Dealing with the current-job question for your LinkedIn Profile can be a hassle.
At LinkedIn’s urging, most users try to update their Profiles as completely as possible.
Yet entering a "current job" can seem over-the-top when you’re unemployed.
Of course, employers may see through your attempts to cover up a period of unemployment, and resent the implication that you’re working (if the opposite is true).
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.
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:
Refrain from using words such as "Unemployed," "Laid Off," etc. in describing your current status, as these words have negative connotations and are not used often by employers or recruiters searching through LinkedIn for qualified candidates.
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 rather than labeling yourself as "Unemployed."
As an example, adding "I offer a broad operations background, including Lean Six Sigma, team management, production supervision, and plant engineering skills" in the job description can help boost keyword density for an Operations Manager.
For more details about leveraging keywords, read The Top 25 Keywords for Your Job Search.
Be focused on your goal, not your temporary unemployed status. 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.
In addition, the keywords in the Job Title field (an area highly indexed within LinkedIn’s search algorithm) can draw additional traffic to your Profile. Read Job-Hunt's Guide to Personal SEO and The 25 Best Keywords for You in Your Job Search for more details.
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.
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.
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.
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 value message to employers.
Job-Hunt's LinkedIn for Job Search Expert Laura Smith-Proulx, Executive Director of An Expert Resume, is an award-winning executive resume writer, national columnist, author, LinkedIn and SEO enthusiast, and past recruiter. Laura is author of How to Get Hired Faster: 60+ Proven Tips and Strategies to Access the Hidden Job Market. Follow Laura on Twitter at @ResumeExpert and on LinkedIn.