opinions and judgments first, to make sure we know who (and what) we’re dealing with. That’s why your reputation — and any company’s reputation — is so important.

It makes no sense to suggest that checking references before hiring someone is inappropriate, or that rejecting someone for a job because of poor references is wrong. It’s due diligence. The Times seems to confuse seeking and sharing opinions with privacy. I think the lawsuit does, too.

But that’s where the controversies start. The Times doesn’t address certain questions, and I’m not going to, either, because this isn’t an analysis of references. Nonetheless, I’ll bait your confusion by posting some of the questions I think need to be answered:

  • What is a reference?
  • Who owns references?
  • How far can an employer go when checking references?
  • Can you buy a reference?
  • What does an employer pay for when using LinkedIn to check references?
  • For that matter, what do you pay for when using LinkedIn to make contacts or to get a job?
  • Are people free to ask about you and talk about you if they want?
  • What if someone decides not to do business with you based on what they learn from others?

America’s employment system has become such a jumble of promises, marketing, expectations, data and databases that everyone seems incredibly confused about what’s right, wrong, possible or legal.

Disclaimer

I’m not a lawyer, so this is not a legal opinion or legal advice. I’m a headhunter and my comments are based on (I hope) my business sense. What others say about your professional reputation matters a lot, and it does — and should — influence whether someone wants to hire you. But, what if a fencepost is checking your references?

Reference checking requires integrity

Headhunters — like homeowners looking to hire plumbers — check opinions and judgments all the time. We’ll make discreet inquiries to find out who you are, how good you are at your work, and what you’re like to work with. If we hear something out of the ordinary — positive or negative — we must have the good sense to double- and triple-check the information before we risk our own reputations by referring you to our clients. Like good restaurant critics, we realize that opinions we gather will have consequences.

Trureferences-glassst and integrity are the hallmarks of our business — which is why I say about 95% of headhunters aren’t worth spit. Too many are in the business for a quick buck, and their own judgment stinks (to say nothing of their skills). It’s up to you — the consumer — to use your head before you rely on a headhunter, whether you’re a job seeker or an employer.

Likewise, it’s up to employers to judge what LinkedIn is selling them when it delivers lists of references. And it’s up to employers to ensure that their own in-house recruiters know how to select, check and evaluate references properly. In my opinion, 95% of in-house recruiters can’t be trusted with the task, and no one is the wiser. Worse, many employers outsource reference checking and have no idea whether the results are valid or reliable.

(See Automated Reference Checks: You should be very worried.)

My point is, you have no idea where your references will come from or who is checking them — any more than a restaurant does. So be careful.

What did LinkedIn do?

According to the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California:

“LinkedIn has created a marketplace in consumer employment information, where it sells employment information, that may or may not be accurate, and that it has obtained in part from unwitting members, and without complying with the FCRA [Fair Credit Reporting Act].”

The problem, plaintiffs say, is that:

“any potential employer can anonymously dig into the employment history of any LinkedIn member, and make hiring and firing decisions based upon the information they gather, without the knowledge of the member, and without any safeguards in place as to the accuracy of the information that the potential employer has obtained.”

In other words, plaintiffs claim LinkedIn is selling information that leads employers to inappropriately rejecting people for jobs. They also suggest that there may be some violation of privacy. I asked employment lawyer Mark P. Carey about the privacy issue. He says:

“Everyone who maintains a LinkedIn account should expect that their information is public.That’s why we have these personal/professional marketing pieces. There is no privacy issue as far as I can see, especially if you signed the user agreement before gaining access to host your own page.”

But I do think LinkedIn has a problem. First, LinkedIn takes money for what it advertises as “Trusted References for Job Candidates.” In so many words, LinkedIn suggests the references an employer pays to access about you are accurate — “Trusted.” That’s where I think LinkedIn crosses the line, whether legally or with regard to its own integrity. LinkedIn cannot possibly know whether those references are trustworthy. So how can it pitch them with impunity to employers — or defend them to job seekers?

When people are rejected for jobs because of questionable references, we’ve all got a problem. LinkedIn especially.

Elsewhere in its Help section, LinkedIn says:

“A reference search locates people in your network who can provide reliable feedback about a job candidate or business prospect.”

That is, LinkedIn represents that an employer can rely on the references to justify hiring you or rejecting you. In fact, it uses those words to lure employers into buying those lists.

However, LinkedIn spokesman Joseph Roualdes tries to alter LinkedIn’s own representations when he tells the Times, “A [paid] reference search… simply lets a searcher locate people in their network who have worked at the same company during the same time period as a member they would like to learn more about.”

Suddenly, LinkedIn isn’t selling anymore. It’s covering its ass. The truth is on the web site: LinkedIn promises that the references employers are buying are “Trusted” and “reliable.”

References or just a list of names?

Here’s where I think the going gets dicey for the plaintiffs. Regardless of what LinkedIn sells and promotes — references — LinkedIn does not seem to really deliver references. It apparently delivers only a list of names. It’s up to the employer to talk to those people and ask them for references.

It seems to me that if the plaintiffs were rejected by employers due to bad references, the plaintiffs should be suing the references themselves for defamation — or the employers.

defamationLawyer Carey fleshes out the defamation issue for us:

“The real underlying issue here is whether and to what extent an act of defamation occurred… There is no legal claim there for anything, not even defamation. The article and the lawsuit dance across the fringe of privacy and defamation, without any substance. Only when a search adds content that provides a qualification uniquely driven at the particular candidate, then someone crosses the legal line of what is neutral and what is defamatory.”

But it doesn’t seem LinkedIn is “adding content.” That is, it doesn’t deliver the text of a reference, so there’s no defamatory statement.

Perhaps the employers who paid for those names have an action they can bring if the names yield inaccurate references when LinkedIn promises otherwise — but I don’t see how a job seeker could sue LinkedIn successfully because it sold names. That seems to be covered in the company’s terms and conditions.

The Times compares this suit to one against Spokeo, an online data broker which “agreed to pay $800,000 to settle accusations” that it marketed reports to recruiters and background screeners without providing consumers with protections afforded by the law.”

But LinkedIn doesn’t seem to sell reference reports about anyone. Again, I don’t see how LinkedIn can be liable for a bad reference. The data that employers rely on to make decisions did not come from LinkedIn; only names came from LinkedIn.

LinkedIn’s Customer: Fencepost, Inc.

The larger problem is that mindless employers believe ridiculous advertisements by LinkedIn that claim a list of names are “Trusted References… who can provide reliable feedback about a job candidate.”

(Remember, we’re talking about the same “professional networking” company that charges employers for lists of the best job candidates — while it sells high rankings on those lists to job applicants! We’re talking about the same employers that know this yet still pay LinkedIn to find job candidates! See LinkedIn Payola: Selling out employers and job hunters.)

fencepostSays the Times: “Sophisticated recruiters would not waste their time contacting people who clearly had no connection of significance to a job candidate.”

But they do, and if the New York Times is going to skate over this key fact, then it’s drawing the wrong conclusions, because most HR recruiters are fenceposts. Just ask any job seeker that deals with them. (See Why do recruiters suck so bad?)

Those same recruiters stupidly waste their time interviewing candidates simply because LinkedIn represents that the “profiles” it sells are “accurate.” Is it any surprise that recruiters are suckered into making hiring decisions based on “references” that may not be accurate?

A law professor cited in the article concludes, “A company can now decide which people associated with you can be curators of your reputation in situations that matter.”

But companies have always done that. The trouble is, now there’s no need to verify that a reference is legit — that is, valid or reliable. Because LinkedIn ensures us that it is.

What’s the real problem?

LinkedIn does not sell reference reports or reference information, so I don’t think anyone can hold it liable when employers reject applicants based on comments made by a list of people LinkedIn sells.

I think the wrong plaintiffs are suing. Employers should be suing LinkedIn for its failure to take reasonable measures to ensure that the lists of references it sells are in fact “Trusted References” and that they “can provide reliable feedback about a job candidate.”

Just how stupid are recruiters who “trust” LinkedIn references? The Times reporter says the plaintiff’s lawyer showed her that recruiters have no idea what they’re buying — or whether they’re calling real references at all. The lawyer ran a “LinkedIn reference search” on the reporter:

“The search produced a list of 43 people in his network who currently work or have done work for this newspaper — including a former I.T. consultant, a freelance contributor and two former interns. I had met only four people on that reference list, and none of them had direct experience working with me.”

Just imagine: A recruiter uses LinkedIn to search his network for people who are your “Trusted References” — but the recruiter has no idea whether any of them had any direct experience working with you.

You get rejected, because someone who never worked with you provided a questionable reference. (As I pointed out, I don’t know most of my connections, thanks to LinkedIn’s marketing mission to link everyone. What if a personnel jockey gets hold of an overlapping contact and trusts it as a reference about me — and I get screwed?)

The underlying question — and concern — is, how skilled is the reference checker, and is the check done properly and with integrity?

The recruiter’s purchase of a list from LinkedIn becomes the faux justification for one potentially bad decision after another — and one unemployed LinkedIn user after another.

Have you been sucker-punched by wrong references?

LinkedIn’s “Trusted References” service is a cheap sucker-punch straight to your career and reputation. Now any personnel jockey can “check a reference” on LinkedIn without having the faintest idea what she’s doing — and you get screwed out of a job. For that reason alone, I hope LinkedIn gets its ass sued sixteen ways from Sunday. I’m not sure this suit will succeed, because I think it focuses on the wrong issues. But the legal issues are for the lawyers and the courts.

The business issue is, LinkedIn is talking out of two sides of its mouth. It markets a references service to employers, while telling the judge it’s really no such thing. And employers buy both stories.

Perhaps more to the point, since it’s consumers suing LinkedIn, those consumers need to admit that they bought into a marketing machine that uses their personal information to make money at their expense — and they agreed to the terms. When someone walks straight into a sucker-punch, it’s hard to sympathize with them.

Lots of questions remain. Whatever happens with this suit — or others that I hope it spawns — the thing that’s clear is LinkedIn’s marketing strategy: There’s a sucker born every minute, and we’re going to sell them all anything they’re willing to swallow.

Has LinkedIn’s reference service interfered with your job search, or cost you a job? How does LinkedIn’s credibility rate with you?

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31 Comments
  1. I’ve never been sucker punched by LinkedIn- to my knowledge, but I’m wondering if subscribing to this networking site is even worth my time…

  2. If you have to pay for references,you don’t know how to hire.

  3. I avoided Linked-In like the plague until I received word that my position at my former employer was being eliminated. Then I signed up and began “linking” with everyone that I know, mainly so that they would know that I was seeking employment. Surprisingly, I did find my current employer through Linked-In but I can tell that it is rare for that to actually work out that way.

    The silliest of all the features is the “endorsements” feature. I have people who only know me because we share the same hobby – bicycling – that regularly “endorse” me for possessing technical skills that I claim even though they themselves don’t understand the what the skill is nor have any way to know whether I actually have it. (I somehow doubt that my mountain-biking buddy who’s an airline pilot really knows what “TCP/IP routing” or “VMware” means. I’m sure he has skills such as specific aircraft that he has flown that I have no knowledge of but I don’t “endorse” him for them.)

  4. There seems to be a compensation threshold above which references make sense, and below which the company is just trying avoid obvious wing nuts. I’m not sure what it is, but if I owned a business booking $500M/year in sales, and I was hiring a VP for something or other, references would be just one part of the decision process.

    On the other hand, my experience is that barriers to entry for recruiters are quite low, and this leads to all sorts of cost cutting efforts to get the most out of fee, including the use of automated or Linkedin references.

    Something I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, fully qualify a recruiter before responding to any job related inquiry. Check online for complaints, comments, praise, and mention in industry trade publications. Know who you are dealing with before you respond.

    Linked is playing to the “low barrier to entry” crowd. Rise above it and prosper.

  5. LinkedIn is great for keeping track of people moving or looking for work. As part of my business I help people in my field find new opportunities, but I’m not paid to do this; for me, it’s a sound business practice which keeps me in touch with companies as future clients.

    I never understood the endorsements other than a way to keep site hit count up, or to find an excuse to send another email blast.

