LinkedIn: Best Tactic for Undercover Executive Job Search

by Meg Guiseppi on June 25, 2010

Are you job hunting now or planning a search in the near future, but afraid your employer will find out, so you’re hunting on the sly?

Most of my clients are employed c-suite executives who either see signs of a possible layoff, or have become dissatisfied with their jobs and want to test the waters to see if there’s something better elsewhere.

I counsel them to create a fully-fleshed out, keyword-rich (and hopefully branded) LinkedIn profile, or revisit their existing profile – I know many of you slapped up a perfunctory profile months or years ago and then forgot about it – and get it up to snuff for their current search target. Download my free e-book if you need help, Executive Branding and Your LinkedIn Profile.

Some are resistant to having a LinkedIn profile, or any online presence, and putting themselves out there. They fear, and rightly so, that if their profile indicates that they’re in the market, they’ll sabotage their career. They think it’s safer to limit their search campaigns to responding to job board postings.

They’re unaware that, although this active search method requires a significant investment of time, it yields dismal results. At most, maybe 5-7% of executive job seekers land jobs through the boards.

You can easily optimize your LinkedIn profile to make it more search-friendly, without shouting out “I’m looking for a job”.

Make sure it’s updated with your latest achievements and contributions, and clearly communicates your value proposition. Be careful about your LinkedIn Answers and LinkedIn Groups activities – your co-workers probably belong to some of the same groups and will know if you’re discussing your job search there.

NOTE: Please see Bill Cohn’s comment below for advice on adjusting your LinkedIn privacy settings to keep your network from receiving notification when you update your profile.

LinkedIn is an accepted (and vital) part of ongoing healthy career management. Chances are your company’s other executives and c-suite all have LinkedIn presence, and your company itself probably has a profile, too. Take a look at your co-workers profiles. Anything there hinting that they’re job searching?

Did you know that something like 85-90% of recruiters rely on LinkedIn to source talent?

If you’re not there, you may be invisible to them – the very people you NEED to find you. By merely positioning yourself with your LinkedIn profile, you’re leveraging a key strategy for passive job search.

See my post, Does Your Online Identity Scream “Hire Me”?, to find out what one recruiter says you need to do with LinkedIn and your profile to tip the scales in your favor.

You’ve already worked on, or are updating, your executive resume in anticipation of your search, right? If you’re doing it correctly, you’re building all the information in it around what your target hiring decision makers are looking for in candidates.

You do know who your target audience is, don’t you?

If not, back up and work on identifying companies that will fit your career needs, how you will meet their needs, and the hiring authorities within each one that you hope to attract. Need some help here, see my post 4 Executive Job Search First Steps, Before You Write Your Resume.

Your updated (hopefully branded) resume, with strong positioning summary sitting above the fold, along with bites from your career biography, become the foundation for your branded LinkedIn profile.

Read what Jon Burke, a computer software major accounts executive, had to say about LinkedIn and his job search, in Elizabeth Garone’s Wall Street Journal article, Job Hunting Under the Boss’s Nose:

“In this market, having a profile on LinkedIn doesn’t necessarily mean you’re looking,” says Mr. Burke. Unlike wearing an interview suit to work, using such websites isn’t a clear sign of job hunting, since many people use these portals as part of their job. For Mr. Burke, who uses the site daily as a sales tool, it was the easiest way to search for a job without being too obvious.

After Mr. Burke made the changes to his profile, he says he was contacted on a regular basis by recruiters. He’d respond via LinkedIn to ask what they had to offer. Mr. Burke was able to quiz the recruiters almost exclusively through email. “I was very picky,” he says. “I … couldn’t afford to waste my time.”

There’s just no getting around the fact that, in today’s executive career and search landscape, you HAVE to have a 100% complete (according to LinkedIn’s standards), keyword-rich LinkedIn profile and pump up your network with new connections through LinkedIn.

Don’t be afraid to broadcast your brand and value proposition in your LinkedIn profile. Just keep the job search part under wraps.

Related posts:

10 Steps to an Authentic, Magnetic Personal Brand

How to Write An Irresistible C-level Executive Brand Resume in 10 Steps

How to Write a C-level Executive Career Brand Biography

Stalled Executive Job Search? Get Busy on LinkedIn and Twitter

The 20 Most Common LinkedIn Mistakes

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Meg Guiseppi June 25, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Hi Bill,

Thanks for commenting and for your excellent advice on adjusting privacy settings — something I neglected to include in my post. I inserted a note in the post to alert people to your tip.


2 Bill Cohn June 25, 2010 at 9:53 am

Hi Meg: Great post.

Since some people are concerned that making changes to their profile broadcasts a message to their network of connections, it bears mentioning that you can make profile changes without generating any messages updating your network that you have done so. Here’s how:

Click on “Settings” in the upper right corner, and then look for the section labeled “Privacy Settings”. Click on “Profile and Status Updates”, and you’ll see options to turn off two types of notifications to your network. By selecting “No” for each and then saving it, you can remain “silent” while making your profile more robust. When and if you decide you want to restart notifications, simply go back and return the settings to the “Yes” selection.

You may cover this in your e-book or elsewhere, but I figured I’d share it nonetheless. It’s one of the best tips I’ve learned about configuring LinkedIn to work for you.

– Bill Cohn

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