I definitely have mixed feelings about LinkedIn. It’s helped me get several jobs, but it can also have the same pitfalls of any social network. Plus some that are unique to LinkedIn. If Linkedin is annoying you, here are some things I did to make LinkedIn less annoying and more helpful.
Dealing with recruiters who make Linkedin annoying
If you want to get a recruiter’s attention on LinkedIn, here’s a life hack. Post a fake job change that happened anywhere from 30 to 120 days ago. Maybe I’m imagining things, but it sure seems like I get more attention from recruiters right after I start a new job than I get from them when I’m actually looking for a job and have my LinkedIn set to say that I’m looking for a job.
The problem with this strategy is the quality of the interest you will attract. It’s like wearing a fake wedding band to a singles bar.
I never get any inquiries during this time that I would consider. Right after taking a new job, I had two different recruiters reach out to me about two different jobs I used to have several years ago. Not just the same job title. The same job title with the same company I used to work at. My literal old job. One even said that my experience really stood out. Considering I once had the job and was good at it, I’m sure my experience does check a lot of the boxes they are looking for.
Thing is, if there were mutual interest in a reunion, wouldn’t we already be talking? I do still talk to people at most of my former employers at least occasionally.
I’ve also had a recruiter reach out to me on a Friday afternoon about a job that started on Monday morning. That’s not a situation I’d want to get involved in even if I were in between jobs at the time. Too many red flags.
And I know it’s not just me. One time a CISO posted an inquiry he got from a recruiter, trying to recruit him for a helpdesk gig. A CISO, if you’re not aware of the term, is the company’s vice president of computer security. The CISO’s response went viral, as one might expect.
As tempting as it is to ask these types of recruiters if people who just started a job 4 months ago frequently take them up on opportunities, it’s a waste of time. Some number of recruiters just search and fire off inquiries to everybody who matches, just like a spammer selling toner cartridges. And they’re just as responsive when you engage them.
It dawned on me that if I need a recruiter for whatever odd reason, I know who I’ll call. There are recruiters I have used in the past who have placed me successfully, they know the market, they know my track record, and I probably have their phone number. I have no need for recruiters who throw everything they can find at the wall to see what sticks.
So my first trick for making LinkedIn less annoying is if a recruiter constantly sends random junk to you that you’re not interested in, don’t engage. Just block them. They’re going to send you another one, the next one won’t be any better, and even if they were interested, you’ll just be one of a hundred resumes they submit anyway. If the job is any good, call a recruiter you’ve worked with before so you actually have a chance. To block someone, click on the person’s profile, then click More, then click Report/Block and click block. Now they won’t be able to contact you.
Here are some more tips for finding and working with recruiters.
Tune your profile to make Linkedin less annoying
The best thing I ever did on LinkedIn was to go through and revisit all of my old job descriptions and clean them up.We’re going to spend a long time here talking about your profile, but your profile can attract noise or it can attract like-minded people. So let’s talk about tuning your profile to cut down the noise.
When I first started on LinkedIn, I uploaded what was then my current resume, and I hadn’t touched my old job descriptions in at least 10 years. Here’s the problem with that. HR people are always looking for reasons to eliminate somebody. I was advised many years ago that my job selling computers at Best Buy when I was 19 years old is a black mark on my track record. It doesn’t matter that it was so long ago we still had shrinkwrapped copies of MS-DOS on the shelves and people bought them. Nor does it matter that I was really good at it. Nor does it matter that I was selling computers. It’s irrelevant and it might as well have been yesterday and it makes me unqualified to be your security architect today, CISSP or no CISSP.
That discussion regarding my retail experience happened before I opened my LinkedIn profile, so I never had that on my LinkedIn. But it occurred to me that some of my old job duties were probably hurting me. I was getting inquiries about stuff I haven’t done in years, and maybe when I applied for stuff people were getting hung up on my old job duties, deciding I was still a printer administrator.
My resume and Linkedin profile work a lot better if they make it look like the job I am applying for is the only thing I’ve ever done.
If you can’t do it well today, you might as well remove it
How did I tune it? I looked for work I would rather not do today, like printer maintenance, and job duties that I wouldn’t do well today because I’m so out of practice. DNS administration and Active Directory come to mind. I was reasonably competent at both of them at one time, but I haven’t touched DNS since 2005 and Active Directory since 2009.
So any lines that mention anything I don’t want to do anymore, or wouldn’t do capably anymore because it’s been too long, I deleted. I basically look like I haven’t done anything in IT other than patch management or vulnerability management since 1997.
Is it a misrepresentation? I was indeed pushing patches in 1997. Y2K was top of everyone’s mind in 1997, and I was the most junior administrator. I applied more Y2K patches than anyone on my team that year. And pushing patches is the one thing I was doing in 1997 that I can still do really well today.
There were other factors involved that probably also contributed, but I had far less trouble getting a new job this last time than I ever did before.
Guess what else happened? It eliminated those random messages from recruiters and asking me if I wanted a 3-month temp gig five states away doing Active Directory. Now at least all those random messages are about security gigs.
The skills section
This doesn’t seem to be as much of a thing on LinkedIn anymore, but there is a skills section where you can list your skills and people you know will endorse you for those skills. My highest rated skills were for random stuff not really related to anything I do now. I deleted any skills that aren’t related directly to my specialty of vulnerability management, or the specialty I interact with the most, which is patch management.
My profile shows my evolution from 1997 turning me into what I am today. If you read my whole profile, you see that I was doing patching starting in 1997, migrating legacy operating systems to what was then the latest and greatest, and how I moved on to larger and larger networks over the course of the next decade or so, eventually deploying patches that fixed a total of 800,000 vulnerabilities. I then pivoted into security, where are my skill at patching helped eliminate blockers in some very expensive and time critical projects where lives were actually at stake in some cases. And then I pivoted to vulnerability management where I turned around failing programs and worked well above my pay grade before moving into the vendor space, where I’ve now worked with more than 80 companies improving their vulnerability management programs.
My profile makes it very clear what I am and what I want to continue to be. Because I make no mention of wanting to change anything anywhere in the profile. If you contact me out of the blue about something completely unrelated any of that, I know you didn’t look at my profile. You just keyword sprayed and I happened to match on something.
If you get too much noise and spam, I think you probably need to tune your profile the same way I did. It’ll really help you if you’re looking for a job right now. If you’re not, it will cut down on the noise, and then your profile will be ready to go if and when you ever do need to look for a new job.
Posts in your feed that make Linkedin annoying
Some people insist on using social media to share their political or religious views with everyone they possibly can. Ideally they want to convert as many of them as possible to those same views. That is one type of annoying LinkedIn post.
Another type is people trying to sell you things, especially things you don’t buy very often. I get random connection requests from insurance agents and financial advisors and realtors all the time. Except those connections, and soon your LinkedIn feed becomes a list of non-stop houses for sale and pictures for insurance or financial products. These aren’t the kinds of things I make decisions about on social media, and I don’t think very many other people do either. I don’t recommend it.
There is nothing wrong with using LinkedIn to try to do business. That’s what it’s for. Wall to wall real estate listings and financial products is spam when you aren’t in the market for any of it. But I get trying to do your job.
The political stuff and religious stuff is a bigger problem. Some of the stuff is misinformation and propaganda, and in extreme cases can kill you. But of all the social networks LinkedIn is the worst about making policies about safety and then not enforcing them.
Reporting this content doesn’t do any good. I’ve tried. But there are two things you can do when you see content that you don’t want to see. You can unfollow or mute the people posting that, so you remain connected, but you won’t see their content in your feed anymore. You can also remove your connection with that person. That’s more extreme, but there are people who will judge you by the company you keep, and if you have connections with large numbers of extremists, that can reflect badly on you.
In really extreme cases, you can also block them.
Linkedin is not a dating service
And of course, the usual thing that comes to mind when someone says HR violation is also a problem on LinkedIn. I don’t have much problem with this, being a middle-aged male, but I’ve seen others run into it. LinkedIn is not a dating service. If that’s what you’re looking for, there are places for that. You fill out a profile, tell him what you’re looking for and what you are, and they look for people and match you up with people who not only are looking, but seem to be looking for someone kind of like you.
Chances are everyone reading this knows about that. But if some of your connections don’t, the safest thing to do may be to block them. Click on the person’s profile, then click More, then click Report/Block and click block. Now they won’t be able to contact you.
What to do when it happens
In some cases, I’ve needed to reconsider some professional relationships. Some people aren’t what I thought they were. I’m sure I’m not what some people thought I was. Or maybe I’m no longer the person that I was when they worked with me. That’s also a possibility.