  6. Eh, I have a hard time seeing the real issues with this. If someone called me for a reference for someone I didn’t know, or barely know, that would be the first thing I said! “I barely know JoJuan, and haven’t really worked with him, sorry.” I have to presume the first question from any recruiter would be “So how do you know JoJuan?” Yes, you’re an idiot of a recruiter if you base your decisions on those references.

    But it’s also sort of the candidates own fault… If you collect connections like beanie babies, you’re publicly associating yourself, professionally, with people you’ve perhaps never met. You’re already playing pretty fast and loose with the site, how do you expect other people are using it?

    For this specific issue, it’s hard for me to see how even poor recruiters can misuse it. Linked in calls the references “trusted” because they’re your own professional contacts. If you don’t trust them enough to tell you “I don’t really know that person” then maybe you shouldn’t be connecting to them! It’s not that linked in claims to vet them… It’s that you do.

    Thus, it’s really hard for me to take this overblown “sucker-punch” terminology seriously. I have a hard time seeing how it’s different than any hiring manager scanning their Facebook for people who worked at the same company as a candidate and along them,

  7. Ugh… Asking them.

  8. @Kimberlee: You raise good issues, but then you walk away from them.

    1. If a personnel jockey looks up your references, he’s asking LinkedIn for people he’s got in common with you, who worked at a company when you did. As the NYT reporter saw, that resulted in 43 hits. So, you’re telling me you trust a random personnel clerk to figure out which of those 43 to call, which are valid and reliable references for you? Lotsa luck.

    2. Why do overlapping contacts between you and the personnel clerk even matter? Think the clerk is going to ask the hiring manager to run the search on HIS contacts?

    There’s a reason we all know to stay away from HR when looking for a job.

    What’s totally dangerous about this is who is doing the reference check. All LinkedIn is doing is facilitating stupid behavior while calling it a “reference search.”

  9. @Nick, I agree that it is a service that facilitates stupid reference checking. But it’s a form of reference checking that would happen even without the search… you ask people you know who worked at a company at the same time as the candidate if they knew the candidate, and what they can tell you. If I did the search and somehow came up with 43 hits (which is spectacularly unlikely for me but thats an aside), then it would be pretty easy to narrow. If this person was a reporter, I’d look for other reporters who worked in the same section as he did. I’d only ask the random IT person or intern if I happened to know that IT person or intern pretty well. But I’m not going to call all 43 people on that list, and I’m doubtful that anyone else is either.

    And I’m not going to comment on HR bashing, since I know that’s a losing battle on this forum, but I will say that I have extreme doubts that random personnel jockeys, as you call them, are doing that many of these checks. When you can eliminate 50% of the applicant pool because they make stupid and obvious errors, or clearly didn’t read the job description, why would you spend a ton of time using this service to dig up dirt?

    I’m a fan of reference checks being done at the very end of the hiring process. Yes, they should be thorough, and they should be double-checked when possible. And it should be the hiring manager that does them, unless they’re just checking for dates of employment (in which case, it’s silly to do them anyway). But this service doesn’t make anything worse. It’s not facilitating any bad behavior that doesn’t already happen, and if people are even remotely judicious about who they connect with on LinkedIn, the odds of them getting “sucker-punched” are super low.

  10. @Kimberlee: All good, valid points. But again, I think you’re wearing rose-colored glasses. :-) No offense intended.

    I know I bash HR, but I know some outstanding HR folks who know exactly how to do all this properly. The world needs more of them.

    But think about what you said:

    “But I’m not going to call all 43 people on that list, and I’m doubtful that anyone else is either.”

    My point is, the typical HR clerk isn’t going to know which names to contact. Overwhelmed (and HR is), the clerk will make a few quick calls, and it’s done. There’s the problem.

    “And it should be the hiring manager that does them”

    Managers almost NEVER do the checks. But I agree with you, they should.

    My point is that LinkedIn is offering more candy (or drugs) to HR that HR will consume happily, and no one will ever know anybody was stoned when making hiring decisions. That’s my gripe.

  11. I sorta agree with you, other than the idea that an HR person will pick a couple random names on a list of 43 people and call them, and then move on.

    I think the HR person in this scenario calls none of them. I could obtain, by a lot of methods, a list of 43 random people that may or may not know a candidate (heck, just pull up their LinkedIn and start contacting random people on their list). I don’t think that’s a thing that really happens, because it’s incredibly inefficient.

    HR has a lot of bad biases, but typically things that cause them to do MORE work for LESS results is not one of them. We can argue about whether the results they’re getting are good ones, but if you’re contacting a list of 43 people and getting a lot of “I don’t even know who that person is,” that’s not a strategy you’re going to stick with for very long.

  12. Which is all to say that I think this is a lot of hand-wringing over a practice that I’m extremely suspicious has ever actually caused a loss of job opportunity for bad reasons.

    How many people give random people that they barely know bad references? My suspicion, based on not much, is that the people involved in the lawsuit had a reference called that said something minor and bad about them (the IT guy maybe said something like “I didn’t work with him much, but he was kind of a jerk this one time when I was fixing his network connection”), which is something that maybe the HR person/hiring manager should have overlooked (MAYBE), but is hardly libelous, and is unlikely to derail the chances of a truly good candidate. If there’s evidence that this is becoming widespread, I’d be more sympathetic, but I have huge doubts that it is.

  13. Nick, all this (justified) criticism of LinkedIn begs the question of why you keep an account there yourself. I closed mine long ago. No sarcasm, just curious.

  14. It amazes me how much running around in circles that companies do just to find and hire new people. You’d think that professionals would meet other like-minded folk at industry events and meetings and build relationships that way.

    Unfortunately, it’s all about packing your resume with keywords, getting past ATS bot algorithms, filling out forms, behavioral interviews, garbage psychometric tests, and 25 year old HR lackeys with no industry expertise who somehow have the power to deem you qualified or unqualified.

    Now we are giving these HR lackeys one more type of garbage data (references from random, tangential, two-dimensional Linkedin contacts we’ve never met) to juggle and form the basis of more hiring judgment?!

    Stop the insanity.

    Let’s all get back to ‘talking shop’ (whatever our industries are…) among colleagues.
    Cut out this crap.

  15. Grey goo.

    The worry about nanotech is that nanobots will escape and turn the world into a pool of other nanobots, aka “grey goo.” What has happened already, however, is that the tidal wave of useless information has turned the internet into a pool of grey goo. LinkedIn and all the other social media sites are the main wellsprings of grey goo pouring into the internet. Check out the Veritasium video about Facebook fraud in creating likes that aren’t real.

    An engineering analogy is that the noise is overwhelming the signal because noise generators are free and can operate 24/7/365.

  16. @Michael: That’s a good analogy. Grey goo. And so are the noise generators – free and always running. It’s really astonishing that those who blame the economy, the “talent shortage,” poor education and other factors, simply don’t see the biggest problem of all. I think it’s ignored because technology, of course, is the solution. How could it be fostering the problem itself?

  17. HR’s general problem is lack of focus. If you go to a grocery store and has a limited amount of money (positions open), the sensible thing to do is set up an item shopping list (work to be done and needed candidates to do it), go to the shelves where those items are (industry events, target candidates directly etc), pick them up to evaluate(interview them) and go to the counter (hire them).

    HR, on the other hand walks into the store with big shopping carts and fill them both to the top (collect resumes) to ensure that they cannot miss anything, and then uses a lot of more-or-less valid algorithms, filters etc to try to sort through to the items they actually need.

    I would therefore not be surprised if they use another useless tool: contacting references to get opinions on who to filter out even before interview.

    I use LinkedIN as a kind of pro-Facebook. A good way to stay in touch with former colleagues and co-students, and for recruiters to find me – but I would never use it as anything other than that.

  18. @Karsten:

    Pre-filtering has been going on for a long time. Some employers run reference and background checks as a way to decide which applicants to interview.

    “I would therefore not be surprised if they use another useless tool: contacting references to get opinions on who to filter out even before interview.”

    Check the statement from HR manager Earl Rice here:
    http://www.asktheheadhunter.com/newsletter/OE20030211.htm

    Rice says:
    “HR will narrow the list of candidates down, and then turn the outsourced security investigators loose on that list. Background checks are often done before the first interview, and before any sort of an agreement, authorization, or disclosure is signed by the job applicant. You will never know about it until you order a copy of your credit report and find all the inquiries (that’s the first sign) and wonder, who in the devil is that who has run checks on you?”

