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No. 32 – How can you detect exaggeration on a LinkedIn profile?

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6 October 2021

Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a minute?” This week, exaggerated “flummery” on LinkedIn, supporting employees during the pandemic and confronting an unvaccinated hired carer.

If LinkedIn is here to stay as you said in an earlier column, how can a prospective employer detect whether the contents of a profile contains exaggerated “flummery” (to say the least) of the owner’s choosing?
I am confident that people talking up their qualifications and overstating their abilities has been a part of professional life since time immemorial. Flattery and self-promotion have never been limited simply to social media sites and I suspect might even be at its peak after-hours in the bar of exclusive business clubs.

A non-negotiable, golden rule when you list your career or education history on LinkedIn or a CV is to make sure your facts are impeccably accurate. That doesn’t mean you should be nervous about using LinkedIn. List everything you have done and be proud of it. Just never get it wrong.

Anyone who does exaggerate (or worse, lie) about their professional history is bound to be caught out and especially if they do it on a public site like LinkedIn. There have been numerous examples of LinkedIn profiles being someone’s downfall, for example by listing a degree they did not earn. So while professional “flummery” might be a risk, I actually think LinkedIn is one of the safest places for it to be self-regulated and to ensure that only facts prevail.

Employers, LinkedIn profiles are only one tool in your arsenal – you are also going to need to do the usual reference checks and interviews. By now your lie detector should be well honed and you can test any details that don’t add up.

Our organisation wants to do something to support employees during this time. We are a non-profit organisation, so unfortunately don’t have surplus cash to give employees benefits like extra paid leave. Some employees have been locked down for months whereas others are living life relatively normally. What is something we can do for employees to support them during this time?

I think the best gift you can give your employees right now doesn’t cost a thing.

What everyone, especially those in lockdown, need most right now is understanding and empathy for what they are experiencing. Ultimately as their employer it means being forgiving, being understanding and being compassionate.

For example, let your team members know it’s OK if they don’t put work first and it’s OK they don’t check emails at all hours. Let them know it’s OK if their kids, pets, deliverymen gate-crash team meetings. Let them know it is OK that a deadline is not met or if they have dodgy Wi-Fi. Let them know if it’s OK if they are having a bad day.

On a practical note, Macquarie University for example is encouraging screen-free time during the day, so you could think of creative ways like that to help take the pressure off your team. None of this requires a cocktail session on Zoom or a hamper of baked goods – it just needs a leader who can lead with empathy. That is something we can all do for free.

My wife and I run a small business from home, and we have two toddlers. We have a carer who comes in each day to help look after the children while we work. She has said she does not plan to get vaccinated whereas my wife and I have both had our double dose. I feel uncomfortable having someone in our home who is not vaccinated but I really don’t know how to broach it with her. The kids love her, and we don’t want to lose her. What should I do?

This is a really tricky dilemma that so many people are experiencing right now and rest assured in knowing that multinational employers are struggling with this issue, let alone a small business like yourself. There are also many families and friendships struggling with different views on vaccination.

I think you are fully within your rights to express your concerns about her plans not to vaccinate. She is coming into your home every day, spending extended periods of time with your children and so she poses a higher risk of bringing the virus into your life. That choice could impact not only you and your children but everyone else in your wider network.

Your carer can, of course, choose not to be vaccinated, but that choice comes with consequences. It may well be that she can no longer work for you.

I know this is really awkward situation and none of us ever thought we would have to have conversations like this, yet here we are. I think for the health and wellbeing of your family, this is an issue you should feel able to talk openly to her about. See if the discussion influences her to be vaccinated and then make a decision from there. Good luck!

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