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Is LinkedIn Cheating Employers and Job Seekers Alike? (pbs.org)
162 points by uladzislau on Aug 14, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 82 comments

Age and skills seem to be a factor. The people in the video are 40+, with many doing marketing/sales. The HN community, based off the what is your age? poll [1], suggests the majority here are between 21-35, so we probably are not experiencing their problem. Second, networking is a major factor, if the software keyword system is really the issue, you need to find ways around the system, email your old co-workers, etc. This is why it is important to keep learning, as tech evolves, and to put your self out there, through quality work.

One thing did bother me a little, is pride a factor here? There were lower level job, but many did not want to take them, because they felt it was below them, or they were over qualified. If you are in the red, with zero money coming in, isn't anything better than nothing, at least as a gap till you find something better?

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[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5536734

ps. I created the bar graph via https://github.com/holman/spark

Taking a lower-paid job can reduce your salary once you get back to your primary field. Workers have legitimate reasons to treat wages as sticky.

Not to mention the boredom factor. But I have known people to take a job just cos they need the money, and also been refused a job because they were over-qualified and the employer knew they would just leave once they got a better job. It's a two way thing.

How can that happen? It's not like your new employer will know what you were making at the last job, and even so why should that matter?

They will certainly know what your title was. If you've been management for 10 years and then accept a job as a peon to "fill the gap", your new company might see that as a negative and/or use it as an excuse to offer you less.

Titles are meaningless. I'm my own boss now. I could call myself CEO or Extra-Senior Architect or something. I just call myself Programmer.

Come on, we're obviously not talking about contractors or people who are their own boss. When you're actually applying for jobs with real companies, titles are certainly not meaningless. If you're screening applications for a programming manager and one person has this work history (earlier first):

    Programmer (Firm 1)
    Programmer II (Firm 1)
    Senior Developer (Firm 2)
    Manager, Programming (Firm 2)
    Programmer II (Firm 3)
you're probably going to wonder why they went from management back to line employee. It could be because Firm 2 closed and that was the only thing in their area left. It could be because they're terrible at managing people.

They ask. Are you just supposed to lie or refuse to answer?

Valid dodging answers include:

  - I took a sabbatical
  - I did private/contract work for a while
  - I took a working holiday
  - I spent some time renovating my house
  - I took some time off to look after a sick relative
Take the Jesuit line that if there is a kernel of truth in the statement (eg you fixed your gutters one time while unemployed) then you're not actually lying.

Really, this HR obsession with "zomg a gap in employment history" is pointlessly stupid and deserves to be gamed.

Absolutely. It doesn't matter much what your reason for the gap is, as long as you make it sound like something you were in control of. Something that you chose, based on your own life priorities. Don't sound like a victim.

Actually I was asking about what you do when they ask how much you were PAID at your last/current job, not what to say when they ask why there's a GAP in your history. What do you say to that?

Ah, yes that's a tougher question. It's a red flag to me, but sometimes beggars can't be choosers.

Here are some tested dodges:

  - "I don't think it's appropriate to discuss that" (be firm)
  - "I signed a non-disclosure agreement and I'm legally obliged 
    to keep my renumeration details confidential" (needs confidence to work)
I've caved once to this question when I really wanted the position. Luckily I told the truth because they demanded to see a payslip before I started.

But if they play hardball like that in the interview, you can expect the same treatment throughout the company - don't kid yourself that things will change once you're employed.

Refuse to answer. I do it all the time. I generally answer when asked "Let's see if we are a good fit for each other. If we are, make me an offer based on how much value you believe I'll bring to the table." If they keep pushing to know how much I make, that gives me a good data point on the type of company they are. I'll use that to decide whether I want to work there or not.

Refuse to answer. It's none of their business, and nobody can compel you to answer a question.

You're right, and that strategy works great for those of us who are in-demand.

Someone in the article, or someone who took an interim lower-wage job out of desperation may rightly not feel quite so empowered.

