Talent Acquisition

A Psychic’s 7-Step Guide to LinkedIn

You’ve read the CV, the candidate is looking good and now you want to dig deeper. When you pull up their LinkedIn profile do you come away revved up, leaping around and excited or flat, face-down and colder than an undertaker’s handshake?

Some LinkedIn profiles are clearly well thought-through and do a positive job for their owners, but others can be tricky to read. Facing facts, LinkedIn simply isn’t as important to some people as it is to us and some candidates just are poor at presenting themselves. In neither case does it necessarily mean that they wouldn’t be a brilliant choice for your organisation.

The other side of that coin is that, no matter how well their profile reads, some candidates really are duplicitous bare-faced liars, if not actually lying con-artists. The LinkedIn profile of one otherwise promising candidate proudly told me they’d spent four years doing an engineering degree at the University of East Anglia. All well and good, except they’d apparently started when they were sixteen and bravely taken a course that the university had never run.

Still others are just wildly out of touch with the civilised world. With an epic twist, one promising candidate put their view on life to me as, “There’s no I in team and there never will be if I have anything to do with it. I’m a leader and the team’s job is to follow me.” That was good of them to be so upfront about their own colossal shortcomings, but I’d have much rather saved the meeting-time wasted.

Behind the veil

It’s vital to read between the lines of a Linkedin profile, if you’re going to develop a more accurate view of whether a candidate is likely to be worth the interview-time, or not.

  1. Polish your crystal ball. Don’t just read a LinkedIn profile in the same way you’ve just read the CV or application. You expect it to be an extension of the CV, not a repetition of it so, likewise, extend your thinking beyond the obvious re-review of spelling punctuation, grammar, dates, gaps, qualifications, jobs and experience.
  2. Is there anybody there? What do you think they’re like as a person? Can you even tell? Can you see an exciting personality, or merely a professional plodder, character-free and wedded to the straight-and-narrow? For some roles, the latter may be more attractive, but at least think about what they’re unconsciously telling you about themselves.
  3. The real Slim Shady? Is the tone, style, presentation and career over-view that you pick up from the candidate’s LinkedIn profile consistent with their CV, or does it jar in some way? Pin down specifically what’s bothering you. If you feel as though you’re seeing two different people, which one is real? Whichever, give that the greatest weight.
  4. Snog, marry or avoid? Consider whether the candidate is actually engaged with their industry and profession and might therefore be a keeper. With no visible evidence of reading, commenting or contributing on anything, are they still current? Tease out the pattern of their networking activities and how it’s changed over time. Do they commit to relationships with their employers, or are they serial self-centred philanderers, always on the lookout for their next pull?
  5. Check for life. If a candidate has taken the trouble to update their CV, but hasn’t done the same with their LinkedIn profile, consider whether their application is merely a knee-jerk to seeing your ad. If they’re being opportunistic, are they also lazy, bored or disengaged with their role, or even under-threat? If their current employer section hasn’t been updated since they first started their last role, you may be looking at a journeyman, or a risky prospect with something to hide, not a go-getter.
  6. Give and take. A great candidate should be thinking about what they can do for you, rather than themselves and what they want next. Look for clues in whether they frame their experiences to give you sufficient context to judge their worth realistically. Are they working for an industry leader, a total non-entity or the sector’s next dead-cat bounce company? Can you see the scale of their “35% improvement in … “? Only context can give you sufficient perspective to make valid judgements.
  7. Consistency. Strong and genuine candidates are inevitably consistent. Using a mix of both the first and third person, coupled with the use of mixed tenses, implies inconsistency. Many candidates miss those even when they proof-read their efforts. Taken individually, both recommendations and endorsements are generally unreliable LinkedIn tools, but the pattern of them on a profile can certainly provide an indication of a candidate’s consistency.

On another plane

The challenge is always there – you don’t want to miss out on what really is a stellar candidate just because they don’t love LinkedIn as much as you, but equally you don’t want to end up with a narcissistic sociopath equipped with a set of team-destroying abilities that would impress Old Nick himself. However, it’s certain that thinking more widely about what a candidate is unconsciously telling you will save you a lot of time and eliminate some significant hiring risks. You can literally take your selection processes to the next level.

About the author: Jon Gregory an experienced management consultant, re-organisation specialist and recruitment professional. He currently works with both organisations and individuals, helping to get the right people working effectively in the right jobs.. He’s also the editor of

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