Many people fib a little on their resumes. But outright lying on your LinkedIn profile? That's a huge no-no.

by Jame-Ane Ervin


Are you using LinkedIn, the professional social networking site? It is the go-to place for your online resume and networking.

One of the paramounts of LinkedIn, so I thought, was the fact that people were pretty real. Since it is your professional life. And well, pretty easy to verify.

Imagine my surprise yesterday, when I got a message from a coworker pointing to the profile of one of our ex-coworkers. This former cowoker worked at our company somewhere between three to six months. I can’t recall, but it was closer to three than six. I’ll call him “Bobby.”

The current profile is actually the third version of his job description I have seen on LinkedIn since he left over a year ago.

Revision One:  He worked with us for about nine months or a year. To keep the story up, he asked a few people to fib for him in case any reference calls came their way. An exaggeration, yes. But I know he was aiming to fill the gap in his resume. Expected. Almost.

Revision Two: He started a new position in another company after a couple months of job hunting. Same job title. Suddenly the entry for my company changed. His profile said he worked with us for about three and a half years. The end date was a full two years before he actually worked at our company. He also took credit for the successes of that time. Keep in mind half of his LinkedIn contacts from the company weren’t around during this fake tenure.

Revision Three: The current version. He has merged the ideas of versions one and two. So, he took the original start date from revision one, and now says he is currently working at our company. One fatal flaw? His profile is still linking to the last company he worked for under the “my company” link. Oops. (Do you think the LinkedIn lies have any relationship to the change in employment status?)

So Bobby is a pathological liar. That is the only reasonable explanation. My current coworkers? We all got a good laugh about the current profile (as with the second). I can’t say that we are shocked about the whole thing. Do I want to be a reference for this person? No way. And I the main thing I wonder about now: if the entry for my company is a big lie, is the rest 100 percent B.S? Or just 50 percent? I guess I’ll never know.

I am well aware that people fib a little on their resume. Fudge the start and end dates. Take credit for projects they played a small role in. Claim team successes as individual successes. The essence of these fibs is based in reality. Bobby’s lies are a severe distortion of reality.

So I asked myself, is there an easy way to double check this stuff? Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Look for similar job titles during the time the person claimed to work for the company. This works best in a smaller company or for a senior title. (Bobby would have failed this test during revision two.)
  2. Look to see if they are connected to the other people with the same tenure (in the company or department). This search might be hard to initiate, but I am sure there is a ratio of connections to employees. If there are too many people that are unconnected, it is a red flag.
  3. Recommendations. Look for recommendations on any long-term jobs. If they are regular LinkedIn users, and they have many colleagues on LinkedIn, they’ll have some recommendations from that period.

I realize I left out another LinkedIn mishap. This is from over a year ago. We interviewed a senior communications person. I asked, in passing, if he used LinkedIn. He continued to spend the next 15 minutes talking about how valuable it was and how he was connected to Silicon Valley executives all over the place.After the interview, I searched for his profile so we could connect. He had a rare last name. I had his resume in front of me. I searched for the name and his former company. No sign of him. Or at least a profile that matched his resume. Even remotely. That ended that. Words of advice: don’t hype up your LinkedIn usage if you don’t use it. Make sure your resume and profile are consistent. </tirade>

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