CVs, career opportunities, and connections: LinkedIn

LinkedIn, when all is said and done, is just another social network, though it has a more clear-cut purpose than most social networks: It is business and career focused. I’ve been a member of LinkedIn for some time, so while I would normally adderss the usability of the relevant tool in a post like this, instead I am going to talk about the purpose-focus of LinkedIn, and how the interface reflects that.

Let’s begin with an example of LinkedIn in action: as I said back in my post on social networks, I have it mostly so I have a CV that is online and up-to-date. Despite my skepticism in that post, though, I can now say from experience that a LinkedIn CV does open up career opportunities: I was recently approached about a job by an in-house recruiter from a large, presitigious and lucrative company looking for someone with my skills. We set up a phone meeting through LinkedIn, and I discovered that the timing of the opportunity was not right for me, however it was not a wasted call for the recruiter because (on her request) I passed her details on to two others who may be a good fit for the role. Certainly this experience gives me more incentive to keep my CV up-to-date.

So, why was it that I trusted this person enough to give them my mobile number, and why did she believe that I was who I said I was, when “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog“? Partly it works based on our connections. The recruiter was able to determine that I am likely to be who and what I say I am based on my connections to some big names in my field, and to some people in my field who knew people she knows. Sure, I could still be lying, but it is a lot less likely when I am connected to these “known” people. Equally, I was able to determine that she was who she said she was based on our connections within LinkedIn.

How is it, though, that LinkedIn encourages such a businesslinke atmosphere (including connecting only to people you know, and not engaging in “friend philately“)? Partly it is the tight control of the interface that the owners of the technology have maintained–the applications are limited , and there is no way to personalise your profile to be neon pink and yellow, and according to the New York Times there was considerable doubt about whether to allow users to put photos on their profiles. This tight control means that despite the web 2.0 style rounded buttons, LinkedIn has a text-heavy, businesslike feel. LinkedIn users are subtly encouraged to only accept invitations from those they know by the ‘I don’t Know <name>’ button at the bottom of every invitation, it is a reminder that (unlike many social networking sites) you don’t have to be friends with everyone. Not-so-subtly, in the questions and answers interface answers can be marked as “connection building spam”–friend philately is clearly frowned upon. On top of all this, LinkedIn is lightweight — because there are no built-in blogs or status indicators or anything like that, LinkedIn doesn’t generate tens of emails per day, nor is there any pressure to interact with it any more frequently than required to update your own CV; it is clearly designed as a tool rather than a playpen.

While LinkedIn has been very successful in deliberately designing a businesslike interface, some people that I work with have found the lack of space to create their own content or have “nuanced interactions” offputting, one even said that LinkedIn caused them to realise that they were not a professional and they did not care.

So what would be a good balance? Is it okay that the LinkedIn interfaces alienates some people with the purposefulness that makes it so effective? Are those people likely to join anyway, since interactions are so lightweight? The answer is likely to be different for different users, and without testing a wide range of professionals, it would be impossible to tell exactly where this balance falls, but I hope that LinkedIn haven;t gotten it wrong and disenfranchised a whole class of creative professionals. What do you think?


2 Responses to “CVs, career opportunities, and connections: LinkedIn”

  1. 1 kimtblogger Tuesday, July 8, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    The experience of some of the people that I work with here has been very positive. They have reestablished professional connections. However no job offers yet.

    I think it is terrific that the “architectural affordances and norms” (boyd, 2006) keep the network professional. Maybe Americans are better at selling themselves and creating the personal brand and us antipodeans are a bit more reluctant. I think perhaps if you can see a real benefit in using LinkedIn you will as the need arises. I don’t believe it is alienating to creative professionals… but it definitely as much fun as Facebook.

  2. 2 Sara Jervis Thursday, July 10, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    There is a grand epic about intelligence being illustrated by your blog Dana on Linkedin.. The professionals always finds what they want or need. Somehow.

    You have posed a time-honoured question – is the tool so dedicated and not fashionably bloggy, it will put off people? My response is that the very professionalism will ensure it is excellent for those who choose to use it. I compare it a little with a proper reference and Wikipedia. Both serve their purpose but the professional goes to the proper references unless a quick world-encyclopaedia-style reference will do, even if written by whomever.

    The key to this is the “key” to the different worlds we live in and care about.

    For a professional working in the twilight (and high life) of a career, Linkedin is totally irrelevant to me. But to professionals like you, any “professional” tool that adds to one’s curiosity/career is excellent.

    The internet just makes everything faster. The choice to seek is made through intelligence, just as it was 10,000 years ago.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s



Some rights reserved.

Comment moderation

If it is your first time posting, your comment will automatically be held for my moderation -- I try get to these as soon as possible. After that, your comments will appear automatically. If your comment is on-topic and isn't abusing me or anyone else who comments, chances are I'll leave it alone. That said, I reserve the right to delete (or infinitely moderate) any comments that are abusive, spammy or otherwise irelevant.

%d bloggers like this: