Fake it ‘till you make it: LinkedIn users manipulating their profiles to land their dream job

Abstract

By analysing texts relating to performing identity, impression management, deception and honesty in how LinkedIn users create and maintain their online identity, this paper argues how LinkedIn has changed the way professionals portray themselves and associate with their peers. Drawing on peer reviewed articles relating to social interactions involving identity performance, this paper draws a distinction between how these interactions differ between ‘real identity’ and ‘online identity’, and how virtual communities shape these identities.

Keywords: LinkedIn, social media, identity performance, impression management, self-presentation, online communities

In recent years, LinkedIn has shown to be a vital resource for proactive professionals wanting to build their network, market themselves, search for a new job, and create potential business opportunities. Despite previous tried-and-true methods of professional networking such as industry seminars, and self-promotion via resumes – which are still relevant today – the key advantage now is that LinkedIn has given new powers to users to actively create and maintain their professional profile. Through their daily interactions on the social media tool, LinkedIn users can choose to perform any identity they wish, usually for personal benefit. Users can post their thoughts, follow notable people within their industry, as well as like and comment on content that mirrors the image they wish to project, which involves a public display of connections as explained by Donath and boyd (2004). Creating and performing identity is certainly not a new concept, however, people wishing to land their dream job are becoming savvy with the opportunities that LinkedIn offers and are creating personas for themselves to land that job. In the cut-throat world of business, individuals are finding that self-presentation, performing identity and impression management are vital to promoting their professional ‘brand’ that can give them an edge over other candidates when competing for a job. A professional and credible presence on LinkedIn can show to recruiters that the candidate is knowledgeable or respected in their field. As a result, this leaves opportunity for deception and dishonesty to take place, where individuals can give misleading information about themselves, which is harder to detect in the online world compared to the ‘real world’. Considering that our peers make evaluations based on our LinkedIn profile and our past interactions – now more than ever, LinkedIn users are recognizing that impression management is imperative for developing a professional reputation – in turn, LinkedIn has changed how professionals portray themselves and associate with their peers.

 

Impression management, identity performance, and self-presentation

One of the key aspects that attracts professionals to social networking sites such as LinkedIn is to build a network of friends, acquaintances, and business colleagues and to maintain these connections for positive personal gain. Utz (2010) writes that impression management is key to establishing interactions between users on services such as LinkedIn. A users list of connections is viewable to others when browsing an individual’s profile, and yet while there is the option to keep this information hidden, for some LinkedIn users, openly flaunting their contact list is a form of impression management that serves three key purposes. Firstly, it offers bragging rights if they have notable people in their network. Secondly, if they have a large number of connections in their network it might suggest that they themselves are popular and are worthy of attention, and lastly, people who search through their contacts list might discover mutual acquaintances and establish new connections of their own – in other words – these LinkedIn users help bring people together. Regarding the first example, associating with ‘known’ people who have significant status is a way that users can establish credibility for themselves. If noteworthy people are our friends, then we must be important also. Donath and Boyd explain that this premise of deliberate “name-dropping” (2004, p.72) serves a selfish purpose to impress an audience. Regarding the second point, a LinkedIn user having a large network of friends might suggest that they are someone of note within their industry, it suggests that they have a level of credibility which becomes important when it comes to sharing their own thoughts or articles on LinkedIn. In the last concept, Donath and Boyd (2004) provide that introducing people to others within a network, gains ‘social capital’. This is an extremely significant commodity within the realm of LinkedIn where the quality of connections is measured. For example, LinkedIn allows users to see the degree of separation between themselves and everyone else – regardless of whether they are in their network or not. Somebody who they know directly has “1st” listed under their name, whereas someone who is a ‘friend of a friend’ that they are not connected with has “3rd” listed. Although it is important to maintain the close relationships they already have, it would seem reasonable to suggest that maintaining lower ranked connections can be useful too, where social capital that LinkedIn users have accrued can be used as leverage to instigate or develop new business opportunities. Pearson (2009) claim this to be the case, noting that these ‘weaker ties’ are actually what makes for a unified social network.