Look them straight in the eye and say "prison"

"I don't have to answer that." They can't compel you to answer, but good luck landing that job.

I have a hard time believing that if the employer is in desperate need, and a potential employee has the skills, they cannot come to an agreement, especially if you make it in for an interview. This does not make sense. Someone is not motivated enough.

Who specified that either one of those conditions was true? If it's an example, let's be honest: If the employer is not desperate they may not respond well to being told that their question didn't pass muster. Real people who are struggling to find work are asked these questions, and real people are being discriminated against by not answering.

You say, "I don't feel comfortable sharing that information" instead of the more hostile, "I don't have to answer that"

One needs to consider it as offensive as, "Are you planning to have a child soon" or "How old are you" or, "You look real purty"

Also if a company is going to invite you all the way to their office and use up their current employees' time, it would be a very stupid thing to not want an applicant just because they don't want to discuss their current salary.

"I'm currently considering a number of positions with competitive salaries [or 'with salaries around $X']. So, I think that focusing on what I can do for you and establishing a fair wage based on that will be more representative of what we can offer each other."

That tends to be the route I go down anyway. At least when their position is good enough that I don't just walk out of the interview for someone being that rude, (i.e. I want to work with them for some other significant reason.)

You could tell your former position and add that you have done some gap filing in between four a few month, without telling the details.

If you are in the red, with zero money coming in, isn't anything better than nothing, at least as a gap till you find something better?

I'm not sure I would call it pride. Some won't apply to jobs if they feel it is below them because the general consensus among employers is that if a better job comes along that this person is more qualified for, they will quit that "lower" job.

source: my Econ professor

Yep, but the smart people just dumb down their resume. Resumes are marketing tools, they should be tailored for the job no matter the "level."

I'm not saying lie, I'm just saying put in the truth that will get you hired and leave out the truth that will stop you from being hired.

Lying on a resume is a terrible decision (don't say that to michaelochurch!), but nobody expects a resume to be the whole truth. I've seen people get fired because they lied about a degree, or said they were a Senior ___________ when they were not, but I've never seen or even heard of someone getting fired because they left a job off of a resume.

I'm just impressed with your ascii bar graph!


You'll like this then.

It seems like some people actually take pride in their technical ignorance. They boast to coworkers how unfamiliar they are with CRM platforms and lead generators, and they laugh at the notion of using very basic coding skills to script some of their more monotonous job functions. It's disheartening. They must know that, regardless of age, it's adapt or die, but they're so damn stubborn.

Does anyone know of a Coursera for older, working professionals that have begun to fall behind in their skill development? I know that Coursera and other learning platforms are not necessarily designed for young people, but I'm sure the academic design/nature of it turns a lot of professionals off.

Might be an interesting startup idea (though I'm sure someone's already on it).

+1 just for the ASCII graph!

> There were lower level job, but many did not want to take them

There is an interesting twist to this story. Last time I was looking for a job, I applied for a position the recruiter saw as a downgrade from my then current one. It was a very cool company that does very cool things, but no amount of talking convinced her I would not stay with them or that I would voluntarily get myself a pay cut in order to work for them and that money is not my primary motivator.

Hackers may be a weird bunch, but recruiters are not much behind.

There was a good HN discussion when spark was first released:


Several people ported it to other languages. Here was my humble effort:


I don't get why LinkedIn gets a free pass on a lot of the shady stuff it does. Case in point: if I have a free account, public details are hidden when browsing profiles and I'm told I need to "upgrade" my account to view them. Viewing the same profile in an incognito window reveals the "restricted" details. That seems like an ExpertsExchange level trick.

It's like the WSJ paywall. They know you can get around it, and at the end of the day they don't want to hide the information from someone who's willing to work hard to get it. Eventually, if it's worth enough, they'll pay for ease of access.

This is just because people have more permissive public profiles than default. I view this as a privacy feature for people who may want to be on LinkedIn but only use the site to communicate with their connections - if they have a limited/empty public profile, then you won't see any additional information.

