Do I Need a LinkedIn Profile?

Last Updated Nov 22, 2010 6:17 AM EST

Dear Evil HR Lady,
I have a middle-managerial position in a big international IT company and I am considering changing companies. Does not having a LinkedIn profile In makes me less attractive for HR personnel? I really have a strong education, expertise in my realm, a long and successful career and can provide good references from top managers of all the companies. I mean i have nothing to hide and I consider myself to be quite competitive but i do not have that LinkedIn profile.
Reasons: I personally find Linkedin to be a very biased tool. From my practice the worse the employee is, the more connections and recommendations they have in Linkedin - that's just frustrating for me. i personally know some very low-performers who were in fact fired after working less than a year. However they all have very shiny profiles in linkedin with LOTS of buzz words, connections and even recommendations, which are granted by the similar people (i also happen to know them personally). That makes Linkedin for me a very poor tool for reflecting real persons' qualities and i have abandoned *my* profile a long time ago after i noticed how many connection/recommendation requests I got regularly from either non-performers or even complete strangers - people just seem to hunt for them nowadays. Similarly i do not have any accounts in social networks like Facebook or Twitter - it's just against my nature to spend time on such activities...
But on the other hand - literally everyone now seem to have Linkedin profile so i ponder whether being "not in the same boat" actually makes *me* look worse or suspicious for my potential new employer? Could you enlighten me on perception of social networks' public profiles by HR specialists nowadays?

I have a lousy LinkedIn profile because I don't think it's critical to my happiness and success. There's my bias right off the bat. I too have gotten numerous requests from absolute strangers. I mostly ignore those. And I also have read many glowing recommendations about people with whom I have personally worked and have determined that a monkey would be a better coworker then these people.

But, I've also gotten requests from fabulous people I've worked with and I've read recommendations for people I worked with for years and who are brilliant and those recommendations accurately reflect how fabulous this person is.

The LinkedIn problem is the same as the reference problem. When a candidate gives a recruiter a list of references, there's no guarantee that the people on the list are rational, sane people. So, a good recruiter will frequently branch outside of the list of references and look for other people you didn't list. Of course, that could result in a phone call to your former boss who hates you and is a screaming, rage-aholic micro-manager. But, the recruiter won't necessarily be able to tell that over the phone. There's no context around it.

But, if the recruiter can call someone she knows and who has worked with you, then she knows that the person giving the reference is a sane, rational, hard working person. And that's where LinkedIn can come in handy. Who are you connected with? Oh, look, you're connected with Bob, who I worked with at Company X. I'll put in a call to Bob and see what he has to say.

Management Consultant Alison Green (full disclosure, we're LinkedIn pals!) says this about social networking in general:

Personally, I use online networking sites and really like them. But I use them because I enjoy it. If the only thing driving you to LinkedIn is a sense of obligation, some fear that you have to be there because that's how people get jobs these days, and you're not finding it coming naturally to you, give yourself a break and spend your time doing something else.

Despite what some would have you believe, there are still plenty of highly qualified, in-demand candidates who have no presence at all on these sites. It's not mandatory.

On the other hand, Career Advice Writer, Karen Burns says that
A professional network is not just a nice-to-have, it's a must-have source of new business, new jobs, support, advice, ideas, and consolation. So, this year, strengthen relationships with people you already know, and put energy into meeting new people. (Note: Networking includes your online presence, too. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and the rest--they're not just fads, they are efficient and effective ways to stay in touch with a whole lot of people.)
But, even though Karen thinks your online presence is very important, it's not the only way to network. It's one of many ways to network. I wouldn't worry about it if I were you. It's not critical. You have tons of experience in your field and a long, successful career. You're going to get your next job through networking with actual, live humans, not through a recruiter surfing through LinkedIn, looking for someone with your skill set.

Illustration by Damien Basile, Flickr cc 2.0