3 LinkedIn Leg-Ups for Job-Seekers – By Susan Kealy

Last week, a friend of mine who recently started online dating, recruited in some assistance to help her find her perfect match amongst a mountain of online profiles. In the name of duty, I agreed to sacrifice a night of redecorating my lounge room to join a few girlfriends with a few bottles of wine to decide on our friend’s destiny (yes fellas, this does happen).

After diligently assessing and critiquing what was on offer, I think that we all agreed the main take-out of the night was this; there are some truly god-awful profiles out there. This is not meant to have a go at people for putting themselves out there – I have a lot of respect for online daters – it’s just that getting the balance right when describing yourself in your online profile is not easy.

On the one side you want someone to know your good qualities, but blatant self-promotion can make you seem arrogant, and though you may want someone to know that you’re clever and professional, formal and ceremonious language can make you sound like a stiff. And don’t get me started with the half-naked pics. Tricky business this…

This got me thinking about how jobseekers promote themselves online and in particular on LinkedIn. Because of the dearth of research on Linkedin for jobseekers, I have been self-tasked with uncovering some basic truths.

There’s no question that what is revered by one employer or recruiter may disgust another, and that what people find appealing will vary by geography, demography, industry and personality. One important question is: can you play it safe when writing a professional LinkedIn profile, but still stand out and make a lasting impression?

Getting your strengths and skills across, without making people want to vomit, slap you or even worse, discontinue reading your profile, can be a delicate balancing act. I’d like to share with you a few theories from psychology that may help you overcome some of the most violent emotional reactions that profiles can induce.

  1. Narcissism and The Hubris Hypothesis: Most people have a natural aversion to those who appear to think themselves superior to others (the hubris hypothesis), or appear narcissistic in character. You know that member of your extended group with the inflated sense of self-importance and the unyielding devotion to making sure you know how great they are. But in business, everyone will tell you that self-promotion is both necessary and desirable, as potential employers need to know why they should hire you. So what to do? The good news is that studies on the hubris hypothesis have shown that you’re much more likely to get away with self-promotion if you don’t compare yourself to others, and focus strictly on your own accomplishments. Meanwhile, third party validation, such as recommendations can help to verify your claims.
  2. Similarity-Attraction Theory: The more similar our attitudes and beliefs are to those of others, the more likely it is for them to be attracted to us – true of both the business and the dating world. This means that if you’re ideal job is with Gamblers Anonymous, don’t advertise last week’s winnings at the race track in the achievements or awards section of your profile (maybe don’t do this anyway). So, as with almost everything that we preach at Challenge Consulting, the key is relevance – start thinking “what is most important to my ideal employer, and how can I relate to that?” In other words, your LinkedIn profile can serve as a mechanism to demonstrate that you have what is valued and shared by your ideal employer, and an opportunity to emphasise particularly important characteristics such as skills, experience, attitude and personality
  3. CheeseMongering: Here I’m referring to ‘quirks’ and ‘playful whimsicalities’ such as titles that read ‘Captain of In-Between Opportunities’ and photos featuring middle-aged men dressed in full renaissance garbs. Although this may not be a strictly scientific term, or for that matter, a strictly scientific concept, I nonetheless feel it’s an important point to raise. I will concede that our counterparts in the U.S.A may have a slightly higher lactose tolerance than the Aussies, and in fact, I blame a number of U.S ’how-to’ references for even having to mention this one, but basically unless you have good reason for doing this, leave it out!

Used properly, LinkedIn can open up opportunities for jobseekers in a way that has never before been possible. The power of connections that have been built over a career, and even over a lifetime, can now be harnessed more effectively, because important networks are transparent – we now know who knows who. Just as the dating game has moved its board online, more and more companies and recruiters are tapping into the connections found on LinkedIn to find their perfect match.

The harsh truth is that a bad profile can actually do you more damage than good.  LinkedIn is a powerful minefield that can either blast you into your next opportunity, or explode in your face, depending on how you manage your information, your strategy, and your manners.

To help you overcome your fear of the faux pas, and to show you how to navigate the social-media battlefield, Challenge Consulting is facilitating a two-hour introductory LinkedIn for Jobseekers workshop for only $90 + GST. For more information click here or contact Susan Kealy on 02 9221 6422 or [email protected]