Whatever the reasons for displaying their LinkedIn network may be, the underlying aim is to perform identity for the sake of personal gain. Pearson (2009), writes that social networking sites provide a ‘stage’ for users to perform identity. Through LinkedIn, users thoughtfully construct a persona that mirrors how they want to be perceived by a particular audience, and consequently all of their interactions within this realm remains consistent in maintaining the persona. LinkedIn users can decide which personal information they share via their profile page, such as their username, avatar, education, and employment history. Jakala and Berki (2013) point out that this in itself demonstrates that they can construct their persona depending on how they wish to be perceived by the community. Importantly, Pearson (2009) notes that the identity they construct is relative to the network, which suggests that they modify aspects of their persona according to the audience they want to appeal to. Similarly, Jakala and Berki (2013) explain that identity is merely a ‘role’ people play that varies from audience to audience, a concept affirmed by van der Nagel and Frith’s (2015) writings regarding identity performance online. Pearson (2012) argues that impression management strategies are directly affected by ‘codes of conduct’ which govern virtual communities and dictate impression management. Whether implied or not, rules exist within these groups that determine online etiquette. Hence, if a LinkedIn audience consists of educated professionals, then the language and individual uses and the content that they engage with on these platforms will tend to reflect the ideals of that audience. For instance, they may enjoy listening to heavy metal music in their spare time, but if they were communicating with a group of accountants on a LinkedIn media post, they probably would not find it appropriate to discuss heavy metal music in that forum. In this scenario is seems natural that communications vary when users interact with other communities and changes from group to group. As such, virtual communities such as LinkedIn have had a substantial impact on how professionals associate with their peers.

These concepts of self-presentation and performing identity do not only apply solely to serve the purposes of the individual however. They can also establish the identity of larger communities and help individuals to feel connected to that community. For instance, for a LinkedIn user who belongs to a virtual community such as web designers, any individual performing their identity within this group not only reinforces their individual persona but supports the ideals that web design group stands for. For example, when a LinkedIn user comments on topics related to web design, using terminology exclusive to web designers, this reinforces the collective identity of the group. For an outsider observing the interactions of the group, they would pick up on terminology or themes specific to web design. For instance, if the group is discussing an issue with implementing a CSS rule to a website, the observer assumes that that all web designers must be familiar with what CSS is and how it works, therefore the observer would need to become familiar with the function of CSS before engaging in meaningful interactions with the web design group. For the observer, the value in connecting with knowledgeable industry figures or companies in these communities is especially important on LinkedIn where knowledge sharing provides value to anyone connected to the group. This is certainly the case in Koteyko and Hunt’s (2016) study of the Facebook interactions between a small community of diabetics, who found that diabetes-related dialogues within the group helped members feel a sense of ‘solidarity’ and connectedness to the group. The use of terms and concepts that only diabetes sufferers would know helps members feel connected to the group, and projects an identity of the community. Most importantly, Koteyko and Hunt note that in these instances the individual constructs the identity for the group and not just themselves (2016). As such, individuals within virtual communities each play a part in shaping the perceptions of a wider community they align with. Additionally, it becomes evident that LinkedIn users can portray different versions of their persona to mirror the behaviour of a group they wish to be a part of, which is a key way to highlight how LinkedIn has changed how professionals perform identity.

 

Honesty and deception in identity management

Any effective discussion on the creation and performance of identity can not occur without discussing the role of honesty and deception and how they influence how professionals portray themselves over LinkedIn. Virtual communities and in particular social media platforms such as LinkedIn, rely on the sharing of information, thoughts and ideas, or stories about challenges people have faced in their personal or professional lives for the purpose of mentoring others. For this to occur, there needs to be a level of trust or reliability between the giver and receiver of information. Donath (1999) and Utz (2010), write that in the online world, users do not have the same visual cues to gauge a person’s credibility like they do in the physical world. Hence, they look to the writer’s web profile and interactions to decide for themselves whether that person is a source to be trusted or not. Hardey (2002) argues that platforms such as LinkedIn have led to a differentiation between a physical persona and an online persona. He suggests that in face to face interactions, people can inadvertently give away information about themselves – such as their accent or skin colour. This kind of information is clearly evident in physical encounters – one can not suppress these facts like they can in an online world. On LinkedIn for example, individuals can choose not to upload a photo of themselves to their profile, some may opt for the logo of their company or even no photo at all. However, proactive LinkedIn users may wish to refrain from this practice, as transparency establishes trust and credibility, which becomes especially important when potential employers view their profile.

