Looking for a job? Don't tell LinkedIn


While having a resume means you’re looking for a job, having a LinkedIn profile does not send the same signal.

As a result, many job seekers think they need to say on their profile that they are actively searching.Otherwise, how else would a hiring manager or recruiter know to contact them? So they’ll add phrases like “open to new opportunities” or “seeking the next exciting challenge” or “seeking a position in...”

However, it is not good to add these phrases to their profile, or anything else that indicates they are looking. Here’s why.

They will contact you anyway

Everyone who uses LinkedIn for hiring (including both recruiters and hiring managers) knows to contact people who don’t appear to be actively looking, if these people fit the bill. In fact, some recruiters will often unfairly give a preference to what they term “passive” candidates - those not actively looking.

This preference is partly the result of the psychology around playing hard-to-get, and partly because of a bias against those who are unemployed.

There is a bias against hiring the unemployed

This unfair and unfortunate bias has been documented. So you don’t want to put any verbiage in your profile that serves to underscore your currently unemployed status. If you do happen to be currently unemployed, by the way, here are a few ways to overcome this bias:

1. Don’t just “apply” or rely on headhunters, because that’s where your current employment gap will hurt you the most. Network to get introductions, and contact “strangers” directly. That is, tap into the hidden job market. Then you will be seen as a person, not just a piece of paper.

Getting interviews using these channels makes all the difference, and this is how most of my clients land jobs these days.

2. Fill the gap with unpaid work. Some unpaid experience can be even more valuable than your paid experience! Don’t relegate this work to the “Volunteer” section at the bottom of your resume, put it right at the top of your experience to fill that gap.

For example, join an association that represents your job target, and run a committee for them. Or if you’ve helped friends, family or colleagues for free using your expertise, you are now a consultant. You don’t need to advertise that you weren’t paid for your valuable consulting work.

3. If you’ve taken a few classes, fill that gap with a “job” called “Continuing Education” or something similar, and then list the classes you’ve taken that will resonate with your target audience.

You’ll get the wrong kind of attention

Clients who indicated they were looking for a job on their LinkedIn profile have been bombarded with requests to connect, as well as other messages that wasted their time. Worse, some clients made the mistake of accepting connection requests from these strangers who really had no intention of helping them.

Because my clients connected with so many unhelpful strangers, when they conducted “advanced people searches” on LinkedIn to get introductions through their network, the people-search results were clogged with these strangers who would never help them.

The One Exception: A New LinkedIn feature

LinkedIn has a new feature called “Let Recruiters Know You’re Open” that tells a subset of recruiters that you are open to new opportunities. The only recruiters who see that you’ve turned on this indicator are: recruiters whose organisations have paid for the premium “LinkedIn Recruiter” add-on. Those who don’t work at your current organisation.

If you’re currently employed, this indicator will be hidden from recruiters who work at your organisation, to protect your privacy.