Lying on LinkedIn: Comedy or Career Suicide?


Are you using LinkedIn, the professional social networking site?  It is the go to place for your online resume and networking.

So one of the paramounts of LinkedIn, so I thought, was the fact that people were pretty real.  Since it is your professional life.  And well, pretty easy to verify.

Imagine my surprise yesterday, when I got a message from a co-worker pointing to the profile of one of our ex-coworkers.  This former co-woker worked at our company somewhere between 3-6 months.  I can’t recall, but it was closer to 3 than 6. I’ll call him Bobby (I don’t think I am connected to any real Bobby’s.   This is a pseudonym).

The current profile is actually the 3rd version of his job description I have seen on LinkedIn since he left over a year ago.

Rev 1:  He worked with us for about 9 months or a year. To keep the story up, he asked a few people to fib for him in case any reference calls came their way.  An exaggeration, yes.  But I know he was aiming to fill the gap in his resume.  Expected.  Almost.

Rev 2:  He started a new position in another company after a couple months of job hunting.  Same job title.  Suddenly the entry for my company changed.  His profile said he worked with us for about 3.5 years.  The end date was a full 2 years before he actually worked at our company.  He also took credit for the successes of that time.  Keep in mind half of his LinkedIn contacts from the company weren’t around during this fake tenure.

Rev 3:  The current version.  He has merged the ideas of version 1 and 2.  So he took the original start date from Rev 1.  And now says he is currently working at our company.  One fatal flaw?  His profile is still linking to the last company he worked for under the “my company” link.  Oops.  (Do you think the LinkedIn lies have any relationship to the change in employment status?)

So Bobby is a pathological liar.  That is the only reasonable explanation.  My current co-workers?  We all got a good laugh about the current profile (as with the 2nd).  I can’t say that we are shocked about the whole thing.  Do I want to be a reference for this person.  No way.  And I the main thing I wonder about now…if the entry for my company is a big lie, is the rest 100% B.S? Or just 50%.  I guess I’ll never know.

I am well aware people fib a little on their resume.  Fudge the start and end dates.  Take credit for projects you played a small role in.  Claim team successes as individual successes.  The essence of these fibs is reality.  Bobby’s lies are a severe distortion of reality.

So I asked myself, is there an easy way to double check this stuff?  Here’s what I came up with.

  1. Look for similar job titles during the time the person claimed to work for the company.  This works best in a smaller company or for a senior title.  (Bobby would have failed this test during Rev 2.)
  2. Look to see if they are connected to the other people with the same tenure (in the company or department).  This search might be hard to initiate, but I am sure there is a ratio of connections to employees.  If there are too many people that are unconnected, it is a red flag.
  3. Recommendations.  Look for recommendations on any long-term jobs.   If they are regular LinkedIn users, and they have many colleagues on LinkedIn, they’ll have some recommendations from that period.

Do you have any ideas? Comment or send me a tweet.  (See the sidebar)

So am I calling Bobby out?  Not directly, but here’s a little challenge.  Bobby is one of my connections.  See if you can find this person.

Decipher this code [this isn’t the best sentence ever, but you have to work with what you’ve got]:

Advisers reason, career inventions increase confidence or impress watchers intellectually.

I realize I left out another LinkedIn mishap.  This is from over a year ago.  We interviewed a senior communications person.  I asked, in passing, if he used LinkedIn.  He continued to spend the next 15 minutes talking about how valuable it was, and how he was connected to Silicon Valley executives all over the place.

After the interview I searched for his profile, so we could connect.  He had a rare last name.  I had his resume in front of me.  I searched for the name and his former company.  No sign of him.  Or at least a profile that matched his resume.  Even remotely.  That ended that.  Words of advice:  don’t hype up your LinkedIn usage if you don’t use it.  Make sure your resume and profile are consistent.  </tirade>

9 thoughts on “Lying on LinkedIn: Comedy or Career Suicide?

  1. shonal

    Lying on LinkedIn- Definitely not funny, but not to the extreme of career suicide either. Let’s say it falls somewhere in the middle of both. I’d call it abusing and deteriorating one’s moral fiber. 😀

  2. Oh yes, I’ve had this too – but the worst has to be someone who worked for three short weeks as an intern for a well known corporate I worked with who then presented himself as a former employee and expert adviser! The silly thing is that he had asked me to be a connection – didn’t he think we would notice!

  3. lesleyharrison

    I’ve just encountered my first LinkedIN liar – they claim to work for my company. The thing is, my company is a family business. There’s precisely two ‘staff’ (one is me, the other is my husband). We have a handful of casual freelancers, but they’re all really close friends.

    So, some guy from the other side of the country claiming to work for us stands out like a sore thumb. I can’t comprehend why someone would even bother. Especially since they have no connections at the moment…. madness.

      • lesleyharrison

        I reported the fake profile to LinkedIn, and they responded about a week later to say that it had been removed. Unfortunately that’s all they’ve said. I would have loved to have known who was behind the profile. I kept an eye on it while it was still on the site, and the person in question joined a few groups related to the industry, but never made any connections.

        It’s good that LinkedIn got rid of it, but I wonder how much damage someone malicious (as opposed to just plain strange) could do if they kept a fake profile for a full week and made use of it.

  4. Suzanne

    Interesting: I just reached this web page as a result of checking someone’s LinkedIn employment history against Companies House records in the UK. Several of the person’s ‘periods of employment’ with various companies began before these companies were started, (one in particular was over three years before); another period of employment was two years after the company had ceased to exist. The company this person current states that they work for was set up several months after they said they began there.

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