LinkedIn Limitations

Vanessa NewtonVanessa Newton, program analyst, University of Kansas

I cannot tell you how many times I hear people chirping on about how great LinkedIn is and how useful it is to “up that knowledge rate” on your first-destination survey. And while I agree with that, I think it’s time we acknowledge some of the limitations of relying on LinkedIn for information. Blame it on my scientific research background, but I think discussing and acknowledging limitations is a good thing.

A lot of companies are selling their services to look up your graduates on LinkedIn. For just 50 cents per student or $5 per student, they do all the work and find information for you. That sounds great (sans all the money you could be spending if you have a large graduating class), until you think about it. Yes, these companies can find that information for you, but what if 60 percent of your graduating class doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile? What if everyone in the graduating class has a LinkedIn profile, but half of them made their profiles because they were required by a class two years ago—and they haven’t updated their information since? The data that you paid for could say (wrongly) this person is currently a Student IT Help Desk Worker!

And what about other data on the LinkedIn profile…how do you know that it is correct? How can you reasonably assume that the graduate is still a bartender? I have graduates who fill out the destination survey and indicate in the comments that the job that they are currently working is just to pay the bills and they are actively seeking a more professional position.

And then you get into the really fuzzy section—nontraditional graduates who appear to be working in the same position they held before they started working on their degree. Did they get the degree to move higher up in the company or did they just want to get the degree?

Then there are the graduates (I find this often with arts majors) who are working on building their businesses, but are also working multiple jobs to pay bills and make ends meet. How do you classify that information? Because I think the fashion designer who is working as a receptionist and a hostess might indicate on a destination survey that they are employed full time—and not mention the other two jobs.

LinkedIn is a hub for information, but it isn’t the end-all be-all source of information. Yes, we can educate students on how to use LinkedIn, and encourage them to use it, but when it comes to pulling destination survey data from LinkedIn, it should be used with caution and in conjunction with other methods of finding information.