LinkedIn is designed to help its 330 million users make work connections and find employment. But it could end up costing you your next job. That’s the contention of a new class-action lawsuit targeting a LinkedIn feature called “Reference Search.” The feature, which is available to only “premium” members, who pay fees, allows an employer that is considering you for a position to easily find and contact anyone on LinkedIn who used to work at the same company as you did.
The employer might contact former coworkers, some of whom may have a negative impression of you, and use them as your references without your knowledge.
The lawsuit contends that this violates federal credit-reporting law, which requires companies that compile and sell data for use in employment background screenings to establish safeguards to ensure that the information is accurate and to inform applicants about what information is given out. LinkedIn says it is only sharing public information, some of which you voluntarily revealed.
What to do: Encourage as many of your current and previous coworkers as possible to post positive references (known as “endorsements”) on your Linkedin profile page. The more endorsements you have, the less impact any critical comment could have. Also, reach out to former colleagues and/or bosses you have clashed with in the past. You may not be able to make peace, but at least you can mitigate hurt feelings or the likelihood of them giving you a negative reference.