Is Your LinkedIn Profile Giving Away Trade Secrets?

one detective man criminal investigations investigating crime in silhouette on white background

Last week, a behemoth Silicon Valley darling required one of my clients to upload his LinkedIn profile instead of submitting a résumé for an open position.

The problem with this method of recruiting is that LinkedIn is a public document. As such, the smartest and most successful candidates won’t list certain confidential content on their profiles.

They will not list all of the many (and important, and rampant) quantitative metrics so important to today’s best résumés.

In a perfect world, a résumé will be inherently richer in detail than its companion LinkedIn profile.

Don’t believe me? Let’s examine what people are placing on their LinkedIn profiles.

For this article, I conducted a simple search for “enterprise sales executive” from my own LinkedIn profile.

One of the first profiles listed reads like this (details scrambled and fictionalized for confidentiality):

  • ABC Company, President’s Club, 2012: (Top 1% of 5,000 Sales Reps, 400% achievement)
  • XYZ Company, Excellence Club, 2011: (Achieved 325% against $8.7 million quota)

That all sounds great, doesn’t it? (And no, I’m not entirely clear what “400% achievement” means, but bear with me.) It sounds good enough to at least reach out to that person. Stat!

Alas. On LinkedIn, this ubiquitous and beloved misconception has some unintended consequences.

First, our subject is letting competitors speculate that at least 5,000 sales reps have a sales quota of $8 million, so they can extrapolate the company’s sales goals. Okay, maybe not eight million each, but even at half of that calculation (5,000 reps x $8 million), it gives information that our subject’s company might not be fond of releasing to a competitor.

Second, notice that our subject stopped listing their stratospheric accomplishments in 2012. It’s a good time to note that they’re still, remarkably perhaps, working at the same company in 2015.

It begs the question: are they now failing? Furthermore, are their potential and/or repeat clients arriving at the negotiating table armed to the teeth because they had the pre-meeting foresight to review our subject’s LinkedIn profile? Realizing that our super successful subject is a selling shark?

I mean, if I were a potential enterprise client exploring this company’s expensive widgets—and I knew this enterprise sales executive was in the top one percent of five thousand sales reps, and not only that, but they effortlessly exceeded their multimillion-dollar quotas for the past five years—I’d arrive at the table ready for battle.

By all that is publishable, this super-duper enterprise sales executive isn’t going to get one by me!

My recommendation.

Okay, so I have to preface my recommendation by saying that I am a major, premium-paying LinkedIn fan. If you’re not a premium member, I believe you should be.

That said, I often swim upstream on this point. I’ve even presented with recruiters with whom I share a mutual fondness and respect, and we openly disagree.

A recruiter recently said, “I agree with Jared on all points. Except the one about redacting certain quantitative details from your LinkedIn profile. I need to see your value.” (You’ll see this repeated all over the interwebs.)

To which I always reply: “Make the recruiter do their job.” I was once a recruiter, so I can say this with conviction. I believe recruiting is an art as much as it is a science, and recruiting first respects everyone’s confidentiality.

I continued and drove home my point to the audience: “You, dear audience members, are ultimately responsible for your own stories. If that unwittingly involves giving away trade secrets—and giving away your secret sauce and professional prowess in a public forum—then you’ve only shot yourself in the foot.”

Again. Recruiters are paid to do a job. Make them do their jobs.

So, all of those caveats and exceptions stated, here are my recommendations:

  • Don’t list confidential information on your résumé. That’s a given. But take it further by not listing details that, when compared alongside other pieces of online / published information, might be amassed to make competitive assumptions about your company. Other companies are busily scraping the web and selling aggregated information. Don’t be a part of it.
  • Refrain from using résumé speak and listing potentially confidential metrics or trade secrets on LinkedIn. Scrub the information and carefully write your LinkedIn profile for public consumption.
  • If you’ve done either of these things, fix immediately. Don’t let another week go by. Sure, web crawlers may have already scraped, archived, and exploited the information you presented unknowingly to the world. But now you know, so begin making amends.
  • If you’re in a supervisory role, audit your employees’ LinkedIn profiles. If they’ve unwittingly revealed confidential, proprietary, or potentially competitive information, don’t blame them. Yet. They knew not what they did. Instead, explain why they need to scrub the heck out of that content, and why. Indeed, the LinkedIn profiles I write that really make me sweat are for companies with strict social media policies. For example, Apple, Inc. employees are basically allowed to say nothing about what they do. Apple again leads the pack, knowing that loose lips sink ships. (Speaking of technology, broadly, not Apple, you can’t imagine the information product developers reveal in LinkedIn groups … bellyaching away and giving away all manner of secret sauce.)

Will you miss out on potential opportunities? Probably. But it’s up to you to understand this incredibly important nuance. LinkedIn is a tool for doing business, and the humble résumé bears the confidential weight of telling your story within the finite realm of job searching. Even then, you don’t want to ever reveal proprietary information about your company. Past, present, or future.

If you’re a recruiter and you’re using “LinkedIn only” as a sole recruiting tool, stop. You’re potentially missing out on the brightest candidates who, indeed, know better than to treat LinkedIn like an online résumé. Respected institutions are apparently starting to miss out on this big picture privacy issue. Don’t be one of them.

Repeat after me:

  • Just because LinkedIn says I can, doesn’t mean I should.
  • LinkedIn is not my online résumé.
  • LinkedIn is a professional platform to do business and communicate my professional (and very public) brand.
  • If a recruiter finds me and thinks they want to talk to me, I will make peace that they must do their job and learn more by calling and/or asking for my résumé.
  • My résumé is the place to self-market myself to a discrete audience.

●●●●●

San Francisco-based executive resume writer and career transition coach, Jared Redick, works with senior leaders at Fortune 50 companies and beyond. He draws on early experience in retained executive search and nearly two decades of resume writing to help stealth job seekers re-imagine the marketable intersection between their background, interests, audience expectations, and career goals.

Jared’s strategic “purpose, content, design” approach to résumé writing helps executives and professionals understand their value, develop their unique professional brand, and position themselves safely online and on paper.

Reach him at info@theresumestudio.com or 415-397-6640. Follow @TheResumeStudio.

Getting Comfortable With ‘No’

YesNoSometimes a client comes back and says, “They don’t want me!”

To him or her, I say, “Because who you are doesn’t match what they need.”

And that shouldn’t be taken personally.

Imagine if every résumé was so clearly written that you could tell whether you wanted to meet that person within moments.

Forget curbside-appeal and keyword optimization.

A well-designed, keyword-optimized résumé is a matter of course in today’s hiring world.

Résumé writing colleagues and I—not to mention recruiters and executive coaches who refer to us—can attest to that.

No. I’m talking about the details that distinguish you from others.

Niche yourself.

If you have 10-14 years of experience, odds are high that you have specializations that are not only unique to you, but attractive to someone else.

Niching carries the risk that you’ll repel opportunities who aren’t a good fit, of course.

But what’s wrong with that? Repel away!

If it’s not a good fit, why try squeezing a round peg into a square hole?

For many, that’s a perspective shift because we grow up trying to please everybody.

Trying to be who they want us to be. Getting more people to say yes.

People pleasing is fine for a while.

It’s the fulfillment of, say, obligations that don’t fit skill sets, or duties you didn’t know about before you said yes, that can get in the way of delivering on your word.

That can be missing delivery altogether because you should have said no, or delivering on time but with bruises to show for it.

Here’s what you can do.

The more experienced we become, the narrower the opportunities.

We are no longer freshly out of college, blank canvases ready to be groomed.

We have serious marketable skills, and companies are ready to pay for those skills; not for the skills we have yet to learn.

The silver lining—in fact the beauty of that fact—is that it’s this very expertise that helps us command a professional salary.

So….

