Unemployed and using LinkedIn as a job search tool? Sooner or later, you'll hear that you should add a "current" position to satisfy LinkedIn's never-ending quest for your career data.
Adding a current-job entry is fraught with questions and issues; at best, it can help steer more employers in your direction, and at worst, they may see through your attempts to cover up a period of unemployment.
If you choose to omit a current position, your ranking will drop slightly in LinkedIn search results. In other words, your findability among competing candidates (based on the keywords you’ve added) will slow somewhat, with your Profile shown several pages lower than what it would have been.
You can run a test (adding a current job, and then removing it), using Advanced People Search in each case to see what really happens. Sorting your results by Keyword will show how most others find your Profile.
However, if you do opt to add a current position, keep the description short and in alignment with the job you’re seeking, using these tips:
1 – Use a Job Title and Employer Name in Alignment With Your Goal.
Be brief, but focused on your goal in adding the Employer Name and your “position.”
For example, adding a Job Title similar to what you’d use for a Headline (“Sales Rep Pursuing Dealer Sales & Distribution Opportunities”) will help employers realize why you’re adding the job.
For the Employer Name, you could add keywords similar to the Job Title (“Sales Teams”), making the entire job entry look like this:
Sales Rep Pursuing Dealer Sales & Distribution Opportunities at Sales Teams
This entry will show up in your LinkedIn snapshot (above the fold when someone views your Profile). While the phrasing may be somewhat awkward, your intent will be clear, and you’ll avoid giving the impression that you’ve taken a temporary job beneath your abilities.
Remember that Employer and Job Title fields are both highly indexed within LinkedIn’s search algorithm, so you’ll benefit by adding keywords in these fields that will draw more traffic to your Profile.
2 – Resist Using Non-Work Activity as a Placeholder.
Don’t resort to adding volunteer, nonprofit, etc. experience as a current job.
Not only will this skew your results from a keyword standpoint (as Job Titles are very highly ranked in LinkedIn SEO), but employers may believe you’re actually working for this organization—and then question why you’re applying to an unrelated job.
3 – Remember to Update Your Headline.
Ensure your Headline doesn’t revert to the new Current Job Title (which is the default value on LinkedIn). Instead, change your Headline to reflect your ROI as a candidate, with keywords that increase your traffic.
As an example, an unemployed candidate for IT Manager roles could use “IT Manager Seeking Application Development, Infrastructure, or Networking Manager Roles in Production or Manufacturing” as a Headline – pulling in both the desired career level and skills.
4 – Keep From And To Dates Simple.
Most people don’t realize they can specify only a Year in these date fields, and simply skip adding the month.
This will help prevent others from reading too much into your length of unemployment, especially if it stretches out longer than anticipated.
5 – Note Your Goals, Not Your Unemployment.
Refrain from using words such as “Unemployed,” “Laid Off,” etc. in describing your current status, as these words have negative connotations.
You’re better off pointing out your value to employers by adding skills and job title keywords to help define the type of role you’re pursuing.
As an example, adding “I offer a broad operations background, including Lean Sig Sigma, team management, production supervision, and plant engineering skills” in the job description can help boost keyword density for an Operations Manager.
In summary, should you decide to use your job-seeking status in a “current” job on LinkedIn, consider these best practices, which will help boost your findability and showcase your value message to employers.