  19. In our small company we don’t have an HR department and we’re hiring, so some thoughts from a hiring manager (me). We posted our opening on 4 different sites, not including LinkedIn, and received a ton of submissions (well, about 100). Two of us independently screened every resume – tedious but necessary – and winnowed it down to our top 5 based on claimed skills. Our admin called the top candidates and simply confirmed that they were legal to work, could communicate clearly, and were asked to submit code samples. From that point on, it was all up to the hiring manager to interview, judge, and select. As a matter of course, we would look up the top candidates on LinkedIn and see how they represented themselves. It was useful, but not critical, information – contributing to the dossier of info that formed the opinion of hire or pass. The point is simple – force the hiring manager to do the hard hiring work, not HR.

  20. @Peter: You da man.

  21. @Nick I am shocked by the Rice statement. Doesn’t this run afoul of the Fair Credit Reporting Act? Uses of credit data are strictly regulated in the US.

  22. @Olivier,

    Not an FCRA violation, but the FTC does have strict disclosure rules. Any company that conducts background checks for the purpose of employment must disclose that fact and have your permission, period. The FTC has and will go after companies that violate this.

  23. Seems that requesting references before any communications have been initiated is a very red flag. Personal references are relevant after the employer has narrowed down the candidate list to protect both the reference and the candidate from misuse. This is very small town/unsophisticated behavior in a professional setting. Not all good candidates will be cronies or relatives which prevail in unprofessional settings.

  24. @Nick: I don’t think I’ve been sucker-punched by LI, but it is hard to tell if I haven’t gotten offers because someone in HR decided use this feature.

    Whatever happened to the practice of contacting a candidate’s references as the last step in the hiring process (they’re sure they want to hire you, they made you an offer, and talking to your references is final step)? I don’t get it; doing an electronic reference check and worse, outsourcing it to third and fourth parties before you’ve been interviewed much less offered a job is putting the cart before the horse.

    It seems that whatever technology can be used so that the least human interaction is involved is de rigueur today. Technology can’t replace talking to people, be they a candidate’s references or to the candidate, but it seems that everything HR does (often complicit with management/hiring managers) is designed so that there is as little human interaction as possible. Let the ATS make the decisions. Outsource reference checks to third parties. Require candidates to do one-way video “interviews” in which they stare at a camera and talk to themselves. Don’t observe basic social skills and refuse to acknowledge those who apply and interview. Don’t call or even email those who interviewed but didn’t get hired. Treat them as if they are pests rather than as someone who will improve the company’s bottom line if hired or as future customers/clients.

    And shame on LI for joining the bottom-feeders. Now I’m debating whether to close my account. I liked them when they were the site for professionals, but trying to be everything to everyone in order to bring in profits as ruined their brand. I wonder if their in-house counsel is having discussions with the owners re what they’re doing. Sooner or later, they will get sued if a wronged party gets hurt enough professionally. See the Ladders.

  25. @Olivier: “Nick, all this (justified) criticism of LinkedIn begs the question of why you keep an account there yourself. I closed mine long ago. No sarcasm, just curious.”

    LinkedIn is a good online directory. That’s why I keep a profile. But many of LinkedIn’s practices and “features” are totally kooky.

  26. LinkedIn…where do I begin.
    I have hated it from the beginning and only kept it open in the ‘attempt’ to get company recruiters to find me. Since August-December 2014 I was constantly receiving ‘anonymous’ profile reviews (I hate the invasiveness of those), received hours of worthless phone interviews for jobs that never materialized (from HR of course), was baited/switched on two jobs I specifically applied for through HR, never had any of my ‘connections’ assist in getting a job, etc, etc. After an extensive round of onsite interviews in December (which I believe I was only used as ‘padding’ and they were never serious about hiring me), I made the comment to HR “what is the purpose of LinkedIn?” her response? “OH! We use it all the time”
    If you could have been a fly in my brain and seen my poker face…
    I shut down my account two weeks ago.
    Then opened a ‘new’ bogus account in a different city, just so I can use the ‘job listing’ category, since many companies do buy into the hype over LinkedIn.
    It is truly worthless

  27. Wait… wait. LisaMBA09, there is so much wrong with your comment. But I’ll go with the basic two…

    1. What on earth is invasive about people looking at a profile that you voluntarily put onto a public website, which contains information you specifically entered, also voluntarily?

    and

    2. Literally nothing that you list in your comment is the fault of LinkedIn. Crappy employers? Sure. Crappy recruiters or crappy HR? Sure. Crappy connections? Sure. None of that is within LinkedIn’s control.

