Why Would Someone Create A Fake LinkedIn Profile?

I wrote an article a couple of months ago on some of the ways to identify a fake LinkedIn profile. One comment I received quite a bit was “why would someone do this?” It seems like a lot of work, for some nebulous benefits.

And it does not take a lot of work. I could build one in ten minutes and it would likely fool most people. Start with an email address and come up with a new name. Then just cut and paste everything from another profile…like yours, and copy your photo too. There. Done.

Here are four uses for fake profiles. The critical part is getting you to connect with them, because they can then indulge in a little…

Email address collection

This is the obvious one. Harvest email addresses from connections.

Identity theft

When added to the information most users include in their LinkedIn profiles, this is a good start. In addition to their email address, many LinkedIn users list their birthdays, and this is viewable by their connections.

Phishing, spear phishing and other scams

If a connection sent you a message with an attachment, would you open it? It could contain malware. How well do you know and trust this person?

Connecting adds credibility

This is the sneaky one. When you connect with someone there is your implied  endorsement that they are a real person. When they go to connect with someone you are connected with, that someone sees  you connected with them. They connect. They open the email with the attachment.

How do you fight this? When someone you don’t know invites you to connect, ask them a question. One other aspect to look for is comments on posts and articles. Faking activity by liking content or sharing it without comment is easy and fast. Taking the time to make comments on that content is not. It’s time consuming.

It’s one thing to cut and paste a profile together, but another to be taking the time to comment on posts, or publish posts.

Be careful out there.

 

What I Learned About LinkedIn Profiles From Reaching Out To 2000 Connections

(skip the first paragraph if you have read any of the other three articles I have written about my 2000 connection research).

Background

A couple of years ago I had 1500 LinkedIn Connections. Then I started using LinkedIn Publisher and writing articles about using LinkedIn every week. And I started receiving connection invitations. Lots of them. Even accepting well less than half of them, I was adding fifty connections a week. Last year I realized that my connection network was made up of a lot of people I had connected with but didn’t know aside from reading their profiles. So I started a program of reaching out to my connections, sending individual personalized messages one at a time (I refuse to use that automated mass messaging crap) and inviting them to a 15 minute phone or Skype call to find out more about each other.  Over time I sent these messages to 2000 of my connections and wound up having several hundred conversations.

This is what I learned about job hunting and LinkedIn profiles

A lot of profiles are too thin

There are many LinkedIn profiles with no Summary and with Experience sections that consist solely of the title, company worked for, and years worked there. This didn’t surprise me though I don’t understand why anyone using LinkedIn wouldn’t want to add some detail about what they do in their job (are they ashamed?). But they are certainly not in some tiny minority in not fleshing out their experience sections.

A lot of people have way too many specialties

What I never realized and what did surprise me was the number of people who have profiles that are overrun with specialties.  In these LinkedIn profiles, the writer is paranoid about missing something so they list everything they “specialize” in. You know the ones I am talking about. The person who specializes in twenty different areas. Or thirty. And I am not talking about endorse-able skills, I am talking about discrete specialties in one long list, usually in the summary. They seem to be under the impression that they may lose out if they don’t list everything. Their profile becomes a catch all. And as an old advertising adage goes, “when you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing.” A LinkedIn profile is a place to talk about what you are uniquely good at doing. And that’s because – whether it’s a new hire or a new supplier – companies want someone who specializes in something they don’t have already.

Here’s an example: you decide to start blogging. One LinkedIn profile says “Specialties: Publishing, Videos, Podcasts, Blogging, Slide decks, Webinars, Livestreaming, E-Books, Testimonials, Case Studies and Semaphore.” Another LinkedIn profile lists their specialty as: “Blogging, Just blogging.” All other things being equal, who would you call first?   

The idea here is that when you list a pile of specialties, people don’t think, “wow, he can do it all”. Instead they think “There isn’t anything special about this guy.”

I was surprised at how many people are quietly looking for better work

The passive job market is huge. There are a lot more people that would jump than you think. They are just waiting for the right offer. LinkedIn has this right. I was shocked (but I still reserve the right to despise the term “dream job”).

