LinkedIn is undoubtedly the world’s largest professional network, with “nearly 660+ million users” according to the LinkedIn statistics at the end of 2019. It is also a commonplace to show our resume information including current and former positions, as well as education qualifications etc. Having an online resume could be a good way to build one’s identity in this digital age, making us more approachable for job or other networking opportunities.
Currently the online resumes are not fact-checked. LinkedIn does not conduct employment verification, or ask for any proof when we fill in the credential details. Someone can falsify (or “upgrade”) his or her work and education experience, in the hope of making oneself even more approachable, and employable.
There is lack of statistics on the scale of those fake resumes in LinkedIn. A point to note is that “fake resumes” are somehow different from “fake profiles”. A fake profile represents someone that does not truly exist, while a fake resume belongs to a real person who lies. However, since there is no practical way to distinguish between the two, the following analysis covers both fake resumes fake profiles.
The methodology is like this: image we are LinkedIn liars, how would we “polish” our resumes? Picking a reputable firm as previous employer is a must. How about the academic history? Harvard or Stanford looks good. Assuming those LinkedIn liars prefer the association with prestigious schools, we can compare the following two figures and see how well they match each another:
(Note: we focus on schools because analysis on employers is rather difficult, that most companies do not provide data on the total number of former employees.)
Sources of alumni figures:
Our analysis generates interesting findings. The number of living alumni announced by Harvard University, Stanford University and MIT are 371,000, 220,000 and 137,765 respectively, as per latest figures. On the other hands, the LinkedIn profiles with education at Harvard University, Stanford University and MIT amount to 615,535 (=166%), 315,730 (=144%), and 209,494 (=152%) respectively, as in January 2020.
Apparently many non-alumni of those prestigious schools are claiming to be alumni in their LinkedIn profiles. One the other hand, one might argue that the LinkedIn figure and the school figure need not necessarily be the same. Yes it is true. The following are some factors which might reduce or enlarge the discrepancies:
- The LinkedIn users are current students at the school, while the school alumni figure does not count current students. (Discrepancy reduced as a result.)
- The LinkedIn users merely finished a short course, or participated in an exchange program of the school. The school might not count them as alumni. (Discrepancy reduced as a result.)
- Most schools provide the figures of “living alumni”, while some LinkedIn profiles belong to deceased users. (Discrepancy reduced as a result.)
- Most importantly, not all school alumni choose to create a LinkedIn profile. Actually LinkedIn was launched in May 2003, and we believe that quite a number of old alumni might not have put their resumes online. (Discrepancy enlarged as a result.)
Therefore, the disproportionately large number of Harvard, Stanford and MIT LinkedIn profiles does not seem to be normal. To provide a better picture, we run the same analysis on other schools:
Sources of alumni figures:
The number of living alumni announced by Penn State University, University of Michigan, Ohio State University and University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign are 708,206, 611,000, 500,000 and 470,000 respectively, as per latest figures. On the other hands, the LinkedIn profiles with education at Penn State University, University of Michigan, Ohio State University and University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign amount to 469,899 (=66%), 440,291 (=72%), 361,387 (=72%) and 304,758 (=65%) respectively, as in January 2020.
For these schools, the percentages of LinkedIn users among alumni range from 65% to 72%, which appears to be more reasonable. We believe that it is because LinkedIn liars are less prone to fill in these school names when making up their resumes.
According to an official LinkedIn blog post in August 2019, the company is stepping up in finding and removing fake profiles. More than 2 million fake accounts were stopped between January and June 2019. We hope that this analysis offers an additional perspective to understand the scale of possibly fake resumes in LinkedIn.
Ken Chan and Cathy Yip from EmployProof.org