  28. Kimberlee, you are letting LinkedIn off the hook far too easily. LinkedIn’s holy work on this earth is to get you to publish your connections, almost inventing them if necessary (you worked in that building? link in with this guy you never met but worked there too!) since the more the merrier, so it can sell you and them to employers (its now quite official monetization strategy). Now if they’re all crap, what’s the point of LinkedIn already?

    Besides in the end the question is not so much whether any of this is LinkedIn’s fault but whether it is useful.

  29. @Kimberlee
    I believe you missed the meat of what I referenced.
    From MY experience using LinkedIn (and my opinion), I have never received any value in using it. I will emphasize that point. I challenge you to name a few occasions in which you actually received any value, staying up-to-date with the news from your industry does not count as you can read Forbes, CIO, etc to do that. If anything, it allows the ‘movers and shakers’ in their respective industry the platform they would not receive in any of the aforementioned journals. To be honest, it smacks of narcissism.
    Have you ever been hired using LinkedIn? If not, what are we all actually using it for? If those work connections are so great, then why isn’t anyone just picking up the phone, using Meetup, emailing or meeting for drinks?
    What I find amusing is the ‘recommendations’, having received ‘recommendations’ from my connections that have NEVER met, nor worked with me. Totally bogus.
    Furthermore, I do not need to be at the mercy of my ‘connections’ and I would challenge you to reflect on what limited interactivity you are actually receiving from those connections. If I want to learn about a company’s background, I can review Glassdoor or just Google the name of the company, it is all out there on the internet.
    In reference to the ‘anonymous stalkers’ lurking on profiles…isn’t that a bit voyeuristic since 90% of the time it is just other ‘professionals’ snooping around? The lack of transparency would not be tolerated in any normal company, so why is it allowed on LinkedIn? If everyone is so professional, then why hide behind the cloak of anonymity? In the months I was padded by recruiters and HR, not one person would ever call these companies ‘crappy’ (Plantronics, Google, Apple, Workday, Salesforce, Oracle… to name a few). Nick is always spot-on in his assessment of what is truly going on behind the scenes regarding shady crap HR and Recruiters are pulling. Are there some great recruiters and HR? Absolutely, there are some who are worth their weight in gold. However, in my experience 95% of them who are using LinkedIn somehow lost their way in practicing common sense and values in everyday business courtesy. Thank you Olivier for piping up. :)

  30. I use LinkedIn to find out when people I know are changing jobs, and for when I think someone might be good for a position but I don’t have their resume memorized, so I check out their LinkedIn before I get anyone’s hopes up about a job that they might be good for, or they might not be and I conflated their experience with someone else’s. I do occasionally search it as well to find prospective candidates. Occasionally, there’s an article posted there that I find interesting as well, but that’s less common.

    That’s mostly what I use it for, and I find it fine for those purposes.

    And no, I don’t think I have a right to know the identity of everyone that looks at my public profile… there is no where else on the internet that comes close to the transparency level that LinkedIn has. If you don’t want people you don’t know looking at your profile, lock it down so most of it is only visible to your network? I’m just baffled by this idea that you post something on a public website, personally control the privacy settings, and still call it “voyeuristic” when people look at it (and, yeah… 90% of them are just other professionals using it… like you… that’s the entire target audience. That’s the point? I’m so unclear on what is so outrageous to you about people looking at your profile).

  31. @Kimberlee
    There is no way of controlling an individual putting their profile as ‘anonymous’. That is a selection everyone must personally input with their profile as ‘what other people see’.
    voyeuristic and snoopy is what it is.
    Why be anonymous?
    What do ‘professionals’ have to hide?

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