Regardless of how fabulous a LinkedIn profile is, it only tells 10% of the story

This was one of the biggest things I found from actually talking to people. When you talk to someone you find out what their real specialties are, and what they are really passionate about. What’s in their LinkedIn Profile is the tip of the iceberg. A lot of profiles list the things someone does on their job. A conversation tells you the things that really matter to that person. What fascinates them. The parts of their jobs that they really look forward to doing.

Someone will be a “content specialist” and on their profile they list all their tools and capabilities. Then when I talk to them they casually mention that what they are really good at and enjoy doing is writing for healthcare providers and medical device companies. They have some relevant background in this area that makes them particularly comfortable with the lingo and the way content needs to be written for that industry. And there was nothing about this on their profile. Not a hint. But after my conversation with them, I now  have a go-to content writer for healthcare and medical that I didn’t have before.   

So here’s your thought for today: if you haven’t talked to one of your connections in months, invite them to have a 15 minute call with you. When you get them on the phone, ask them what’s hot in their specialty area lately and how it is affecting them. Offer to help them. Offer to introduce them to someone in your network. They may not need your help right now. But you will know them better, they will know you better, and they will remember that you offered to help them.

And almost no one on LinkedIn does it.  

Coming Changes To LinkedIn Skills & Endorsements On The Desktop User Interface


LinkedIn wrote about changes to Skills and Endorsements back in October. They  started rolling out these changes to the mobile app in late October. They will be enabled on the new User Interface that desktop users are starting to see too. Here’s what’s different and what it may mean.

1) Endorsements are now personalized to each person who visits your profile

For example, skills endorsed by mutual connections, colleagues and people  LinkedIn figures are experts at that skill will be highlighted.   

It looks like LinkedIn has a found a sneaky way to fight “endorsement stockpiling.” You may have 99 endorsements for strategy, but LinkedIn may only show the 13 of them that LinkedIn thinks are relevant to that viewer.

2) LinkedIn will use algos to find close connections who can validate your skills.

In their October 26 announcement, LinkedIn says they they will “improve targeting for suggesting endorsements so that the connections who know your work best can validate your skills.”

Previously, LinkedIn suggested people to endorse in a seemingly random manner with a generic “what does Fred know about <skill>” type message. It now appears LinkedIn is going to look for people you are close to, and suggest you endorse those people for their skills.  

In theory, this makes sense, as I am more likely to endorse someone I actually do know really well versus one of my more speculative connections.

On the other hand, LinkedIn may figure out “connections who know your work best” by using something like the Connection Strength Score, which has not been very helpful for Notifications.

3) There is a definite link between skills / endorsements and LinkedIn search results.

While this has been implied in the past, this is the first concrete proof I have seen  that Skills are taken into consideration in search results. As LinkedIn says in the announcement, “Endorsements help ensure you are more likely to be discovered through search.”

Note that “more likely to be discovered” means you will be included in the search results. It does not necessarily mean you will rank near the top in the search results.

4) LinkedIn will now suggest skills you should add “based on your profile”

This may be based on seeing you use a keyword like “Strategy” in your Summary and then suggesting you list “Strategy” as a skill. Or this may just be a sneaky way for LinkedIn to advertise LinkedIn Learning courses which would teach you that skill you should add.

5) Endorsements are still used primarily by recruiters and HR people

This come through in the wording in LinkedIn’s announcements – things like “more than a third of hiring managers spend more than 60 seconds browsing your skills and endorsements” – you can see that Endorsements are still thought of by LinkedIn as a tool for hiring.

But that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t use them for our own purposes. In particular, I have found that Skills and Endorsements are a great place for STEM people to list things like programming languages and technologies they are conversant with.

So what does this all mean? It looks like Skills and Endorsements are here to stay. I think if LinkedIn really was interested in helping us users, they would be putting the same effort into Recommendations. But while Skills and Endorsements help LinkedIn users somewhat, they sure seem to help LinkedIn more, providing “hooks” for Sales Navigator and Recruiting people to use, and possibly helping to sell Learning courses.  

Of course, the actual appearance of all this new Skills and Endorsements  functionality is dependent upon the new desktop user interface rollout, which at present, doesn’t seem to be rolling very quickly.