There are some people I have worked with I have blocked on LinkedIn, usually for complex reasons. But if a person makes you feel unsafe, block them. Click on the person’s profile, then click More, then click Report/Block and click block. Now they won’t be able to contact you.
More frequently what I do when people are posting stuff on LinkedIn that I don’t want to see and I think is toxic is I just unfollow them. That way we’re still connected, so someone who knows both of us has an easier time finding me if they want or need to, but I don’t have to deal with their drama in my feed.
You don’t have to accept every connection request
This was one I took a long time to learn. You don’t have to accept every connection request. I don’t recommend that you do that. The more connections you have, the more stuff you see in your feed, but you also see more irrelevant stuff in your feed. I have more than 500 connections, and frankly, I could probably get by with a hundred.
I accept connection requests from people I genuinely know, or from people who do the same kind of work that I do. But there’s no reason to accept requests from random people you don’t know and who don’t do the same kind of work you do just because you know some of the same people.
The same goes for recruiters. It’s fairly rare for a recruiter to speak with me again after trying to place me at a job and it not working out. There is nothing wrong with going through your connections and removing any recruiters you don’t expect to ever work with again.
And then there’s the LinkedIn creeper. These are the people who view your profile repeatedly. They never engage, and they’re not nice to you in person, but they seem to be obsessed with you.
I’m sure this happens to women a lot more often than it happens to men, but this is something toxic people just do. Toxic men creep on other men too, just not necessarily for the same reason.
Sometimes current co-workers will look at your profile innocently. They may be looking for the answer to a question and it’s quicker and easier to look on your profile than to ask. I had one co-worker pull up my profile a couple of times, and then the next time we talked, he apologized for repeatedly viewing my profile, and told me what it was he was getting from the profile. Come to think of it, that’s happened a couple of times. That’s not toxic and it’s not creeping.
But I’ve also had times when someone was obviously looking for trouble.
Then there are times when people you once worked with end up working at a competitor. I have a few of those. And when they creep on my profile, that’s different.
When someone seems to be looking for trouble, I usually block them so I can disappear. In the case of competitors creeping on my profile, they can keep doing it for all I care. That’s a compliment.
Privacy settings to make Linkedin less annoying
One more thing to keep in mind about LinkedIn. You can pay for the service, but you don’t have to. You’re the product. Even if you pay for it, you’re still the product. You just have a few more rights and privileges that someone who doesn’t pay gets.
Click on your picture in the upper right and click Settings and Privacy. Look over the settings. There are more than 100 of them. I won’t necessarily tell you which ones you want to have on or off, but I turned most of them off.
I do want to call your attention to a couple of the settings. It is possible, if they have enough other information about you, for someone to get your email address or your phone number from LinkedIn. If you get a lot of unsolicited offers to buy your house or get too many political phone calls and have no idea how they found you, it’s possible the information came from LinkedIn. I turned off the settings that let you get my phone number or email address. Way too many people have both. My 89% full Gmail inbox and my spam messages on my phone can testify to that. There’s also an option to hide your last name, which I recommend using.
A lot of the settings are about sending you relevant ads. I recommend turning all of those off. It means that the ads you get will be random, and that you probably won’t be interested in them. But if you’ve ever wondered why you are seeing a commercial on Hulu for something you visited on your computer yesterday, relevant ads are why. Signing up for relevant ads is signing up to be profiled.
Now, even if you opt out, you will still be profiled to a degree. Here’s what to do about that.
Poisoning the well
Twitter thinks I want to buy a Buick. That’s kind of random. I’m completely fine with them thinking that.
There is a running joke on a YouTube channel I like about a product called baking powder for fluffy muffins. They use it to clean old computers, not to make them fluffy. The product is sold by a grocery store in the UK called Waitrose and Partners. I follow them on all social media. I do not live in the UK.
None of the social networks know my exact age. They all know my approximate age, but my date of birth isn’t right on any of them. It’s off by some random amount.
It’s not about hiding completely. I wouldn’t blog if I were trying to hide completely, and I would certainly use a pseudonym. Believe it or not, there are dozens of David Farquhars, if not hundreds of us. I get mistaken for some of the others anyway, without me doing anything. It’s been happening for years. But with social media profiling, being hard to pin down is more important.