Could LinkedIn Cost You Your Finance Job?

The New York Times reports that four people have brought a class action lawsuit against LinkedIn contending that the service’s “Reference Search” cost them job opportunities. This feature, which is only available to premium account holders who pay a monthly fee, allows employers to discover who else worked at a company during the same time as the job applicant. The employer can then contact the people they’ve discovered without the applicant’s permission or knowledge in order to get more information about their employment history.

The suit contends that this feature enables employers to “anonymously dig into the employment history of any LinkedIn member, and make hiring and firing decisions based upon the information they gather,” whether or not the information was accurate. It thus violates the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which requires companies who sell employment background information to set up standards for ensuring information is accurate and to inform individuals when information about them is given out. LinkedIn says that it is only revealing public information that individuals may have already publicly disclosed.

In your case, a former co-worker’s opinions about you might sway a financial job consideration against you. You would never even know that you received a negative reference. You only have two options for protecting yourself. The first is to remove yourself from LinkedIn altogether. The second, less-radical alternative is to ask past and present co-workers to post positive comments, or endorsements, about you. Employers who see many endorsements on your profile page are more likely to discount any negative references you receive.

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