Yeah, I agree they should probably check and see if the public profiles are more permissive than just the top bit of information, but I imagine something about their architecture makes that difficult.

I also agree with the point about the NYT paywall; it's likely just a tiny additional monetization strategy.

I'd assume that's for recruiters, and that what you see in the incognito window is to give them a taste (perhaps they have governors to limit how much can be found per unit of time).

Not being that sort of recruiter I've only ever wanted to see that kind of thing to confirm if a particular "John Doe" is the one I'm thinking of before asking to connect to him, and personalizing the note takes care of that well enough. Otherwise I can see the profiles of people in my network just fine.

I'm definitely not a recruiter and LinkedIn could easily extrapolate that from my resume. Say for example I just want to do some due diligence on a contractor (or business associate or company exec. or whatever). I don't want to connect, just see their qualifications, general background, etc.

Logged in: http://media.tumblr.com/ba1105d066fd8c3acca2909898d5b603/tum...

Logged out: http://media.tumblr.com/17fe723913901fe9a1e0c0c53b6ba6e4/tum...

Ah, I didn't mean to suggest you were a "recruiter", although the examples you gave could be part of the recruiting function, and it wouldn't be unreasonable for LinkedIn to want some money from your to do perform such due diligence. It would be interesting to see if they've got an account level for that sort of small scale thing.

Oh, you mean ExpertSexChange.

I think the broader principle of this post is solid. It's one that I've been thinking a lot as a friend asked me to advise his dating-site startup.

I don't like the space for one major reason (and job hunting is isomorphic with dating): to optimize making money you have to fail to deliver on the expectations of those for whom you're matchmaking.

With dating/jobhunting if you create a supremely efficient market place that finds the match almost immediately your customers go away. They don't need your service any more. It behooves you to increase the inefficiency of your marketplace to deliver almost-matches that keep people interested and paying, but not quite good enough to make them leave.

Perhaps you could argue that a job board is different because employers are repeat finders and will come back again and again - the adultfriendfinder approach, people who keep getting laid keep paying.

Either way they're tough businesses to make money on AND deliver a great service.

LinkedIn does a ton of other things of course, to monetize, and isn't just a job board. But that just raises questions about some of their other practises of holding your own data hostage - which seems to be a key business model for social network monetization at the moment, and that's a whole other question.

> I don't like the space for one major reason (and job hunting is isomorphic with dating): to optimize making money you have to fail to deliver on the expectations of those for whom you're matchmaking.

For job hunting (but probably not dating), its at least conceivable that you can structure the charge model to one where one or the other party (or both) is paying for success in making a match (basically, that's what lots of non-web-based employment "matchmaking" services of various kinds do), so that you can, in fact, align customer satisfaction with profit maximization.

Another approach is to do something like take a cut of the first year's salary or difference between the first year's salary and what the jobhunter was previously getting. That conditions success not only on making a match but on making a good match, as you get paid virtually nothing if an employee gets hired but then gets fired 2 weeks later. Many recruiting firms take this approach.

The difference is that people in relationships feel guilty shopping around. I know many people with jobs who keep one eye on LinkedIn in case they see a great opportunity.

Which is weird because the great opportunities are based on recommendations almost only. Someone pulls you somewhere, you pull someone to you. You match a friend with another friend in trouble.

I have yet to see (in IT) someone that get great job by the standard interview process.

Also not all persons in a relationship feel guilty of that.

I never understood the "Job Seeker Premium" badge. It just makes you look desperate in my mind.

right - like a candidate anti-pattern - this person so lacks confidence in their abilities that they're trying to game the system to get attention (unfair probably but I'd be shocked if that wasn't the perception of many employers)

No problems with the main thrust of the article, but the conclusion that "America's jobs crisis needs to be looked at as a failure of employers and job boards to ensure an accurate and fair employment process" is laughable. The problems with the re-employment engine are multifold, and not trivially reducible to a single sentence.