Obviously as web personas can be constructed and manipulated from the writer themselves, there is opportunity for deception to occur. People can choose to omit pieces of information on LinkedIn that they do not want others to know about them, such as their age, nationality or where they live. This affords them a level of anonymity that van der Nagel and Frith (2015) argue leads to ‘antisocial behaviour’, suggesting that people are more likely to break the rules if they know others cannot identify them. For this reason, Donath (1999) states that being mindful of identity is vital to forming a sense of community. Virtual communities thrive when individuals interact openly and honestly. Donath goes on to explain that the writer’s motivation, beliefs, or affiliations are key indicators that people look to when they evaluate the writer’s credibility (1999). If a Toyota salesman describes how the latest model Toyota four-wheel drive is the safest in its class, one may take these claims as nothing more than marketing hype. However, if an independent car safety analyst were to explain the same, one would be more inclined to trust the information. The same can be said for LinkedIn users, when users seek out leaders in their industry to gain information or mentorship from, they seek validation that those leaders are credible and trustworthy and that the information they provide is insightful and pertinent. Kapoor and Gunta (2016) argue that online relationships differ from physical relationships where traditional means for sourcing credibility cannot be used. People make their own evaluations of credibility based on information they gather from LinkedIn profile pages – for example – who they are employed for, the communities they are affiliated with, and their history of interactions with others. Utz provides some insight into how important these factors become when assessing credibility and “social attractiveness” (2010, p.317). This is a key difference to highlight how LinkedIn has changed how people perceive and portray identity in virtual communities.

The emergence of social media platforms such as LinkedIn and its impact on how professionals portray identity and interact with their peers cannot be understated. Although performing identity and impression management are not new concepts, LinkedIn has provided a new platform for users to construct and maintain their persona in any manner they wish. Performing identity happens on this platform happens in a number of ways. Showing who they know in their network, the construction of their profile page and the personal information they choose to share on it, the groups they engage with and the way they interact with them, are all ways in which LinkedIn users perform identity. In the online world, these same factors are also what people use to determine credibility in others. Credibility is a vital commodity on LinkedIn, where relationships built on mutual trust might produce business opportunities or career advancement. Deception may occur when individuals omit or give misleading information about themselves, and this is problematic considering that traditional means of evaluating credibility do not apply to the online world. However, LinkedIn communities operate best when all members interact openly – sharing experiences, giving advice, and offering knowledge.

 

 

Reference List

 

Donath, J. (1999). Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community. In P. Kollock, & M. A. Smith (Eds.), Communities in Cyberspace (pp. 29-59). Retrieved from
http://smg.media.mit.edu/people/Judith/Identity/IdentityDeception.html

 

Donath, J., & boyd, d. (2004). Public Displays of Connection. BT Technology Journal, 22(4), 71-82. Retrieved from
http://smg.media.mit.edu/papers/Donath/socialnetdisplay.draft.pdf

 

Hardey, M. (2002). Life beyond the screen: Embodiment and identity through the internet. The Sociological Review, 50(4), 570-585. Retrieved from

https://doi-org.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/10.1111/1467-954X.00399

 

Jäkälä, M., & Berki, E. (2013). Communities, Communication, and Online Identities. In S. Warburton & S. Hatzipanagos (Eds.), Digital Identity and Social Media (pp. 1-13). Retrieved from

https://www-igi-global-com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/gateway/chapter/72376

 

Kapoor P.S., Gunta S. (2016) Impact of Anonymity and Identity Deception on Social Media eWOM. In Dwivedi Y. et al. (eds) Social Media: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Retrieved from

https://doi-org.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/10.1007/978-3-319-45234-0_33

 

Koteyko, N. & Hunt, D. (2016). Performing health identities on social media: An online observation of Facebook profiles. Discourse, Context and Media, 12 (pp. 59-67). Retrieved from

https://www-sciencedirect-com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/science/article/pii/S2211695815000616

 

Pearson, E. (2009). All the World Wide Web’s a stage: The performance of identity in online social networks. First Monday. 14(3). Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/2162/2127

 

Pearson, E. (2012). Making a good (virtual) first impression: The use of visuals in online impression management and creating identity performances. What Kind of Information Society? Governance, Virtuality, Surveillance, Sustainability, Resilience. Retrieved from https://hal.inria.fr/file/index/docid/1058173/filename/03280125.pdf

 

Utz, S. (2010). Show me your friends and I will tell you what type of person you are: How one’s profile, number of friends, and type of friends influence impression formation on social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, (15)2, (pp 314-335). Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/doi/full/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2010.01522.x

 

Van Der Nagel, E. and Frith, J. (2015). Anonymity, pseudonymity, and the agency of online identity: Examining the social practices of r/Gonewild. First Monday, 20(3), Retrieved from http://www.ojphi.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/5615/4346

 

 

28 thoughts on “Fake it ‘till you make it: LinkedIn users manipulating their profiles to land their dream job

  1. Great read about having to “fake it to make it”. For someone such as myself at a certain age (well past 30). Looking for work is almost impossible thesedays so having to go to those lengths is what people have to do as well. Hiding age for employment is something I do myself but if someone via Linked In asks about the age question (which last I heard about is technically illlegal but they still do). You say “… web personas can be constructed and manipulated from the writer themselves … ” whats the best approach for job applicants using the Linked In social media platform should this question come up on or even offline?

    You also say “Credibility is a vital commodity on LinkedIn, where relationships built on mutual trust might produce business opportunities or career advancement”. In this day & age if you have multiple experiences with different sectors of the workforce the last thing a retailer hiring wants to see is any connection to live sound or video editing so with mine I drop that out. I often question myself if that is actually ethical to “omit” from a resume on or offline but I’ve noticed if I do I get more results. Is there a way to have multiple resumes on the Linked In social media platform? I haven’t used it for years. With Seek you can have several which is handy.

    1. Hi David, thanks for reading my paper and for your thoughtful questions!

      Firstly, being in the same age group as you I have to agree that its been challenging in the job search market. Mostly because I’m trying to change careers from warehousing to get into web development. I’ve only recently created a LinkedIn profile – I’ve never needed one until now.

      Having said that, the age issue doesn’t really come up – at least in the web development realm. Because it is such a new and evolving career choice (building websites based around creating great experiences for the user has really only been around for the last 10-15 years), web developers come from all age groups and work experiences, the fact that people have gravitated to it from all walks of life means that there is a lot of diversity in the field. From my experiences on LinkedIn, the web dev world is really accepting of people from all walks of life – employers don’t really care how old you are or what you were doing before you came here, as long as you have the drive to build your skills that is the most important factor when hiring tech newbies. So answering your question…in my experience being open and honest about your profile, sharing with your audience when you learn a new skill, asking for help when you get stuck building a website – these are all things that show you are active in the web dev community (which tech companies love, especially when you are new to the industry and don’t have a lot of ‘real world’ experience). Obviously this will vary depending on the industry you are working in.

      In answer to your second question, I also tweak my resume depending on the job I’m applying for. I have worked in a lot of different industries, so talking about my call centre experience is really not going to help me if I’m applying for a warehousing job. I agree it does feel a little misleading, and in some cases maybe adding in experiences that seem irrelevant to the job might be good because it shows you are not one-dimensional and are willing to add other skills to your repertoire.

      I have looked into whether LinkedIn allows you to upload multiple versions of your resume, and I haven’t really seen any evidence that you can, although as I’m relatively new to the platform I could be wrong. However it does have a neat feature called ‘endorsements’ where you can list your skills on your profile. Things like being able to use Excel, Adobe Photoshop, or customer service experience, basically anything you want to list can go up on your profile, and the idea is that people in your network can endorse these skills by clicking on it, which is useful because anyone who views your profile can see that you actually are good at what you say you are. Credibility is king!

  2. Hi Jarrod

    I have never really paid much attention to LinkedIn as I always thought of it as a sort of Facebook for individuals in professions such as medicine, law and politics, so it was interesting to read your piece.

