LinkedIn as a Screening Tool (Part 2)

Our last newsletter considered LinkedIn’s usefulness as a tool to obtain deeper insight into a candidate’s communication and leadership capabilities.  This issue, we consider additional areas in which LinkedIn may assist hiring managers and recruiters to more accurately assess candidates.

At Metis CFO, we routinely check to ensure candidate profiles on LinkedIn are consistent with resumes, interviews, and information available from other sources. Certain comparisons are objective and seek to affirm previously provided information, while others are subjective and designed to more accurately comprehend an individual’s traits and behaviors.

Comparing Resumes and LI Profiles

In a majority of cases, I find that resumes and LI profiles are not completely consistent. This often results because LinkedIn has not been updated to include an individual’s most recent employment experience(s).  While this scenario is not a fatal oversight, more concerning are instances involving significant employment history discrepancies between a resume and LinkedIn profile which appear irreconcilable.  For example, LinkedIn may indicate an individual worked for Company A from 2001-2003, Company B from 2003-2007, and Company C from 2007-1010. However, their resume incorporates dates of employment at Company B from 2001-2007 and Company C from 2007-2011.Observe that no mention is made of Company A in the resume and the employment dates for Company C are inconsistent with their LI profile. These situations occur more frequently than you would expect and are most common when reaching out to professionals outside your existing network.

Based on my experience, there are two primary reasons why candidates disseminate inaccurate employment history. The first is an intention to deceive hiring managers and recruiters by avoiding the disclosure of previous terminations and short tenured positions. Individuals omit troublesome past experiences and manipulate their tenure(s) at the remaining former employer(s) included in their resume to cover the gaps. Another popular twist is adjusting the dates of service at former employers to mask periods of unemployment.  The preponderance of employment history deceptions are undertaken in an effort to avoid disclosing potentially negative subjects which the candidate perceives could eliminate them from current or future consideration.

You may be wondering why such individuals would not take care to ensure the information contained in their resume and LinkedIn profile was consistent. When discrepancies are observed, LinkedIn typically provides the most accurate portrayal of an individual’s employment experience. This makes intuitive sense since LinkedIn profiles are accessible to a candidate’s ‘connections’ and potentially to the general public. Consequently, former colleagues and others would have an opportunity to observe and challenge blatant misrepresentations contained in an individual’s online profile. Coupled with that, candidates tend to (correctly) believe that hiring managers and recruiters are preliminarily focused on their resume rather than sources of online information.

Probing inconsistencies between a resume and LI profile can prove a valuable tool for eliminating untrustworthy individuals early in the search or relationship development process.  An effective employment verification process would eventually bring such misrepresentations to light, but how many hours and dollars can be saved catching these earlier?

The second most common explanation for inconsistencies in work history between resumes and LI profiles is attributable to non-malicious abridgements made by the candidate.  I recently met a senior executive via impromptu introduction at a local networking event. He had a resume on hand which he briefly walked me through in roughly fifteen minutes. He worked for the same company the previous twelve years and mentioned having participated in M&A activities during that time.  My preliminary impression was the gentleman possessed an impressive record of achievement and adequate leadership experience to merit a follow-up meeting. However, I doubted he would ever make a short list of candidates in a search for a client. He appeared to lack an “X-factor” to differentiate him from the rest of the crowd; special skill(s) which delineates an exceptional leader from a merely good one.   Regardless, one can never have too many professionals in their network so we agreed to speak in a more formal and focused conversation.

Since our initial meeting had been spontaneous, there was not an opportunity to review LinkedIn prior to reviewing his resume.  However, I observed soon after that his LI profile indicated he worked at four different companies during the twelve year period we previously discussed. His resume asserted he worked at one company for the entire twelve years. Naturally, I requested an explanation for this apparently irreconcilable difference. He responded his career began with a company which was acquired by a larger competitor, which was then required by another competitor, which then merged with another. Rather than breaking each former employer out on his resume, he simply used the final name of the company at the time of his departure. The candidate assumed it was too confusing and burdensome to list each of the predecessor companies separately within his resume.   While he mentioned during our initial meeting that his experience included M&A, he never brought up any of the details. This gentleman survived and thrived through multiple acquisitions by larger companies by acclimating to the needs of disparate ownership groups. This is a great testament to his competence, leadership, and flexibility. These are indicators of the world class talent which recruiters and employers seek. The longer we talked, the clearer it became this individual was indeed special. However, none of this may have come up had I not compared his resume and LI profile. Based solely on his initial interview and resume, many hiring managers and recruiters likely may have dismissed him entirely as ‘average’ and nixed any follow-up as unnecessary.

Assessing Candidate Networks

When meeting an individual for the first time, I typically send them an invitation to ‘connect’ on LinkedIn.  Most subscribers allow their ‘connections’ to view and interact with each other. For example, you can search through a friend’s network to determine if anyone else is employed in your industry.  I have found that analyzing connections are helpful for validating, clarifying, or challenging existing candidate assessments.

The existence of certain ‘connections’, or the lack thereof, can provide clues surrounding an individual’s relationship with former employers and employees.  Some factors we consider include :

Why does the candidate lack connections to former supervisors or peers from their current and/or previous employers? Is this an indication of poor relationships at former employers? Such a circumstance would deserve scrutiny and a response from the candidate. If former supervisors and peers are active connections who also ‘recommend’ the candidate, then you obtain some level of affirmation the candidate is well thought of by previous employers.

LI subscribers can easily, and without charge, join a virtually unlimited number of ‘Groups’ which incorporate a wide variety of occupations, industries, and interests. There is a misconception that joining a large number of groups is viewed as a sign of networking prowess by hiring managers and recruiters.  Rather than focusing on the number of groups joined, we attempt to analyze a candidate’s connections which paint a more meaningful portrait of networking and relationship building acumen. Do their connections include a substantial number of peers within the individual’s industry? Peers from across diverse industries? Do connections include leaders from the LinkedIn groups that the individual has joined? Do connections include a mix of industry vendors, peers, subordinates, and superiors? An extensive and diverse network tends to be an indicator of a dynamic leader and relationship builder. Conversely, one’s claim to be a member of twenty LinkedIn groups rings hollow when it is determined none of group leaders or participants are included among the candidate’s connections.


LinkedIn is an easily accessible source of information which may assist talent acquisition professionals to more quickly and accurately assess the experience, traits, and behaviors of potential candidates.  When compared and contrasted with additional sources of information, LI can highlight areas which require additional consideration and affirm existing assumptions regarding a candidate.

Metis CFO Partners delivers world class senior financial leaders to lower and middle market businesses. We offer executive search services, as well as interim CFO and fractional CFO executives on a contract basis.

Christopher Tiesman

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