An interesting, and more nuanced take on the issue from a very different angle, which at least starts to grasp the enormity of the problem: http://lesswrong.com/lw/hh4/the_robots_ai_and_unemployment_a...

  > But the question for everyone else is, why are employers
  > (who pay to access the database) and job seekers (who 
  > pay for database positioning) playing along while 
  > LinkedIn sells everyone out with this game of payola?
  > And where does it leave LinkedIn users who just want to 
  > meet one another to do business? While some of us are 
  > working to help job seekers form appropriate, 
  > substantive relationships that they can cultivate -- 
  > and benefit from -- over time, LinkedIn keeps coming up
  > with silly products that cheapen the meaning of 
  > networking and connecting with other people.
I'm curious about this myself... Both employers and potential employees seem extremely hesitant to change their behavior. I can't help but feel that each side doesn't really want to deal with the other, and everyone is hiding behind websites and resumes, and sites like LinkedIn reap the rewards.

There's probably some interesting social science here. If anyone can enlighten me, I'd love to hear about it.

(edit: by "change behavior" I mean relying on the old system of: "you send me your resume, I'll put it in the trash." Supposedly 80-90% of jobs go unadvertised, and yet the vast majority "job search" by hurling resumes at the remaining 10-20%.)

Personally I don't pay for any premium services for LinkedIn but I can say that my LinkedIn profile consistently gets me quality calls from recruiters. In fact, it led me into a series of consistently better paying jobs quite quickly.

I devoted consistent effort to building my LinkedIn network over time so I have a very large number of connections now. I get the sense that the system is underprovisioned for me, because the site is slow as hell, often I can't see the messages and invitations I've been sent until I've done several reloads.

I actually would pay for a premium service that is overprovisioned for me and fast enough for me that I'd want to spend more time with it.

  > But the question for everyone else is, why are employers
  > (who pay to access the database) and job seekers (who 
  > pay for database positioning) playing along while 
  > LinkedIn sells everyone out with this game of payola?
There is no "payola" in searching the database. Job seekers aren't paying for database positioning, they are paying only to be at the top of the list of "here are people who applied for your job". This is mentioned by Corcodilos in his article then immediately handwaved away as if it doesn't matter, but this point completely changes the thrust of his argument.

You don't show up at the top of search results no matter what kind of account you have; your payment or lack thereof does not manipulate organic search results. It only puts you at the top of a list of people who applied for jobs using the "Apply for jobs" function. The value for the free account-holder and for the recruiter is still intact.

But it's all about perception - LinkedIn has got perceptibly more slimy, less about connecting, and it has now started taking money for rankings. If the sign on the brothel door says our women will give head for cash but they have to love you to screw, do you think anyone will believe it?

Admittedly like all walled gardens, there is no business model - the value lies in the network and any and all attempts to monetize that are called taxation. We only accept that from one place


I don't pay for this "featured job seeker" thing, havne't gotten in the way.

It may backfire since some people may filter the paying candidates as 'ads'

Disclaimer: I work on a competing job board site at Stack Overflow Careers 2.0

LinkedIn (as opposed to CareerBuilder apparently) isn't really cheating anyone. They're charging for a stupid feature to make a quick buck off of naive or desperate candidates. I can't figure out how a feature like putting a resume on the top of a pile solves any problem to do with matching candidates with employers. Much less why good employers would care about this arbitrary order. At least (apparently) they aren't biasing search results in their recruiter platform.

We've taken the route of only charging employers for access to advertise jobs and company pages on Stack Overflow, and search profiles of developers on Careers 2.0 (no crappy contingency recruiters allowed). Not only do we not want to charge candidates, I don't exactly know what we'd be charging them for that would help clear the market more efficiently.

> I can't figure out how a feature like putting a resume on the top of a pile solves any problem to do with matching candidates with employers. Much less why good employers would care about this arbitrary order.

