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A Little Social Experiment in LinkedIn

It's a chilling night yesterday (about 21°C/69.8°F), but you could still hear everyone in the neighborhood cranked up their A/C high. Gradually, my guess is the power transformer couldn't longer handle the demand and blowed out. Suddenly, everywhere turned dark and exceptionally quiet and peaceful. The only noise existed was the pets were barking, and the fire detectors and security system were beeping because of the power source cut off. A helicopter flied around and surveilled in the sky, and a police cruiser drove by quickly to check on the safety. By 4.05am, the power finally came back for a sec but failed again, due to overwhelming power currency required. Not for long, the system successfully rebooted and power noticeably came back to the entire neighborhood. And that's the moment when this idea literally came out - replacing my professional portrait in LinkedIn's profile with an image I used on Facebook and other social media accounts I have.

Since the day one of creating this business profile, I was recommended using a real-person portrait by the LinkedIn. The purpose is to create a professional image in the community you wanted to build and connect. At the very beginning, I was convinced so. But after LinkedIn attempted to expand its business model by introducing the "Jobs" marketplace for employers and employees. I started to have doubt if that's the rightful thing to do. Why? In US colleges, we've all educated not to put personal photo, gender, age, race, religion, disability and martial status on our resume for one simple reason - preventing the possibility of the DISCRIMINATION.

But, in this new digital era, LinkedIn has broken that "no photo" conventional thinking. Undoubtedly, Human Resource Department will process the submission of every job applicant in regardless. Unfortunately, would the interviewer himself/herself staying professionally to follow the strict guidance and review the qualifications of every candidate without going on LinkedIn to peek on how their applicants look like or their social life on where else? I dare to say "NO". As an interviewer myself in the past, I restrained not to filter any applicant or investigate their background before I prior interviewed them. I wouldn't ask for their personal references even if I know any associate in the companies they worked for. Therefore, no subjective consciousness applied and missed out any potential candidate to fill in the position. However, other hiring managers ain't doing so. Some would come back to me and gossiped about some candidates' past career history or even personal life. This is wrong, so wrong.

On the other hand, same on applicants. Before they interviewed for a job position, they tentatively searched and visited the LinkedIn or other social media to spy on their interviewers' profile for any associated trait or connection to strike a positive impression and win the hiring. My question is if those are a fair practice not violated the the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Now, as a person with disability (Cancer), I wanted to experiment if I would be a victim in the overly grown social network and being discriminated in the fact that I didn't put up a professional portrait on my LinkedIn profile when applying for new position. In the past few weeks, I did apply a few positions in some startups and already received calls from their Founder CEOs to review my interest and qualifications. When the moment this experiment idea popped up, I had immediately updated my LinkedIn profile image for testing. Besides that, I am also very interested to know what my connections feel about me changed the picture. Nevertheless, most of them wouldn't even notice because of being very busy at work or even care about this change because they worked with me in many different occasions allowed them to fully understand my professionalism and work quality.

Let's give this experimental trial a month from today and apply some jobs to find out if the number of calls to interview declined, which related to the profile's image change. It'll be fun to see the result. Stay tuned.

(Update: In a month after the test deployed, the number of persons visited my profile maintained about the same as the previous month. But, the number of calls-to-interview was very limited. I am still in process of sorting thru all the factual data to make a fine conclusion.)


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