Work & Purpose

How Much Privacy Do You Need on LinkedIn?

Jobhunters may need to lower their privacy bar on this business network

As the fine line between the personal and the professional (is there even a line at all?) becomes less and less significant, it's important to be vigilant so you know what you are sharing with whom online and the potential consequences.
It's unwise for job seekers to don the online equivalent of Harry Potter's invisibility cloak, though. That's because it's difficult to accomplish your professional goals if your privacy settings are locked down to the point they effectively render your profile useless.

Managing Privacy Wisely on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is clearly a key player in your professional online identity and requires special attention if you're looking for work. Your goal on this business networking site is to connect and engage with people. So it's a good idea to peruse the privacy settings for your LinkedIn profile and choose the most open (least private) choice you're comfortable making.

Doing so positions you to be found more easily and potentially; to be invited to apply for opportunities. Overly-tight LinkedIn privacy settings can lead you to miss opportunities.  

Understand Your Privacy Settings 

To maximize the value of LinkedIn while managing your privacy there, adjust the LinkedIn privacy controls in your LinkedIn settings. Pay close attention to these four options in particular:

1. Turn off/on your activity broadcasts. If you're running a covert job search and planning to conduct a major overhaul of your LinkedIn profile, turn off your activity broadcast before making changes if you fear that making the changes will alert your boss. Consider turning it back on after your profile overhaul is complete.

Keep in mind that LinkedIn will send out a message announcing that you have a new job if you merely update your job title or add a project to your “Experience” section. This is not good for jobseekers. The last thing they want is for people to think they've taken new positions.  
Be aware of how LinkedIn works by keeping an eye on messages you receive from the network. Check the “Communications” tab under Settings to ensure that you receive the type of messages that will help you decide what you want to share with others.
2. Select what others see when you've viewed their LinkedIn Profile. If you're doing “undercover” research on colleagues or competitors, feel free to change your LinkedIn setting to “anonymous.” However, leaving the setting locked down prevents you from seeing who is viewing your LinkedIn Profile and that represents lost opportunities.

In general, it can be useful to let people know you've viewed their LinkedIn Profile, especially before a job interview with them. It makes you appear to be thorough and diligent about your research.

3. Select who can see your LinkedIn connections. Some people worry they'll compromise their privacy by allowing people to know who is connected to them on LinkedIn. If you are in such a cutthroat field that your livelihood is in jeopardy if your connections are revealed, by all means, make this setting private. Otherwise, don't.
4. Change your LinkedIn photo profile and visibility. This is non-negotiable. Your photo should be viewable by everyone. Otherwise, people who may want to learn more about you may be discouraged from reaching out because they see the default “shadow face” that LinkedIn inserts in lieu of a picture.
Check your LinkedIn privacy settings routinely. Be vigilant about them and make sure your settings match your goals. Then, you'll be more likely to find new work opportunities. 


Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Business Success, Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success.

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