It helps them get through the human keyword filter in HR faster, which (theoretically) makes them more likely to get an interview. Even many "good" companies have issues with poor HR filter functions, and on top of that a majority of the jobs seem to be with "bad" companies.

I agree, though, that its set up to prey on the naive and desperate. Those for whom any job is better than no job, or simply think this is how "the game" is supposed to be played.

While the article focuses on LinkedIn, it could likely just be titled "Are Job Boards..." because the article mentions CareerBuilder and Monster. I know CB does it but wasn't paying attention to notice if Monster did.

Something definitely feels slimy about the practice from a job seeker standpoint. Simply because I can't afford it, or place a high value on the cost I'm now at a disadvantage to another applicant. To borrow from another HN comment, it's akin to entering a cheat code while I'm just here normally playing the game. While I don't mind cheating in single player games, this is akin to wallhacking in a FPS.

Having said that, I also don't mind it at all because if I get a job this way it proves I did so on my own merit and those that paid were complete suckers. There is definitely a sense of achievement that comes with that.

I will always wonder how this came about though. How this became acceptable. I understand it's a business but creating unfair advantages in what amounts to some people's livelihood (in their mind at least) seems like playing with fire. There's also the very real threat that this is snake oil. Can anyone prove paying actually improves your chances? These companies could easily be charging for a "service" that only exists in name and actually does absolutely nothing behind the scenes.

I'm a student at a bush league school that doesn't have many connections to my field. Would it be in my interests to make a LinkedIn account for internship purposes?

I doubt it hurts to create a standard free LinkedIn account, it's still useful for networking, putting a resume on the web (well, there's advantages and disadvantages to that), etc.

But I agree with Nick Corcodilos, which is almost a tautology, he's by far the best author I've ever found on these subjects. One of the best things you can do for yourself in the long run is to read the appropriate stuff on his http://www.asktheheadhunter.com/ site, and you might want to sign up for his weekly newsletter, the July 23rd one was on this topic, and previous ones and/or items on the site have generally and specifically covered job boards.

His general specific advice for getting a job is not so relevant until you, say, get some of those internships or otherwise get the experience necessary to make a good case to an employer that you can do the job, but it's all worth reading. It's also very well written.

While you're at it, read his "Death by Lethal Reputation" essay and avoid what it talks about.

Looks like he hasn't updated his website design since the late 90's.

You should absolutely have a LinkedIn account and begin to build the network. Just don't PAY for your LinkedIn account.

I feel like the "network" benefit of LinkedIn is close to zero. That is, when was the last time anyone said "I would like to talk to person X at Company Y. Oh, one of my friends is connected to person X. I'll ask that person for a warm introduction" Is anyone seeing or doing that?

I've certainly done that. When job-hunting, if I find a job posting I'd like to apply for, I'll check to see if there's anyone in my 2nd or 3rd-level network who's worked for that company.

I do the same, but somewhat differently. The primary reason is that I only accept connections to people I have personally met and interacted with. (The few exceptions to that rule are people whom I've had extensive online dealings with.) The network information tells me who is likely to know more, and more importantly, could probably help to skirt the "Great Wall of HR" by introducing me personally with the people doing the actual hiring. Outside LinkedIn.

When someone in my personal network pings the hiring manager and asks if they can connect me with them, I'm already ahead of the rest. Even if the response is to send the application in through the regular channels, the hiring manager now knows to expect my application. And perhaps most importantly, they know that I have been already vetted for fit and sanity by a person in their personal network. I can refer to that link in the application cover, and help it stand out even further.

The in-system introductions at LinkedIn I consider worthless. Use those, and you get flagged as someone just clicking buttons.

Networking is crucial on any creative field. But if you're willing to artificially "enhance" your network, you're just devalueing that very network - and by extension, yourself. The only things that really matter are the personal connections. They are the ones that can help you - and the ones that you are willing to help yourself.

I make intros like that once or twice a month. I'm generally happy to do so, because I only accept LinkedIn connection requests from people I know well enough to recommend.

I do a similar thing, but I only connect to people I know well enough to ask for an introduction to other people.

Well that's pretty awesome to hear (that it's still being used that way) What's a ratio of connection requests you accept vs ignore?


It really depends on your field, however networking should never require money. Build your network with those in your target field. That will pay off far more than a paid LinkedIn account.

(S)he just asked about creating an account, not about paying LinkedIn. You can still create an account for free.

Yes, that would most likely be a good idea... most recruiters and HR people check LinkedIn these days.

Try something like InternMatch (.com).

The problem comes down to trust and incentives. The "promoted" job board model leads to a middle man agent ("agent" in the Economics sense) with asymmetric information who is incentivized to give poor advice. LinkedIn wants you to trust their matching algorithm, but then goes behind your back and supplants the best matches with whoever the highest bidder happens to be.

Instead of benefiting when their customers get value from their service (successful placements), LinkedIn is profiting from desperation and frustration (the more unsatisfied costs - "free" grade users, the more potential paying customers), and simultaneously making the search process more difficult for all parties involved.

LinkedIn's position in the job search marketplace is as a monopolist provider of up-to-date candidate information, a valuable side effect of their primary virtue: being the winner take all social network for the corporate world.

Rent-seeking behavior from monopoly providers with asymmetric information should surprise no one. Rent-seeking behavior leading to angry market participants should surprise no one.

Rent-seeking in silicon valley isn't spoken about enough. Rent seeking has and will always be around, but is it increasing?

When we are talking about rankings and matching algo's in the hands of monopolies be it Google, Facebook, YouTube et al its a great mystery to me why the advertising industry trusts them so much.

Worst case scenario seems to be that you're advertising to potential employers that you're having trouble finding a job... That doesn't seem like a good thing to point out...

I run a user group and network a lot with other developers. I noticed that in the past two years all the elite developers that I knew, the top half of one percent, were pulling their profiles from LinkedIn.

Have to laugh because companies looking for the proverbial 'rockstar developer' are increasingly never going to find them on LinkedIn.

Betteridge's law of headlines:

"Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."


Charging the applicant for a monthly premium listing service does nothing to help companies find good employees, though I think a small change could make it beneficial to both parties.

Offer "premium" application placement on a per application basis instead of monthly. This would provide a signal to the employer that the applicant is particularly interested in this listing and not just spamming resumes.

It would provide a similar signal to a customized cover letter, but the employer can see the signal without the necessary investment of time to read a cover letter.

New headline game: if a headline suggests linkedin or facebook or google may be doing something a little bad, they're actually doing something five times worse.

I hate LinkedIn. The pay walls and forced semi-hidden profiles are insanely annoying.

I wish I had the resources to build a competitor centered around openness and UX. It should monetize on really strong programmatic job matching, driven by the improved data from reducing all the UX friction. Somebody, please accept the challenge.

TheLadders has been claiming that the data-driven matching approach is their mission for the past few years, but unfortunately they still seem to want to put everything behind a paywall.

What resources would you need?

I suppose if I were to undertake it, all I would need is time (i.e., some savings) to produce a rough first version. To really build it, the help of other engineers on the back-end, especially to implement job matching algorithms. I'm mostly into UI.

Getting users would be a whole other challenge. I can see the web/tech crowd adopting something for its superior UX, but then you're up against Github, which provides far more utilitarian value and accomplishes a bit of the professional social networking in one fell swoop. When it comes to everybody else, I think that business partnerships, marketing, and sales are key. That's more help needed.

I think it's totally viable, I'm just not in the position to do it. I hope somebody is.

And they keep extending their footprint (http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_20568679/linkedin-expands-offi...). Sigh!

I wish the internet could actually solve high unemployment.

Dear PBS: I don't want to localize my PBS experience. I just want to read the article. :P

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