LinkedIn is the top social networking site for passive candidates who want to be found. But simply having a LinkedIn profile might draw suspicion from your current employer, so you want to be careful how you use the site.

First, find out what your current company’s policy is about LinkedIn. If there isn’t one, consider approaching your boss about the strategic value of company employees having a presence on the social networking site. As LinkedIn itself points out: “Just because you use LinkedIn doesn’t mean you’re looking for a job. Many people use LinkedIn to keep in contact with others and help them succeed in their current position.”

Your employer may even encourage development of your LinkedIn profile. Here are some reasons your company may support employees involvement on LinkedIn:

  • Your employer’s company profile will be more robust if current employees are on LinkedIn.
  • Employees can connect with potential customers.
  • Employees can demonstrate thought leadership and expert positioning for the company through involvement in LinkedIn Groups related to the company’s work.
  • Potential candidates can reach out to current employees through LinkedIn.

Even if your company supports employee involvement on LinkedIn for business purposes, you still need to deflect being perceived as an active job seeker. So here are some specific actions you should take on LinkedIn to support your stealth job search, while still being visible for business connections and to facilitate unsolicited job opportunities:

  1. Turn off your activity broadcasts. This is an important first step, as it will ensure that your entire network isn’t notified every time you make a change to your profile. If you don’t turn off this setting, all of your connections will receive notifications of every change you make to your LinkedIn profile. So do this before making any changes! Click here for a quick screenshot tutorial, which explains how to turn off activity broadcasts.
  2. Select who can see your list of connections. The choices are: Your Connections or Only You. Who you know is actually valuable information for future employers who are considering hiring you or searching for you on LinkedIn, so leave this as “Your Connections.”
  3. Select the type of messages you’re willing to receive. Do not click the “Career Opportunities,” “Job Inquiries,” or “New Ventures” boxes — these will show up on your Profile. However, you can check “Expertise Requests,” “Business Deals,” “Personal Reference Requests,” and “Requests to Reconnect.”
  4. Complete the “Advice to People Who Are Contacting You” section on that page. In particular, include your personal phone numbers (home and/or cell) to facilitate employment-related contacts.
  5. Manage your Recommendations. Cultivate these over time; suddenly adding several Recommendations at once may raise suspicion. So request Recommendations over a period of time (for example, one per month), so that they appear more organically.
  6. Avoid revealing proprietary information about your employer on your LinkedIn profile. You want to quantify accomplishments, but not disclose company secrets. Focus on how you’ve helped the company stand out and be successful, not how you stand out and are successful.
  7. Don’t participate in LinkedIn Groups for job seekers while you’re employed. Instead, participate in LinkedIn Groups where you might be found by recruiters or future employers. Contribute your expertise (and carefully considered comments) in job function-specific or industry Groups.
  8. Build your network of contacts slowly. Do not send out multiple connection requests within a short period of time. If your number of connections jumps from 20 to 120 in just days, that’s suspicious to anyone who might be checking out your profile. You definitely want to get your connection number above 100. But do it over a period of time, not all at once.
  9. Do not use LinkedIn’s profile blocking feature to minimize your LinkedIn visibility to your current boss or colleagues. This will only raise red flags if they know you have a LinkedIn profile but can’t access it. (They can simply ask a friend or colleague to log into their own LinkedIn account and pull up your LinkedIn profile.) If you had previously blocked supervisors or colleagues for this reason, LinkedIn now allows you to “unblock” these individuals. Instructions and your list of blocked individuals can be found at:
  10. Don’t upgrade to the paid job seeker membership level. The last thing you need in your confidential job search is a job hunting icon on your LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn is a vital tool for job search, professional development and networking. Just be sure your employer only sees the activity you want them to see. In my next post, you’ll learn about nine big mistakes that can derail your confidential job search.

(c) Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, The Career Success Coach All Rights Reserved