More and more often I find myself sitting, mouth agape, absolutely mesmerized by what I find when looking at the LinkedIn profiles of people I am familiar with. Specifically, their self-stated and fully fictitious resumes, experience, and education.
Social media, by its nature, can be deceptive. (Have you looked at the pictures on Instagram and Facebook lately?) While many individuals and companies use these platforms honestly, many more promote misleading and idealized versions of their appearance, their lives, or their products. However, I submit that what is the standard for Instagram and Facebook should be different for LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is touted as a place where business professionals connect. Whether it be for networking, recruiting, or marketing, the primary motivation for its users is to in some way promote themselves, “professionally”. Therefore, I find myself challenged to understand the upside for individuals to make false claims about themselves on LinkedIn. What concerns me is why the people who know the information to be false, do not seem to be doing much about it. And yes, I am talking to you, business owners, managers, and coworkers.
My personal encounters with LinkedIn Profiles containing deceptive information:
“Reba” is a current employee of “Corporation X”. I know for fact that she was hired as “bookkeeper” because I know several people who work at Corporation X; including her manager. Reba has her current job title listed as “Accountant” on LinkedIn. Reba never graduated high school, nor has she ever received any formal accounting training or certifications. Now, I appreciate anyone who works hard, and clearly Reba worked hard teaching herself the basics necessary to input information into QuickBooks. However, giving herself the title, “accountant” implies by definition, that Reba is “formally trained to compile, inspect, interpret, and/or report financial statements and tax returns that comply with governmental and regulatory authority.” Reba has no real knowledge regarding tax implications associated with the information she inputs into QuickBooks. Nor does Reba have the capability to perform any complex analysis of financial information such as forecasting.
Not wanting to assume the worst, I ask myself, does Reba simply not know the difference between a bookkeeper vs. accountant? Perhaps she does but genuinely believes she shares the same skills set as that of an accountant and therefore has the legitimacy to claim the title? Whatever her intent, one thing is for sure; Reba is actively misleading viewers of her profile as to what her actual competencies are and what she does at Corporation X.
Also, it could be argued she does a disservice to actual accountants who have spent the better part of a decade or more educating themselves so they can legitimately call themselves an “accountant”.
Now, placing the debate between accountant vs. bookkeeper aside, am I to also believe that Reba really does not know the title of the position she was hired to fill? Moreover, since Reba is connected to many of her coworkers via LinkedIn, why doesn’t she seem to be the least bit concerned that many people at work, including her current supervisor, will see the false information?
“Randy” worked for “Corporation Y” briefly as my friend “Steve’s” assistant. Prior to working as Steve’s assistant, Randy worked for a few years in retail sales. Steve, by comparison is about 15 years Randy’s senior in age. Steve has multiple degrees as well as over 30 years’ experience in his industry, which is not retail sales.
I could not help but notice that Randy’s summary for duties preformed as Steve’s assistant were, word for word, the exact job summary that Steve has listed for his own current position. That’s right. The former assistant went to his former boss’s LinkedIn profile and copied his former boss’s current job summary into his own LinkedIn profile. Randy credits himself with performing, expertly, all the tasks that Steve does, word for word.
Again, I want to give Randy the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he feels since he “assisted” Steve with his job, taking credit for the work created at Company Y during his tenure there is legitimate?
Actual business professionals know that simply having “assisted” someone is not the same thing as having conceived, researched, planned, and executed on a concept. I am sure while being employed as Steve’s assistant Randy also fetched coffee and picked up take out for the team. That hardly would qualify him to make the claim that he started Starbucks or is an expert event planner.
In both scenarios, my point is this: It can take an entire career to become an expert at a job. Making the job look easy in the process is the result of decades of hard work. Simply cutting and pasting someone else’s carefully cultivated work experience or skills set onto your LinkedIn profile is not the same thing.
No doubt exaggerated and embellished resumes lead to some candidates getting interviews or jobs over other candidates who were more qualified. Employees being placed in jobs that they are not prepared for not only hurts other workers, but the businesses that hired them as well. And what of former employers like Corporation X and Corporation Y? How do these dishonest employees reflect upon their former and current employers?
Think about it. Reba and Randy are standing on boxes of fabricated information and calling themselves tall for it. More importantly, they are broadcasting that Corporations X and Y have given them duties and titles that would only be delegated to highly qualified employees. The truth is, Reba and Randy, despite what they have indicated about themselves on LinkedIn, are far from executive material. Eventually they will open their mouths and they will speak…poorly. It will be obvious how lacking they are in skills and experience. Who will look bad then? Randy and Reba or the company the public believes hired them and counts them among their very best?
Whether the dishonesty is overt, the result of laziness or perhaps even desperation, fake information still hurts the reputation of a business even when the employee in question is no longer employed there. To protect their reputations, businesses would be wise to have a policy in place that deals with statements of false or misleading information made by employees regarding their employment. This should include information posted outside of the resume that the employee turned in for employment consideration. Business owners should also consider keeping a letter authored by a competent business attorney on hand; one that can be mailed out quickly should a former employee need to be “encouraged” to remove false or exaggerated information regarding their employment with an organization.
Below are the instructions for how to report fake information on a LinkedIn profile. I encourage all business professionals out there to start using it when they come across untrue or misleading statements on LinkedIn. After all, the intention of LinkedIn was to raise the standard when it came to business communications, hiring practices and networking. Hiring managers should not be viewing resumes through the made-up filter of an unqualified candidate’s choosing. This practice is systematically lowering the bar.
Reporting Inaccurate Information on Another LinkedIn Member’s Profile
To report profiles with inaccurate information, you can file a formal complaint using the Notice of Inaccurate Profile Information form.
Note: This form should only be used to report inaccurate profile information. If you want to report a fake profile, a hacked account, or a scam, please click on the applicable link below:
Once you’ve completed the form, it will automatically be sent to our Trust and Safety team for review. You can save a copy for your reference.
If you believe the claim was submitted in error or if you contest the removal of the allegedly infringing, inaccurate, or unlawful content, you may submit a Counter-Notice.
Important Note: Any assertions made by you in submitting this form are under penalty of perjury.
Need Help with an Employment Dispute?
Law 4 Small Business, P.C. (L4SB). A little law now can save a lot later. A Slingshot company.
I’ve reported fake profiles in the nursing profession because I think it is dangerous for people to climb the ladder who aren’t capable in those roles. I’ve even contacted the board about it, but as yet nothing has been said about this matter.
Some exaggerating is to be expected, it’s just dressing up that best foot forward. Be weary of the one who really seems to have it all together when you do take a closer look – now that’s the fake profile to watch for!