Skip to content

How To Read Between The Lines Of A LinkedIn Profile

Research reveals 10 ways for recruiters to read between the lines of what they see on applicant's LinkedIn profiles when vetting candidates
Recruiting via LinkedIn? Research reveals 10 ways for recruiters to read between the lines of what they see on the screen.
  • LinkedIn is the most important professional social network in the world, with over 830 million users
  • Recruiters and employers often “cybervet” applicants’ social media profiles to gain further insight into their personality traits
  • Researchers from EHL Hospitality Business School reveal 10 indicators that recruiters can use to assess a candidate’s personality from their LinkedIn profile

Nothing can replace a face-to-face conversation for getting to know someone. But, in this so-called “Information Age”, it has become easier to get a more reliable read on someone’s character without them being physically present and before you’ve had the chance to meet them properly. In some industries, such a tool can be invaluable. Recruiters, for example, have a wealth of sources to choose from; an applicant’s resumé, cover letter, portfolio of work, star sign, etc. After all, isn’t there a universal consensus that Geminis make great HR people?

LinkedIn is currently the most important professional social network in the world, with more than 830 million users. It is the place where people turn their lives into sales pitches. Whilst research has shown that there is a downside of using the platform too much when it comes to trying to secure a career change or promotion, for recruiters, LinkedIn profiles are a priceless resource for “cybervetting” a job applicant’s background.

By scrolling through candidates’ social media accounts recruiters can find information that supports or undermines a person’s suitability for the role on offer, make sure there are no red flags, and get a better sense of an applicant’s personality and interests.

Professors Dr. Sébastien Fernandez, Dr. Sowon Kim, and Dr. Lohyd Terrier at EHL Hospitality Business School collected data on the personality traits of 607 former graduates from their LinkedIn profiles. From this they identified 10 indicators that can help recruiters read between the lines of what they see on the screen.

1) Reach

The size of a person’s network can be a sign of how extraverted they are. Profiles with less than 300 connections can be an indication that a person is more of an introvert. By the same logic, it is reasonable to assume that someone with thousands of connections is probably more outgoing.

2) Summary

Some professionals are more inclined to complete the key sections of their LinkedIn profile, leaving the non-essentials sparse on detail or blank altogether. Those who take the time to fill in the summary section of their profiles demonstrate that they are meticulous and dedicated to finishing tasks well. Recruiters might see this as a sign of diligence, according to the professors.

3) Education

An applicant’s education is usually an important consideration for any recruiter. The researchers recommend employers check whether potential recruits have posted their qualifications and grades, or other details – for instance being in the top percentile of their class.

According to the researchers, people with good grades tend to be more detail-oriented. In addition to the grades themselves, the fact that an applicant has taken the time to post them onto their LinkedIn profile indicates they have a more orderly personality. However, this is less clear-cut with older job-seekers, many of whom choose not to include their grades on their profiles irrespective of their personal conscientiousness.

4) Activities

As well as a decent education, employers often look at an applicant’s previous work experience to determine their suitability. Volunteering activities should be noted along with paid positions, say the professors, as they signal that a person is caring – a particularly valuable quality in jobs that require teamwork.

5) Languages

Especially for those born in English-speaking countries, learning other languages is relatively uncommon. It indicates a person is inquisitive and eager to learn. Yet the same is still true of people whose first language is not English. Recruiters might infer that a person is more open-minded if their LinkedIn profile shows that they are multi-lingual.

6) Accolades

The skills section is a veritable goldmine of information. Through endorsements, recruiters can see what a candidate’s colleagues and prior employers appreciate about working with them. However, this also indicates what possible new recruits value in themselves.

According to the researchers, listing leadership or public speaking skills implies a candidate might be highly extraverted, an aptitude for time management suggests conscientiousness, and being good at teamwork could lead to the conclusion that they are agreeable and cooperative workmates.

7) Imagery

Of course, profiles do not convey information only through writing, but also through images. Individuals who display the logo of their current employer as their background picture communicate that they are more engaged at work. On the other hand, those that opt instead for landscapes or artistic images tend to be more creative.

8) Headshots

It sounds simple, but recruiters should pay attention to whether a candidate is smiling or not in their LinkedIn profile picture, say the professors. People who smile extensively tend to be more personable on average than those who do not. The research findings also show that women smile more than men on average.

But when is a clue not a clue? When it’s a red herring.

9) Spelling

Not everything that seems to provide an indication of a person’s character is accurate. For example, the professors find that there is no research evidence to suggest that typos are an indication of being less conscientious. They warn recruiters against discarding candidates for accidentally misspelling words on their social media profiles.

10) Style

Again, while people might be tempted to assume that the way an applicant is dressed in their profile picture, formally or informally, provides an insight into their suitability, this is not necessarily the case, the researchers reveal.

Instead, they suggest that the way many LinkedIn users are dressed might be more aligned with social norms. You would not expect a fireman to wear a three-piece suit, nor a lawyer to wear rubber boots and dungarees. The dress code varies between industries.

Oh, and their research makes no mention of horoscopes. So whether or not Geminis really make great HR people, you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: