linkedinCEOs and Presidents on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is "all the rage" for job-seekers ... apparently ... but ...

We're noticing a trend with our clients: CEOs and Presidents are shying away from LinkedIn.

Some don't have or want a LinkedIn profile, some are minimizing their profiles, and some are eliminating their profiles.

Their reasons: They don't want to be overexposed, and they don't want to look desperate. They want to appear discreet, passive, confident, and confidential.

This page examines what’s happening and why, and suggests a few strategies that might help you.

Is LinkedIn appropriate for everyone?

You might be surprised.

LinkedIn is promoted as a business-oriented social networking site for professionals to exchange information, ideas and opportunities. On the LinkedIn About Us page they note: LinkedIn represents a valuable demographic for marketers with an affluent & influential membership.

Did you notice the conflict?

A professional is a person that "follows an occupation as a means of livelihood," and everyone has an occupation of one sort of another. Dishwashers for example are professionals - they "follow an occupation as a means of livelihood," but they're not typically "affluent and influential."

In fact, on LinkedIn as of June 2011, there were 1,200 Dishwashers, 1,500 Ushers, 3,800 Janitors, 3,900 Waiters, 7,000 Laborers, 10,000 Waitresses, 27,000 Customer Service Representatives, 29,000 Bartenders, 42,000 Cashiers, 80,000 Photographers, 130,000 Clerks, 136,000 Secretaries, 172,000 Nurses, 251,000 Agents, 255,000 Technicians, 749,000 Coordinators and 1.3 million Assistants. Most would not think of these "professionals" as "affluent and influential."

There are also professionals on LinkedIn who are more likely to be affluent & influential: 411,000 Supervisors, 445,000 CEOs, 962,000 Presidents, 1.2 million Vice Presidents and 4.8 million Managers.

In other words, LinkedIn is used by everyone from dishwashers to CEOs. It may be intended for the affluent and influential, but their membership shows otherwise.

One of our clients, an upper-six-figure CEO, commented: "LinkedIn has lost all its luster and become totally overused … especially now that people link it to their Facebook or Twitter [pages] and overcrowd those profiles too. The special interest groups on LinkedIn are also less than interesting, except for overzealous junior people who are trying to look smart."

How many CEOs and Presidents use LinkedIn?

There were 445,000 CEOs and 962,000 Presidents on LinkedIn in the U.S. ... total 1.4 million.

There are about 11.2 million CEOs and Presidents at U.S. businesses. Here's the math: From our many years of compiling mailing lists, we have learned that 70% of businesses in the U.S. have a CEO or President. Another 15% have a Chairman, and we suspect that most of these also have a CEO or President. So let's say 80% of businesses have a CEO or President (the remaining 20% have an Owner, Partner, Founder etc. as the top executive). With 14 million U.S. businesses listed in Dunn and Bradstreet records, there would be 11.2 million CEOs and Presidents. (There are actually more, since large companies often have multiple division Presidents.)

In other words, LinkedIn has 1.4 million of the 11.2 million CEOs and Presidents in the U.S. Put another way, 12% of the CEOs and Presidents in the U.S. are on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn has 54 million members in the U.S. (out of 100 million worldwide). And, there are 154 million in the U.S. workforce (called the "civilian labor force" according to the BLS, which includes the unemployed). In other words, 35% of the entire U.S. workforce is on LinkedIn.

This is mind-numbing. Here's a summary:

  • 12% of the CEOs and Presidents in the U.S. are on LinkedIn
  • 35% of the U.S. workforce is on LinkedIn
  • CEOs and Presidents are under-represented on LinkedIn by a factor of 3

It appears that CEOs and Presidents are 3 times less likely than others to use LinkedIn.

This may be part of the reason that we're seeing our $300k+ clients shy away from LinkedIn - most of our clients are Presidents and CEOs.

One of our colleagues disagrees. "Your statistic about the number of Presidents/CEOs currently on LinkedIn doesn’t smell right.  In my travels, I’d [estimate] at least HALF (if not higher) of all senior executives I meet, including top corporate leaders, are members of the LinkedIn system." Okay, our estimate is 12% and his is 50%+. Since he is a career coach, maybe it's because he's meeting mostly CEOs and Presidents who are looking for a job. Or, maybe there's something wrong with our logic and arithmetic.

Footnote: Our 12% estimate above is probably too high. Another reader noted that there are really more like 27 million businesses in the U.S. (the Census Bureau calls them "Firms." Here's the source). Had we used 27 million from the Census Bureau instead of 14 million from Dunn and Bradstreet, the outcome would be: 6% of the CEOs and Presidents in the U.S. are on LinkedIn. In this case, it would appear that CEOs and Presidents are 6 times less likely than others to use LinkedIn.

Why do CEOs and Presidents use LinkedIn?

One would think (perhaps hope) that CEOs and Presidents use LinkedIn primarily for networking - as the LinkedIn banner says, "to exchange information, ideas and opportunities." After all, it's lonely at the top, and LinkedIn is a great place for CEOs and Presidents to interact with their peers.

So, we checked.

Of the first 50 with the current title of CEO, 45 noted in their profiles that they were interested in "career opportunities" or "job inquiries" or both. In other words, based on our admittedly small sample, 90% of the CEOs on LinkedIn were looking for a job. And most of their profiles had what amounted to a resume for their profile (aka resume posting).

Of those with the current title of President, about half were interested in "career opportunities" or "job inquiries" or both. The other half were primarily (over 90%) consultants, recruiters, and/or service providers like resume writers (aka sole proprietorships), and virtually all of them were looking for work.

In other words, 90% of CEOs and Presidents on LinkedIn are looking for a job or looking for work.

This may also be part of the reason our $300k+ clients are shying away from LinkedIn - it's looks somewhat like a resume posting site for job-seekers. They don't want to appear desperate with their resume (the LinkedIn equivalent) posted for everyone to see, as if they're looking for a job.

Or, it may be that the majority of CEOs and Presidents on LinkedIn are one-person-bands consisting of consultants, coaches, and puffed-up profiles. We did not run the numbers - try it yourself and see what you think. Use the advanced search for CEO as the current title. 

One of our CEO colleagues (not a client) disagrees. "I think you are making way too much out of the interested in career opportunities setting. It is a default setting in the system and I really doubt that people see it as proof that you are in job search mode. You will notice that my profile indicates I am interested in career opportunities. In my not so humble opinion, everyone is interested in being contacted about career opportunities, or they should be. Does it mean I am looking for a job? Not at all." We agreed that we disagree - different strokes for different folks if you will - let the job-seeker decide.

What do recruiters and employers think about $300k+ LinkedIn profiles?

The headline for LinkedIn Recruiter says, "Source the best passive candidates with LinkedIn's Corporate Recruitment Solutions ... access and contact 100 million professionals at 2 million companies."  Recruiters and employers use this resource for a fee.

Like it or not, some recruiters and employers discriminate against the unemployed. They argue (behind closed doors only of course) that there must be something wrong with an unemployed person - perhaps that person is in the bottom 10% of performers and that's why they're unemployed. As a result, they look for passive candidates.

This point was driven home in a Huffington Post article, "The Unemployed Will Not Be Considered."

This begs the question: if a passive candidate at $300k+ is interested in "career opportunities" or "job inquiries" or both, should they tell? Should the whole world know? Should their LinkedIn profile look like a resume? It just seems like you can't do both with a straight face. You're either active or passive, and your LinkedIn profile demonstrates your intentions. Recruiters and employers can tell ... like the old saying, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's a duck.

Recruiters and employers LOVE LinkedIn - it's to their advantage no matter how much you make. They can tell if you're active or passive, and they can get a pretty good idea of how desperate you are. If you're always active and continuously looking for a job, even though you're currently employed, that can send a message that you're not satisfied.

This may also be part of the reason our $300k+ clients are shying away from LinkedIn. If LinkedIn is more job-seeking than business networking, it doesn't help our clients appear discreet, passive, confident, and confidential.

A CEO coach commented: "People need to be cautious in building their networks. LinkedIn was supposed to be a trusted network of colleagues ... now it's filled with power networkers and hangers on. But I still think it has value if used properly."

What's LinkedIn's motive?

Here are a few excerpts from a June 30, 2011 article by Bloomberg Business titled: Can Jeff Weiner Realize LinkedIn’s Full Potential?

  • He [Jeff Weiner] made LinkedIn’s “hiring solutions” business—which provides services for HR departments and executive search firms—the company’s top priority.
  • Recruiting firms pay LinkedIn an average of $8,000 a year for each employee who uses its advanced tools to search through profiles on the site.
  • Last year [2010] hiring solutions eclipsed advertising and subscriptions to become LinkedIn’s largest and fastest-growing division, generating $101.9 million in sales and accounting for 42 percent of revenue, up from 22 percent in 2008.
  • LinkedIn needs its users to keep their profiles updated even when they’re not job hunting, and they are developing new offerings to get people to interact with the site more.

Since their main revenue stream is coming from HR departments and search firms, one could argue that LinkedIn's motive is simple: to profit from selling member profiles so employers and search firms can find the best candidate at the lowest cost.

Maybe this is another reason $300k+ executives are shying away from LinkedIn ... they don't want to "be found" with the masses and "auctioned off" to the lowest bidder. They'd rather go directly to the decision-makers most likely to hire them, bypassing the masses and recruiters.

How should you manage your LinkedIn profile at $300k+?

To appear passive and discreet, here's a strategy you might want to consider.

  1. If you have a LinkedIn profile, minimize the content. Don't make it look like your resume, and don't mention that you're interested in "career opportunities" or "job inquiries." In other words, be passive and hard to get. Use LinkedIn purely for networking.
  2. Get a real website with if it's available. Don't fake it with a free website address like We'll show you how in our workshops.
  3. If a service provider puts up a website for you, don't allow any drip marketing, like "this site built by" And don't allow drip marketing in the hidden code.
  4. Consider hiding or password-protecting your website so only those invited can find details about you. For those interested, let them in one at a time, after you know who they are.
  5. Consider adding no-follow, no-index meta tags to your hidden pages so they won't be picked up by search engines if someone accidentally posts your URL.
  6. On your LinkedIn account, refer to your real website home page. Keep your home page simple and don't link it to the content of your website (for that, they'll need an exact URL).
  7. Use Google Alerts for a unique phrase in your hidden website - then you'll know if it's been compromised and picked up by a search engine.

These are suggestions, not recommendations for everyone.

Don't forget the future

With sites like the Way Back Machine, once information about you is posted, it will be archived forever, even if you take it down. Maybe you're not worried about that right now, but you might be someday. The decisions you make today will follow you for a lifetime.

Does this apply if you make less than $300k?

It could - you'll need to decide for yourself. 

This article was written to give you some food for thought.

LinkedIn, Facebook, networking, blogging - they all work! But none work as well as going directly to the decision-makers most likely to hire you. In fact, at $300k, JobBait strategies are 6 times faster. If your only methods of finding a job are networking, recruiters and job boards, then having a full LinkedIn profile is probably the best you can do under the circumstances.

For what it's worth, we're seeing a noticeable shift away from LinkedIn at $300k, and a pronounced shift away at $500k. At salaries under $300k, there appears less of a shift away. Time will tell if these trends continue.

Does this apply if you're a millionaire?

Here's another article that caught our eye: "One Third of Millionaires Use Social Media" by the Wall Street Journal. They say: "According to a survey of millionaires from Fidelity Investments, 85% of respondents use text-messaging, smartphone applications and social media.  One third use social media professionally, with 28% using LinkedIn."

Look at the paragraph above carefully. Does this mean that 28% use LinkedIn, or that 28% of 33% use LinkedIn ... which is 9%? Or is it 28% of 33% of 85% ... which is 8%? The article does not mention how much these millionaires make each year, so they might be millionaires as measured by their net worth, including home value and retirement savings.

The take away

We've received many comments and suggestions about this article, and some are shown below.

Some have drawn the conclusion that we're recommending AGAINST CEOs and Presidents using LinkedIn. This is not true. We're just noticing a trend.

Some have debated our numbers and arithmetic. We can debate the numbers all over town, but at the end of the day, the trend is still there.

Interestingly, the responses most critical of this article come from career professionals who are promoting LinkedIn and selling their services on how to use LinkedIn. We suspect that if they agree with the trends we're noticing, it would be contrary to what they've been advocating for many years. If they reverse their position, it would be admitting they were wrong. Ouch - that would probably hurt if they've put it in writing on their website or in their books.

Comments on this article

Comments from a job seeker: "In recent meetings and webinars, the presenters are in a push to have us linked to 500+ people in our network, no matter what. When I joined, it was my understanding that I was only supposed to invite people whom I trusted and knew. It appears that in order to be noticed, the 500+ number must be met. This may be moving the site to more of a resume posting venue."

One of our clients, a $300k Technology executive, commented: "Most of the points you are making are correct, but, the social networks (LinkedIn, Blogging, Twitter and possibly Facebook) are tectonic shifts to the "ways things are done" now-a-days." This is true - we agree - and once upon a time, Monster job boards, resume posting, and resume distribution fell in the same category. The point is, saturation may eventually take over, and the advantage may diminish quickly. Some say we're already there.

A mid-six-figure CEO on our mailing list commented: "Nice work on this article.  I am glad someone actually decided to take this one by the horns and write about the applicability of Linked-In to search strategies at very senior levels, amidst all the hype and hoopla about social media.  The biggest pain-in-the-neck for senior execs to be associated with linked-In, is the incessant requests by junior associates and subordinates to want to be "linked" to you."

A workshop participant commented: "Politicians and movie stars use LinkedIn - it must be the right thing to do." Keep in mind that between the press and paparazzi, politicians and movie stars are about as "exposed" as anyone can get. Is this what you want?

Another workshop participant commented: "Hi Mark, as usual you are spot on with this article. Though I am not a $300,000 plus executive, I believe you offer a good perspective to all using linkedin or contemplating using linkedin." 

From the CEO of one of the largest and most-respected job support resource centers in America: "I've read the article, and I agree with everything you say. I would actually be surprised to find many job seekers at the $300K+ range utilizing any sort of social media as an integral part of their job search, including a site like LinkedIn."

From a career coach: "I am so glad you brought up this topic. I tell people that LinkedIn has three income streams - one of which is selling their 'valuable' database full of 'high-level professionals' to recruiters, et al. Their stated goal is to get the '100% complete' LinkedIn profile to replace the resume.  Twice, when I mentioned this on a LinkedIn Group site, my comments disappeared [implying that a LinkedIn moderator took it off]. This is indicative of the power they already have and how (some might say) they abuse that power. The thought of their having any kind of a monopoly or more power than they already have is frightening. The other people who are pushing LinkedIn like (withheld) are people who are making a living off of social media. A group of people like (withheld) have tied their fame and fortune to social media and are pushing it very hard to the unemployed."

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