12 LinkedIn gaffes to avoid at all costs

Don’t commit any of the LinkedIn faux pas on this list. Your next job may depend on it.

LinkedIn is a social media platform for professional networking. It is also currently the largest professional networking community in existence, with more than 100 million users in more than 200 countries worldwide.

I wish people had a better understanding of the term “professional networking.” LinkedIn is not MySpace, Facebook, or Twitter, and it never will be. It is simply a place where you establish professional connections.

I know most of you will laugh while reading these 12 “things not to do” on LinkedIn, as I do whenever I encounter them. Humor aside, though, I think it is time to clearly shout out loud to those who are doing these things on a regular basis.

Here are some of the things that I have witnessed during my five years of professional networking on LinkedIn:

1. Don’t lie in your profile.

I think this should be self-explanatory, as we live in the 21st century, and things (and data) are easy to check. Be truthful about your name, title, employment, and achievements. I recall a young professional who was trying so hard to get a job that every time he applied for it, he changed his title. Over a period of one year, he was a buyer, a buying director, a merchandising director, and, finally, managing director, at which point I lost track of the many “achievements” he had accomplished at the age of 21. I personally know this individual, and I can tell you that he is still working as a shop assistant.

2. Don’t ask or endorse people you don’t know.

I am amazed every time I get an endorsement request from a person that I have never talked to or worked with. I have to wonder who would jeopardize their own credibility by recommending a person they have never met or worked with. Don’t get me wrong—I do recommend people. But before I recommend someone, I make sure I can stand behind my words. This can be achieved simply by engaging in groups, Twitter chats, meet ups, or other forms of professional networking.

3. Don’t buy or sell your contacts.

In the last few weeks I have gotten a few emails from my first connections on LinkedIn offering me the chance to buy “quality” contacts to expand my network. Prices offered were anywhere from $250 to $700 for 1,000 contacts. Here is my input on selling or buying a contacts list: Don’t! You can get all the contacts you want free in open networker groups on LinkedIn if you really want the title “most connected.”

You might get an “IDK” (“I Don’t Know” this person) response from a person with whom you try to connect if that person is not an open networker. If you get too many IDK replies, LinkedIn can suspend your account.

Remember, the quality of your connections is more important than the quantity, just like you want to have quality followers on Twitter rather than a large number of followers who aren’t meaningful to you. If you are a seller of contact lists, I strongly recommend that you put this in your profile headline, as I am positive any future employer would be more than happy to know that you like to sell data, and would guess you would be happy to sell their customers data info as well.

4. Don’t ask your connection to set up a job interview for you.

It is close to impossible to get this done, especially for people who have had zero interaction with their connection. I might be willing to connect you with the hiring manager in the company that you are interested in, but I can’t set up an interview for you. If this was easy to achieve, believe me, I would have a new job every month.

As I am not a recruiter, don’t ask me or your other connections whether we think you are a good fit for a job. This gives the impression that you aren’t willing to take the time to check out the job requirements yourself. The proper way to initiate a request to one of your connections is to explain in the request why you chose to ask that particular person for a connection.

5. Don’t ask questions that might legally implicate you.

The Q&A section on LinkedIn is not a place to ask questions that could legally implicate you. Here is an example of this that gave me a really good laugh:

Q: “I am divorcing my wife, and I own a C-class corporation. Would you tell me how to hide the corporation so that I don’t have to give that b**** half of it?”

First, if your wife is a direct connection of yours, she will see your question. Second, LinkedIn pages are indexed by Google, which means that whatever you ask will stay on Google forever, exposing your plan to commit fraud.

6. Don’t ask to “date” someone; LinkedIn is not a Match.com.

LinkedIn is a professional networking community. While I am flattered when I receive an e-mail that starts with “hey sexy” or “hey gorgeous, would you grab a drink with me,” I would only respond to a request like this on eHarmony.com or Match.com. I don’t build my career under the sheets, and neither should you—at least not on LinkedIn.

7. Don’t criticize your employer in groups.

LinkedIn is not a place to criticize or publish bad reviews about your current employer. I know how angry you can be; we’ve all had bad days in the office, but problems such as this should be sorted out offline, not online where everything stays forever. Stating in the first line that you need to stay anonymous will not help you, since your profile is tagged next to the comment and includes your full name and picture.

8. Don’t publish profile pictures of your “wealth” when looking for a job.

Choice of your profile picture should reflect your professionalism. Pictures of you in a new Bentley or Mercedes or on a yacht will not help you when you scream out in your profile headline that you desperately need a new job. This kind of picture might give hiring managers the wrong impression. A clear headshot will work perfectly. And as much as we all would like our picture to be perfect and appealing, I need to say that we should all button up our shirts when taking a profile picture for LinkedIn. Chest hair or cleavage doesn’t belong on a professional networking site.

9. Don’t create a group if you have no intention of moderating it.

Creating a group and then not replying to members’ questions and requests will leave a negative impression, especially if your job title is social media strategist or community manager. If you are not able or don’t have time to interact with a group, don’t open one, and save yourself from getting a bad reputation on LinkedIn.

10. Don’t send the “Nigerian scam” emails.

This is an old scam that has gone on for many years. While we all understand how difficult it would be to lose your wallet in the back seat of a taxi, wouldn’t it be a better idea to first contact your family before seeking financial help from your network? This scam has now started on LinkedIn, and I hope LinkedIn will do something about it.

11. Don’t copy your résumé from other profiles.

Or, if you really need to, be sure you change all the achievements, job titles, and company names. You might encounter someone who knows the person that you copied the résumé from. I don’t mind you looking at my resume and getting some inspiration from it, but make sure that, at a minimum, you correct at least the name of the company that you work for. And before copying anything, familiarize yourself with copyright law.

12. Don’t ask for contact information of others in my network.

If professionals want their email addresses or phone numbers to be public knowledge, they will put these in their profiles, and many do so. You can check individuals’ profiles. You also may use the so-called “Introduction Request,” and many networkers would be glad to pass your request on to the person you are interested in. That person can then decide if they want to follow up on your request. But it is not my right to give contact information of others out, as I would not be happy if someone gave mine out without asking me first.

I am sure there are many more “things not to do” to be added to this list. Feel free to share them in the comments below.

Jure Klepic is a marketing sales and business development executive with 15 years of international markets experience in CPG industry. He currently holds the position director of sales & marketing and is studying law at American Heritage University, School of Law. A version of this story first appeared on the 12 Most blog.


Ragan.com Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from Ragan.com directly in your inbox.