    While I think it is sneaky, manipulating the truth could help you land a job but I have to wonder if it would lead to long-term employment. If you did not have the skill level you claim to and that was one of the reasons you were hired, would the employer be more likely to keep and train you or would they dismiss you and hire someone else?
    Also, users hiding specific details on a platform that is supposed to assist users to gain employment seems a little pointless. I have to agree that I would much rather know more about a potential employee and would likely skip over individuals with incomplete profiles. However, I also agree with David’s comment about omitting specific details from their resume that, if they remained, could potentially lower your chances of getting a job. I wonder if this is true for all industries or just specific ones.

    As for name dropping, I have to agree that sometimes it is not what you know, it is who you know (or who knows what you know) that can get you the job. It is a disadvantage for those who do not know individuals in the field or company they are hoping to gain employment, but I suppose getting in without name dropping would feel like more of an achievement than getting the job based on who you know.

    Thank you for writing this piece. I am now interested to explore LinkedIn and see if it could be beneficial to me and my career.

    1. Hi Amy,
      thanks for reading my paper, some great questions here!

      Yes you make a really good point about the long term effects of deception to gain employment. I’ve worked a lot in the warehousing industry and I have personally worked with people who have lied about having certain tickets or qualifications just so they could get the job. Safety-wise that is obviously a massive problem, and I wonder how often this happens in more blue-collar jobs. I know that some of the companies I’ve worked for in the past have clauses in their contracts stating that employees can be fired if it comes out that they have been lying about their credentials, though obviously it depends on the industry and the individual company. If they have been misleading about a certain skill that is fundamental to the role then that will become apparent soon enough.

      In my experience on LinkedIn, I am in the process of getting my foot in the door in the web development world. As a newbie looking for an entry-level position, potential employers know that I’m not going to have a lot of ‘real world’ experience working for an agency building websites. So, as long as I am honest about the skills I don’t have, and my portfolio shows that I do have the passion to build my skills, many tech companies are happy to take you in and mentor you.

      And yes, its definitely who you know and not what you know a lot of the time. Coming from the web dev world once again, there is a real emphasis on mentorship and community. In Brisbane, tech meetup groups is a really big thing in the industry. Anyone who wants to be someone in the web dev world has either attended or spoken at a tech meetup at some point in their career, and these are posted about all the time on LinkedIn as great places to network and meet people in person that you know only through LinkedIn.

      1. Hi Jarrod,

        I personally understand someone stating on their resume that they have a skill that they have not been professionally trained in if they are indeed skilled in it, but when it comes to safety I think the employer should make sure the employee is qualified. You definitely make LinkedIn sound like an essential tool in getting a job and I hope it helps you land your dream job.

        Kind regards,
        Amy

  3. Hi Jarrod,
    thanks for your insights on this topic. I really like LinkedIn, but feel the pressure of maintaining a current profile and ‘managing my impression’. You’ve reminded me that I need to update really soon!

    Having been self-employed during the first eight years of young children and moving states, I was concerned about finding employment with no industry contacts, and perhaps a previous work history that meant nothing in a new state. I landed a fabulous job via LinkedIn (where Seek has given me no interviews despite excellent experience). The ‘recommended jobs’ feature gave me a selection every few days and I was back in the workforce two weeks later.

    You’re right that we mould that profile, in the same way we would mould a resumé. However, Donath and boyd (2004) also discuss the potential loss of reputation to an individual who sends a false “signal” (p. 3). In LinkedIn, this could be posting images or name dropping about false connections. In my own paper in this conference (Rounding up the loyalists: Building brand communities in web 2.0), I discuss rankings as a way of signalling trust. For LinkedIn, the rating of skills by a third party can be an excellent prevention against deception regarding experience/skills. If a third party endorses inaccurately, this could potentially impact on their reputation, and I would argue that in a formal peformance space such as LinkedIn, professionals would think carefully before endorsing – I certainly do.

    Donath, J., & boyd, d. (2004). Public displays of connection. BT Technology Journal, 22, 71-82. Retrieved from http://smg.media.mit.edu/papers/Donath/socialnetdisplay.draft.pdf

    1. Hi Sarah, thanks for checking out my paper!

      That’s actually a great point you make….there really IS pressure to maintain your LinkedIn profile. Being new to the platform, I’ve definitely noticed at times that I feel lazy or that I will ‘fall behind’ if I don’t check back regularly. I don’t post anything on LinkedIn, but I feel this urgency to at least scroll through and stay up to date with what’s going on that I’ve never had with Facebook or Instagram. Maybe this happens more so when we are unsettled in our job and know we need to start getting our presence up again to look for another job – in much the same way as I never bother updating my resume until the time I need to find a new job.

      Great point about the rating of skills too. LinkedIn’s feature of endorsing skills is an important way to establish credibility. Anyone can lie on their resume that they can do something, but having your past bosses vouch for your skills really shows to potential employers that you can do what you say.

      1. Yes, maybe when we’re unsettled in the job, but also, each week when I see I was ‘viewed X times”, I feel that pressure… and annoyed that my profile might be a bit old!
        (Still on my to-do list!)

  4. Hi Jarrod,
    After reading your paper, I found it interesting to consider LinkedIn as a social network in comparison to Facebook and Instagram (where the objective is often just social) compared to LinkedIn where many users are motivated to participate to build a corporate or employment targeted network. The self-presentation on LinkedIn could be considered a more public version of your CV. Contrary to the traditional CV you are joining an online community, and as a member it is expected that users conform to groups norms. You highlight the importance of trust and creditability.
    Another difference that I find fascinating is the attractiveness of connections differs on social media sites. Consider why you follow someone on Instragram versus LinkedIn. Following on Instagram could be thought of as a form of entertainment, while on LinkedIn there is potentially a more contrived motivation for future employment.
    I enjoyed reading your paper, and thinking about self-presentation on LinkedIn

    1. Hi Nadine,

      that’s an interesting point you make about the attractiveness of the people we follow. One thing I really struggle to understand is why people actively follow Instagram ‘influencers’, we know they are just spruikers and unless we are going to buy the products they endorse I don’t understand the point in following them.

      LinkedIn on the other hand, when we follow key business people, its often because we’re trying to pick up information or advice from them, to help our career or business grow. LinkedIn seems to have more of a transactional exchange going on than Instagram. Or maybe the exchange is just different

  5. Hi Jarrod,

    I enjoyed reading your article.
    I am on LinkedIn, but the majority of my connections are from my current or previous workplaces, so it would be difficult for me to deceive on the platform. Further, my current boss monitors her employees LinkedIn profiles to make sure she is happy with how they represent the business.
    Do you think it is likely that people are still lying even if they have their current coworkers as connections on LinkedIn? What type of things would they lie about or omit?

    Thanks
    Hayley

    1. Gee Hayley, I’m not sure I’d be happy if my boss was deciding what I can and can’t say on my personal LinkedIn profile. How do you all feel about that?

      A common thing for people with really big followings is to show images of themselves with influential people. It’s not that they are lying – a coworker knows that “X” was photographed with “influential person” at last week’s national conference, where they were keynote speaker. But weak ties see the image and may be impressed, assuming X is also an influencer/someone to follow.

    2. Hi Hayley and Jarrod,

      I’ve heard of employers checking Facebook pages and profiles, but this is the first time I’ve heard of employers monitoring LinkedIn. I haven’t actively used LinkedIn in years, but from memory it doesn’t have the same level of privacy settings and options as Facebook to segregate who can see different aspects of your profile.
      I also wondered about whether people would lie on a connected network, which is far more open to scrutinty and fact-checking than lying on a printed resume.

      With regards to the ‘impression management’ and name dropping, I am aware of one person whose account was targeted by multiple would-be connections when her husband was promoted to a senior management position. I’ve never understood the desire or need to network aggressively like that and I find the entire setup to be off-putting.

      I agree with Amy’s comment above that LinkedIn became like Facebook for professionals and a Forbes article in 2015 noted that the ‘publishing’ features that were added to encourage business people to post professional articles turned into users posting memes, puzzles and animated gifs (Priestly, 2015). Does this loosen the ties and lose the function of connection? Among my former colleagues there is a running joke that everyone that has the opportunity to ‘endorse’ someone for Workplace Health and Safety, has to. It seems that the high-stake professional network has eroded into a network of friends.


      Priestly, T. (2015) “LinkedIn is not Facebook, but it clearly wants to be and it’s turning away users” https://www.forbes.com/sites/theopriestley/2015/07/25/linkedin-is-not-facebook-but-it-clearly-wants-to-be-and-its-turning-away-users/#7dd48cc01c27

      1. Hi Barbara,

        That’s an interesting point. Being only new to LinkedIn myself, I have heard that the culture on there has definitely shifted from what it started out as. But thinking about it more, perhaps most social media has evolved in the same way. When people first start out on a new platform there’s a bit of trepidation, but over time as people get used to what it can offer, users become more more relaxed about what they post or the image they project.

        Also, maybe another factor might have to do with the fact that a lot of jobs nowadays are looking for people that fit the workplace culture and not hire purely on skillset alone (which I don’t think was really a thing in decades past). Do you think perhaps this might impact LinkedIn users showing more personality on the platform?

        1. One thing I’ve noticed (and that suprises me) with the research that we’ve done, is that personality psychology doesn’t seem to be something that’s taken into account when looking at identity and community. It would be interesting to explore these topics from that angle and take into account group dynamics and behaviour psychology.
          I do think however, that social network theory comes into play here, where many interactions over time strengthen ties and relationship norms such as trust, reciprocity and cooperation develop (Porter, 2015). So I agree that people overcome their initial trepidation and feel comfortable within these evolving communities, and in doing so the purpose of the platform changes and has to adapt.

          Porter, C. E. (2015). Virtual communities and social networks. In L. Cantoni and J. A. Danowski, (eds). Communication and Technology. Berlin: De Gruyter. pp. 161 – 179

          1. Yes, Barbara, that’s true. I really like to connect with my weak professional ties on LinkedIn whereas I wouldn’t on FB.

    3. Hi Hayley,

      wow that’s kinda crazy. I didn’t think employers would do that kind of thing? Do you work for a small business or a larger one? Maybe owners of smaller businesses might be more inclined to protect their image a little more.

      That’s really interesting though. Do you post on LinkedIn often?

      1. Hi Jarrod,

        I work at a large company actually! I don’t share a lot – but I know that my manager has pulled people up on having less-than-professional profile pictures, and even made a coworker of mine remove the ‘open to opportunities’ line in his profile! 🙁

    4. The number of employers checking the social media of prospective employees is on the raise. LinkedIn makes it very easy to check, and in my mind it’s the preferable place for any employment related inquiry or expression. However, I’ve also heard of research in the US that employers check prospective friends, not just the employee’s accounts. This all points to the caution all users should have when posting anything online on any platform. The imagined audience, may be very different from the actual audience.

  6. Hi Jarrod,
    I found your paper very interested and relatable to mine on the topic of Self presentation and identity in the professional sense. I have written on a simpler topic in regards to these issues in social dating apps.
    Particularly to your point about online and offline visual cues are read differently and credibility is harder to gage when participating in online communication compared to offline. I also had similar comment in my paper in regards people’s connections make them more trust worthy and linked in has the ability for people to check these out before engaging in a connection.
    How do you think fake or exaggerated profiles can be monitors in the future? Linked in is such a large network it would be very difficult t to filter out who is being genuine or not.
    Do you think the site will implement more honesty services?

    1. Hi Alexandra,

      Chris makes some good points in his article (link in his comment below), where he highlights how LinkedIn uses algorithms and data tracking to monitor everything we do on the platform. So although people might project a misleading image of themselves, I think the fact that everything we do on the social media app leaves a trace, and considering how communities and networks operate over LinkedIn – I’m sure someone would come unstuck pretty quickly if they got too carried away.

      Also LinkedIn’s recommendation and skills verification system is one way to keep people in line too, which is great because it benefits the individual and recruiters checking our your profile.

  7. Hi Jarrod,

    I really enjoyed your article. It had a different spin to my own which was also about LinkedIn and impression management. I use LinkedIn daily and I have often come across profiles which are not completely accurate and often misleading. I think people try to market themselves in a way which often doesn’t portray real life.. maybe it is easier to lie online than in person? It is an interesting conversation to have. I know many businesses have used disruptive marketing techniques which are often misleading however create a buzz and attention. Social media at is core is about attention and impression. I believe we are all on social media to have our say and to be heard.. one could say to have the spot light on us. It would be interesting to understand your view on my paper as I have focused on more the recruiter and business engagement: http://networkconference.netstudies.org/2018OUA/2018/04/21/attracting-employer-and-recruiter-attention-through-self-presentation-and-impression-management-on-linkedin/

    Best regards,

    Chris

  8. Hey Jarrod,

    Great paper, and great discussion into identity performance in online networks (linkedin). I won’t rehash on what the others have said, but when you researched and wrote this paper, did you form an opinion on whether there is an acceptable amount of deception when it comes to linkedin, and if so, where would that line be drawn?

