You’re job-hunting and you need to keep it under wraps. But you need to use LinkedIn to help you land your next job. So how do you run a confidential job search on LinkedIn?
Something like 95% of my executive job-seeking clients face the same dilemma. They’re still employed, but looking to move on for various reasons.
They can’t broadcast that they’re actively seeking opportunities . . . on LinkedIn . . . or anywhere online.
And they have to be selective and careful about which people they tell.
But, they’ll probably need to add to, or change, the content in their LinkedIn profile to position themselves as good-fit candidates for their target employers.
And they’ll need to ramp up their activity on LinkedIn.
Accomplishing this, while staying undercover, may seem impossible to do. But with a stealthy strategy and an understanding of how LinkedIn works, you can do a pretty good job of it.
5 Things You Can Do to Run a Confidential Job Search on LinkedIn
I’ve described below how to use various features on LinkedIn. But as this article ages, things might work differently or be found in a different place, because LinkedIn constantly changes the way the site functions.
1. Don’t broadcast your job-seeking status
I recently saw a career professional post advice for job seekers on LinkedIn suggesting that they should post updates about what kind of job(s) they’re seeking. It did not include the caveat “Don’t do this if you’re job hunting under cover.”
This may be obvious, but don’t post any updates in your feed, LinkedIn Groups or anywhere else on LinkedIn or elsewhere online that speak to the fact that you’re job-hunting.
Updates are open to the world to see so your current employer may come across these posts. (Note that “posting updates” is different from “updating” your profile content)
And don’t note anywhere on your profile itself that you’re “seeking a position in . . .” or “looking for opportunities in . . .”
Additionally, don’t display the little green #OpenToWork frame around your profile headshot.
It screams “I’m job hunting” and EVERYONE who lands on your profile, or sees your LinkedIn activity, will see it.
According to LinkedIn Help:
“If you’re looking for a job, you can let recruiters and your network on LinkedIn know you’re open to new job opportunities. If you specify the types of job opportunities that you’re interested in and your preferred location, we’ll help your profile show up in search results when recruiters look for suitable job candidates.”
If you opt to let all LinkedIn members know you’re job hunting, the green swath with #OpenToWork will go on your profile photo/headshot. People will likely assume that you’re unemployed. Your current employer will likely assume you’re planning a career move.
If you opt to only let recruiters know you’re looking, the green swath isn’t displayed on your profile. But recruiters privately using LinkedIn Recruiter and other powerful people-search tools will know your employment status.
On the same LinkedIn Help page as above, note that LinkedIn says when you choose this option:
“We take steps not to show your current company that you’re open, but can’t guarantee complete privacy.”
2. Safely view other LinkedIn profiles without them knowing
For competitive intelligence and to pick up ideas to improve your own LinkedIn profile, search for and read the profiles of people with jobs similar to yours, and those working at your target companies.
But of course, don’t copy or “use” the content in these profiles on your own profile.
To keep those people from knowing that you’re snooping on them and potentially “outing” you:
- Go to “Settings & Privacy” in the drop-down menu under “Me” in the top-of-page menu
- Under “Visibility” click on “Profile viewing options”
- Select “Private mode”
This puts you in “complete private mode”.
You can turn this back on once you’re done snooping, so that your profile stats will be enabled again.
LinkedIn Help provides more info about this.
3. Add or change profile content slowly
Many of my clients have very little content in their profiles before they come to me, which isn’t good.
The more content or information about you in your profile, the more you’ll help people assessing you see the value you offer.
And the more content in your profile, the more relevant keywords that can boost your profile ranking in LinkedIn search, so more people will see your profile.
Ideally, you want to fully populate as many applicable sections of your profile as possible.
People may be suspicious if they view your profile and it’s suddenly loaded with new content.
If you add just a section or two at a time over a week or two, it may keep people from noticing.
4. Be careful with LinkedIn Groups
Just like every other executive job seeker, you need to get involved with LinkedIn Groups. And you’ll find it helpful to join some Groups that focus on job search.
You’ll need to be very careful about what you post in Group conversations. Don’t let on that you’re job-hunting or testing the waters. Instead, use Groups to demonstrate your subject matter expertise and thought leadership, and to stay top of mind with your target employers.
And remember that, although Groups are not wide open to all members like the rest of LinkedIn, there could well be members in your Group that could jeopardize your confidential job search on LinkedIn.
5. Choose who can see your connections
When you’re actively job hunting, you’ll need to connect with people in the job search and careers world. People like executive recruiters and other hiring professionals, resume writers, career coaches, etc.
But you don’t want your current employer and co-workers to know you’re connected with them or follow them. That can be a red flag. Here’s what you should do:
- Go to “Settings & Privacy” and “Visibility”
- First click on “Connections”
- Make sure the toggle is switched to “Off”
- Then go back to “Visibility”
- Click on “Who can see members you follow”
- Click on “Only visible to me”
LinkedIn Help provides more info about this.
Be prepared if people become suspicious
Although LinkedIn has become an accepted and recommended place for networking, whether or not you’re actively job hunting, your employer may see your activity there as a prelude to jumping ship.
I want to stress that, no matter how many safeguards you put in place, some people may suspect from your LinkedIn profile changes or activities that you’re gearing up for job search.
They may ask you what you’re up to. I advise my clients to have a ready answer. Saying something like this should suffice,
“I haven’t updated my profile in a long time. I wanted to better position the value our company offers, and the value my team and I bring to the table.”
Also have a ready response if people wonder why you’re suddenly active (or more active) on LinkedIn, commenting on posts, publishing your own articles, etc. Say something like this:
“Being engaged on LinkedIn helps keep our company top-of-mind with existing and potential clients (or customers).”
Compose something appropriate and then practice saying it until you’re comfortable with it, and it comes off well.
The strategy here is to be sure that all the content in your profile, and all of your LinkedIn activities, support your employer and yourself as an employee of that company or organization.
Luckily, this strategy will also support, and provide evidence, of the value you offer future employers.