I hate to kick someone when they’re already down. In fact, I’m surprised I can, all things considered. Seriously.
For all the shit that’s been talked about LinkedIn on this site over the years (present company included), somehow, they keep figuring out ways to screw up even more. And I’m not just talking about when it comes to shareholder value.
I’m talking about the fact that this company that’s actually lost a lawsuit for violating their own terms of service, not to mention a slew of cases involving member privacy and user confidentiality – the same company that’s become the pariah of platforms among recruiting professionals – somehow hasn’t even hit what, by most standards, is already the lowest of lows.
Think we’ve even scratched the surface of suspect practices, scams and shadiness behind the LinkedIn behemoth? Not so fast, slappy.
I mean, we’ve still got a whole lot of shit left in the arsenal – and while it’s an easy target, the fact is, we have trouble taking pity when it comes to a “professional network” that’s literally alienated everyone in our industry (well, almost everyone – that’s for you, LinkedIn publicist).
Today, I’d like to turn to a subject that’s near and dear to many of our hiring hearts and go for a little LION hunt.
And yes, Cecil the Lion does have a LinkedIn profile, just in case you were wondering. Too soon?
Nah. It’s time for us to take a look at what’s long been one of the most noxious trends in talent – the LinkedIn Open Networker.
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Why You Always LION?
If you’ve ever spent any time at all on LinkedIn – and if you’re 98.8% of the recruiting industry, that means you – you’re already familiar with the concept of the LinkedIn L.I.O.N.
It’s an acronym most of these losers use as an acronym in the header of their profile, which everyone knows is as much of a red flag as “currently looking for next opportunity!” or “SPHR” when it comes to making connections.
In the peculiar vernacular of the complete douche canoes who use LinkedIn specific vernacular, the L.I.O.N. doesn’t stand for “loneliest idiot online now,” but instead, “LinkedIn Open Networker.” Well, congratulations. You’re a certifiable asshole.
If the whole L.I.O.N. thing sounds like a whole lot of bullshit to you, congratulations. You’re sane and possess some semblance of common sense. Besides being a vomit inducing, three day old Indian food in a used diaper smelling steaming pile of social, it sends the signal that no matter what the hell you do, you should never, ever connect with this ass hat, because they’re going to somehow just piss off your entire network.
LIONs are a lot like LARPers – it’s like everyone else is in on the joke, but the punchline is, this is really their lives.
Connecting for the sake of connecting on the platform that explicitly purports to preempt such behavior. Of course, when you need active users, the fact these people spend more time clogging news feeds with inspirational quotes and Business Insider articles than they probably ever have actually recruiting (or any real job) is only a good thing for LinkedIn.
They love LIONs – they’re the only people who still think that their network is somehow relevant.
For a long time, I thought, “I’d love five minutes with the intern who got the greenlight on that hunk of shit from the head honchos over at LinkedIn.” I would then want the other 55 minutes of that hour long appointment to be with the same person who thought, “LinkedIn doesn’t need recruiters. We’re a social network.”
Of course, that dude probably cashed out a long ass time ago, leaving the LIONs to prey on the entrails of what’s left of LinkedIn.
So I was surprised to discover that, in spite of all of the shit, the fact is that LinkedIn doesn’t actually endorse LIONs, and they explicitly say so on their Help Center:
Are you really surprised that this is the party line – that the company doesn’t officially condone these professional network parasites? Of course they don’t – that’s just bad branding. LinkedIn does, however, perpetuate this perpetual worst practice by allowing it to continue unabated, in open violation of LinkedIn’s publically stated rules of only “connecting with those you know and know well.”
You know well that’s the biggest lie this side of “you were referred to me by a former coworker of yours who wanted to be kept confidential.”
Essentially, what L.I.O.N. really means, is that the person who uses this awful, asinine acronym is willing to connect with anyone and everyone,whether or not there’s any real value in having that person in your network or any discernible reason why you’d accept an invitation from someone whose headline already tells you that they’re basically a giant asshole. Hell, why we’re at it, let’s also go ahead and acknowledge that for most LIONs, there’s a 50% chance (maybe) that they’re even real people to begin with.
These would be kings have turned LinkedIn into a jungle of networking where more value is placed on the quantity of connections instead of their quality, a mentality that LinkedIn implicitly encourages. The company could care less about the quality (or reality) or their “user base” for quite some time now – and truth is, these connection collectors do them more good than harm when it comes to the metrics that matter most to the people with money.
Cowardly LIONs: If They Only Had A Brain.
There are a few recruiters out there who remember when LinkedIn used to clamp down on sending too many unsolicited profiles, or using, say, a cartoon or avatar for your profile picture instead of a real headshot. In fact, they’d put you in “LinkedIn Jail,” and basically suspended your account until you begged that you’d never do it again (until the next time). But that’s a distant memory, at least since the company went public and stopped caring about privacy.
Every recruiter knows that LinkedIn has had something of a spam problem (understatement of the year) for some time now. Personally, as a recruiter filling reqs for a company with some cache, I personally have to take the time to check every connection request I receive, and I do this due diligence carefully. In my experience, about 1 in 5 (minimum) is a completely fictitious account with a fake name and phony picture. That’s 20% if you’re keeping score at home.