    Jeff

    1. Hey Jeff,

      Thanks for the kind words. Through writing this paper I think I have come to form the opinion that some sort of deception is inevitable. Though I think more perhaps its more that people don’t outright lie about having a certain skill, its more that they may not have as much experience utilising that skill as they say they do. I would imagine it would be pretty common for people to use a skill as an ‘in’ and then “get their hours up” once they have the job.

  9. This was a fascinating read and align with my personal thoughts about how LinkedIn operates for some time. It is definitely a hard to spot distinction between genuinely accurate LinkedIn profiles and profiles that have taken a bit of liberty with the information and qualifications that they have supplied. A user can word their profiles in a deceiving way that may be _technically_ true in terms of experience and/or qualifications, but can frequently use generic vague wording that can land in a number of categories and doesn’t give a reviewer a clear inside into the individuals professional experience.

    I also think an issue is, if everyone else is doing it, that is – inaccurately portraying their professional self via LinkedIn profiles – are you at a disadvantage if you don’t follow suit? Can you afford to not do the same if it’s become expected amongst recruiters and other viewers?

    Regarding your quote – “users thoughtfully construct a persona that mirrors how they want to be perceived by a particular audience, and consequently, all of their interactions within this realm remains consistent in maintaining the persona.”

    This is a fantastic point, and upon further thinking about it – LinkedIn is no different from any other online social service, be it professional or otherwise in the sense that you cannot confirm the information, and that facade that a user process, perhaps it’s just a bit more important with deceiving LinkedIn profiles as it can rob a potential candidate of the dream job if a dishonest LinkedIn user manages to land a job via deception, that has significant real-world repercussions for other potential suitors.

    A great and insightful read – well done!

    1. Hi Patrick,

      thanks for your kind words and thoughtful insight!
      Regarding your question ‘are you at a disadvantage if you don’t follow suit?’ I think there is some merit to this question.
      In the web design realm, I’ve noticed that when it comes to filling entry-level positions, recruiters are actually quite forgiving when candidates don’t have all of the necessary skills. From what I have read on LinkedIn, recruiters don’t necessarily always hire the guy who knows every coding language – as long as you can show dedication to learn and are genuine and honest about what you do or don’t know – you stand just as much chance as the next candidate.

      So the short answer to your question…No you’re not at a disadvantage, however I imagine this would be different in other industries

  10. Reply to Jarrod Waerea – Fake it til you make it
    Truth manipulation on LinkedIn is an interesting concept to consider. It’s almost a given that everyone is at it so is the conclusion that the altruistic types who aren’t are this missing out on lucrative opportunities? Has it almost reached the stage where we should all think that everyone else is lying on there, so I may as well? It is generally accepted by HR types that most CVs have a fair proportion of stretched truths within them so perhaps LinkedIn is symptomatic of the recruitment process as a whole?
    The issue with regards lying about qualifications, etc. is quite apt this week given the WA MP who made up a whole stack of qualifications, forged degrees and what not and he made it past a ton of gatekeepers and fact checkers before he was found out.
    People lie, particularly if they think a lie will land them a lucrative job and that there is little chance of them being found out. Once they’re in the door they can wing-it and learn on the go and any incompetence early-doors will not usually be seen by the HR person who appointed them in the first place.
    Or maybe it’s the cynic in me coming out?

    1. Hi Adam,

      I hadn’t heard that story about the MP, that’s really interesting. Considering how easy it is to dig down and check records, I’m really surprised that someone could be so obnoxious to think they wouldn’t be found out.

      Obviously completely fabricating qualifications to get the job is at the extreme end of the scale, but what about when people have a skill but lie about how much experience they have utilising it? Do you think that is the most common deception of all?

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