  • Commit to being comfortable with no. It doesn’t indicate your worth as a human being, it merely means you’re not a fit (or you didn’t take the effort to clearly outline the fit in your résumé or interview).
  • Work hard to find the right fit. It’s easy to give lip service to this idea, and noodling around on job boards might make you feel like you’re doing something. But it’s hard to actually do the work. Mount an all out research and discovery mission using a blend of LinkedIn, Google Alerts, public company records, Hoovers, Google Finance, and Glassdoor.com. Use JibberJobber.com to track your job search progress.
  • Spend 85-90% of your job search effort outside of job boards. The best jobs might not be obvious. In fact, most aren’t. The more seniority you achieve, the less likely that your next position will be obvious.
  • Plan to actively job search one month for every $10K per year that you make. This is a commonly cited concept in the career development world, but not everyone knows it. The higher up you go, the longer it takes to find the right fit.
  • Build your boat. It takes time to craft the right documents, career copy, and personal brand. We’re often the very ones we overlook, however, so committing to the effort of representing and presenting yourself requires willpower and dedication.
  • Be sure your LinkedIn profile is up to snuff. It’s the absolute best to be passively found for the right position. It happens all the time. It’s why roughly fifty percent of LinkedIn’s revenue in 2012 was from Talent Recruit; the expensive deep dive service they sell to recruiters for big bucks. You won’t know if you’re missing out unless you’re out there. Here’s a webinar I presented to CFA Society members (shared with permission) that you may find helpful. All you have to do is register.

Until next time!

Jared Redick
Visit: The Resume Studio.com | About Jared
Follow: @TheResumeStudio
Like Us: http://www.facebook.com/TheResumeStudio
Connect: LinkedIn.com/in/jaredredick
Call: 415-397-6640

How to Hide a Contact’s Activity on Your LinkedIn Newsfeed

Did you know you can hide a contact’s activity on your LinkedIn newsfeed?

I didn’t either, until I met with some LinkedIn folks last year.

Sure, you want to stay connected with your contacts. But some connections like to post a lot of updates. (Meanwhile, what is “a lot?” I post to LinkedIn several times a week, so I could be deemed “a lot.” It’s all subjective, isn’t it? So this post should really help.)

Related post: How to Hide Your LinkedIn Contacts from the General Public

The problem is, you still want to stay connected.

You don’t want to un-friend them overtly, right?

The solution? THE HIDE BUTTON!

Here’s how:

Click the “Home” button on your LinkedIn profile.

This is your newsfeed; information pumped to you from your connections, companies you follow, etc.

Hover over a status update and you’ll see the word “hide” appear in the right corner of the contact’s update frame.

Click “hide” (if you dare), and watch their updates disappear from your newsfeed.

The beauty? You’ve not deleted the offending obsessive status updater from your list of contacts. Instead, you’ve cleaned up your newsfeed from too many posts from the same person.

The downside is that you won’t see ANY of that contact’s updates unless you visit his or her profile page directly. A shame, because many prolific posters can offer lots of insightful newsfeed items. Plus, I’m not sure how to un-hide contacts (there must be a way), so be certain that hiding them is what you want to do.

If you know about “un-hiding” contacts, or have other related tips, share them here!

Until next time!

Jared Redick

Visit: The Resume Studio.com
Follow: @TheResumeStudio
Like Us: http://www.facebook.com/TheResumeStudio
Connect: LinkedIn.com/in/jaredredick
Call: 415-397-6640

LinkedIn Checklist: 10 Tweaks for Control Freaks (Part 2)

the traffic lights on white backgroundA week ago, I posted Part 1 of my ten tips for better controlling your LinkedIn profile.

Here’s Part 2:

Control Tweak #6:  Customize your public profile (Settings > Profile > Edit your public profile)

LinkedIn lets you “control how you appear when people search for you on Google, Yahoo!, Bing, etc.”

Thank you, LinkedIn.

One of the complexities of having a public profile on LinkedIn is that part of our credit worthiness comes from our career history. It stands to reason that some random individual with illegal intentions could use your LinkedIn profile — and other smatterings of data about you across the Internet — to create a profile in your name, and yes, even apply for and decimate your credit worthiness.

For this reason, I don’t allow LinkedIn to show my past positions publicly, and indeed, you may have other edits once you see the deep levels of customization LinkedIn offers.

Remember that information you’ve listed on your profile will still be fully visible to your connections, which gives good reason to know the people to whom  you are connected. Although even LinkedIn seems to be encouraging that we cast a much broader net these days.

While you’re on the page in question, scroll down and be sure you’ve customized your public profile.

Related post: How to Customize Your LinkedIn URL

Control Tweak #7: Edit your name, location and industry (Settings > Profile > Helpful Links)

I’d ignored this for several years, when in 2009 I took a training by Jason Alba ( author of “I’m on LinkedIn, Now What?”) and he recommended that I change my profile headline from “Principal” to “Executive Resume Writer.”

The effectiveness of my profile changed within moments as Google inexplicably re-indexed my appearance in search, not to mention the value of searches inside the LinkedIn ecosystem.

After all, who types in “Principal” when searching for an executive resume writer?

:facepalm:

The same can be true for one’s industry. My profile’s performance increased dramatically when I changed from “writing and editing” to “professional training and coaching,” which more appropriately defines my work.

As an executive résumé writer, I want people to be able to reach me. I use my LinkedIn profile often, and I’m accessible. If I returned to retained executive search, however, I’d write my summary in third person, formal tone of voice, and lock down my accessibility. I might even stop posting status updates.

Decide the best approach for you, and set up your own profile to match your position and purpose on LinkedIn. Continue reading

LinkedIn Checklist: 10 Tweaks for Control Freaks (Part 1)

Writing Control Your LinkedIn Presencean executive résumé is baffling for many of the folks I speak to every day.

Too often the résumé becomes a bloated version of one written straight out of college, and by mid-career there’s so much information that it’s tough to be objective about what stays and what goes.

Then comes LinkedIn, posing as a résumé, but not really being a résumé because of its public nature, norms, and new boundary-pushing ways.

To be absent from LinkedIn is to marginalize opportunity. To be on LinkedIn without understanding it, however, is to potentially invite career gaffes and public blunders in a new age.

The result of all this confusion is a shell of a LinkedIn profile that looks like its owner doesn’t care.

Happily, LinkedIn offers a variety of settings and controls so we can sleep at night, and perhaps instill more confidence to meaningfully build out those profiles so LinkedIn can actually start working for us.

Here are five I’ve prepared for you to tackle this weekend. I’ll post the next five in seven short days.  Continue reading

What the BLEEP are LinkedIn Endorsements?

What are LinkedIn EndorsementsAnd more importantly, does LinkedIn risk losing credibility in the long term by unwittingly opening its users up to legal problems in their careers?

A close friend recently asked, “What are LinkedIn endorsements, and do you condone them?”

As management within a public retail giant, he is not authorized to give references or recommendations about employees in his everyday life.

Indeed, reference checks are funneled along to HR, which offers scant details limited to “yes that was their title” and “yes, those were the dates.”

So his wise instinct is not participate in LinkedIn endorsements.

“What are LinkedIn endorsements, and do you condone them?”  Continue reading

How to Customize Your LinkedIn URL

This blog post was updated on 12/6/12 to reflect changes to LinkedIn’s interface.

Thinking about tightening up your LinkedIn presence?

There are many ways to do that, but perhaps the easiest is snagging your custom public profile URL.

Customizing your public profile URL is great when you want to put it on your business card or résumé. Or anywhere else you want to publicly drive people to find out more about you online. Plus it’s easier to remember!

Confused?

If your public profile URL isn’t customized, it will appear as a confusing mess, ending in a stream of random numbers and letters, like this:

  • linkedin.com/pub/12kdud9ekhgkdla93s

Ugly, right? (The “pub” part stands for “public.”)

Good news: Continue reading