Shout out to my main man, Ghana Joe, who is the lone CEO out there who deems me worthy of a personal connection! For reals, though. Appreciate you, Ghana Joe.
C’mon, man. These fake invitations are a total waste of my time, not to mention a complete devaluation of a network myself and millions of other recruiters have personally spent their entire careers (over 11 years, in my case) building out with our own information, requisitions and candidates.
Our connections have become their information, and their need to keep up with Wall Street’s projections are largely the reason those connections have become so commoditized.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the dudes and dudettes over at TinEye, whose photo recognition technology has saved me countless hours and helped me spot countless phonies over the course of the past few years. Little surprise, many of these fraudulent accounts described themselves as LIONs. But if they think I’m going to be their prey, all I can say is, screw that.
Nope, I’m going hunting. And, my friends, it’s LION season.
The Mane Event: Why LIONs Deserve To Be Shot.
Look, if you want to treat your network like a carcass that’s ready to be plundered by a pack of hungry carnivores, then by all means let the LIONs loose. Of course, you’re everything that’s wrong with both recruiting and social media, and I’m going to bet that you’re likely compensating for a shockingly undersized phallus, but, you know, do your thing. But before you open the networking floodgates, realize that your actions have repercussions not only for you, but everyone else who’s vouched for you as “someone they trust.” Liars.
If you’re one of the purported 400 million or so LinkedIn users who’s a real person (a number that’s got to be just as big of a lie), you’re getting screwed over by these scammers. Worse, they’re ruining what used to be one of the most fertile hunting grounds out there for finding and connecting with top talent. Today, the landscape is barren besides B2B marketers and phishing food. The long term results ravaged by LIONs, however, will be even more sinister, I’m afraid.
By allowing literally any asshole into your network like you were handing out red Solo cups at a Frat party – complete with geeks, motorheads, wastoids – you implicitly perpetuate spammers and explicitly help them achieve their illicit ends, intentional or not. You’re part of the problem, and you, sir, suck. Big time. Shocked?
Well, you shouldn’t be, because you were the one who just clicked through and accepted those bloodsuckers into your network without a second thought, and immediately granted them access to your entire network. That thing most of us recruiters have spent decades fighting to build, and our ultimate asset and competitive advantage as talent professionals.
While you added to your number of connections and probably satisfied your phallic fallacies and enormous ego for a few fleeting moments, the fact is that for everyone connected to you, you’ve basically let the leeches in – and soon, we’re all going to be bombarded by invites and more spam than a Nigerian Prince who needs a bridge loan or a Russian dude looking to offload some brand name Viagra at cheapest price for you, my friend. Seriously. Stop it.
I’m personally of the option that anyone who doesn’t actively deny or work to stop these living, breathing spam bots who rely on the moniker “open networker” because it sounds way more legit than “scam artist” simply must not get it. To go back to the basics here for a minute, let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). Networking is defined as:
“the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.”
You’ll notice that nowhere does Webster or Merriam define this crucial concept as “clicking accept on every f-ing invitation that happens to come your way.” In fact, if you look at the dictionary definition, that worst practice seems, in fact, more or less like the exact antithesis of networking. In essence, if you’re a L.I.O.N., you’re either doing it wrong or involved in some sort of elaborate racketeering scandal. If the latter, man, we’re cool. If you’re the former, do me and every other real recruiter out there a huge favor and listen up.
There’s a growing movement to fight spam in the recruiting industry that’s coalescing in very clear, concrete ways. You can now find some variation of this recurring theme on the agenda of almost every recruiting conference or event, and it’s one of the hottest trending topics in recruiting related Facebook groups and on popular podcasts like Recruiting Animal. While the focus of this growing scrutiny might focus almost exclusively on recruiter-generated spam, the fact is that the real perpetrators here are the people who we let have open access to our network and bombard them with whatever the hell they want.
Thank you very much for that, Ghana Joe and Co.
Yeah, I know it’s weird, but you know it’s bad when even recruiters are sick of the amount of bullshit spam coming out of LinkedIn – and we’re most of the problem, for God’s sake. But this recent resistance just might prove there’s hope yet that we can be trusted to police the internet ourselves, and use that whole online recruiting ecosystem somewhat responsibly.
At the end of the day, know that if you’re a LION, you’re worse than Dr. Walter Palmer. Hey, that guy might have bought himself the chance to bag a national treasure and endangered species, but at least he knew how to cap a filling.
And if you’re an open networker on LinkedIn, chances are you don’t have any skill set anywhere near that practical. Instead, you just come across like a huge asshole – just like Dr. Palmer. Only he was smart enough to disappear from the public eye, not flood them with InMails.
Enough, already. You know who you are. And you’ve been warned.
About the Author: Pete Radloff has 15 years of recruiting experience in both agency and corporate environments, and has worked with such companies as Comscore, exaqueo, National Public Radio and Living Social.
With experience and expertise in using technology and social media to enhance the candidate experience and promote strong employer brands, Pete also serves as lead consultant for exaqueo, a workforce consulting firm.
An active member of the Washington area recruiting community, Pete is currently a VP and sits on the Board of Directors of RecruitDC.