A lot of people advocate hiding your connections on Linkedin. The obvious reason here is to not let your competitors see who you are connecting with. It is feasible that your competitors could spend time Linkedin-stalking you, stealing away your precious connections and business opportunities.
For people who are not very active on Linkedin, hiding Linkedin connections might be a good idea. If you are connected to five people and they are your five most important clients, you wouldn’t want another recruiting firm looking through them. However, most people in the recruiting world occupy a very different space: they tend to have large and diverse networks, which include candidates, clients, other staffing professionals, etc… Linkedin is at this point so vital and important to the recruiting industry that if a recruiter doesn’t have 500+ connections, you might ask yourself why. There is no reason to not take advantage and access the most comprehensive database of professionals ever assembled.
The point here is that as a recruiting professional, it really shouldn’t matter if you share your connections or not. If someone feels like sorting through hundreds of pages or connections, they can have fun wasting their entire day. In the recruiting industry, we should all be building expansive networks. That is the real way to hide your connections: just bury them! In the long run, it may actually be better to share your connections, as you really want to be seen as somewhat of a “hub” of information within your local community. If potential clients and candidates can see that you are connected to influencers in the space and high level local professionals, it can only help their perception of you. If you have a small amount of connections, you might want to hide your Linkedin connections. But if you are in recruiting and have a small number of Linkedin connections, you should really think about building it up.
Recruiters should note however that if you work with a smaller staffing company, you also have to manage your “Company profile” on Linkedin. It’s a potential source of business information for your competitors. If you have a team of recruiters with clusters of connections all pointing to the same companies, Linkedin’s “most connected to” feature could reveal your clients. Again, people in the recruiting business should generally build large, diverse networks. That should take care of the company profile loophole as well.
In a perfect world, of course, we should be able to email a list of our clients to our nearest competitor without a second thought. Recruiting clients really should be relationships, and strong relationships should not be able to be easily broken. If we focus on building long-term client relationships that matter, we can be confident that no one will be able to take them away with a cold call. Clients are not simply sets of secret contact information, but personal relationships built on trust, respect, and long term mutual benefit.
Hiding your Linkedin connections probably doesn’t do too much harm. However, every time that you find yourself focusing on “the other guy” (your competitor), it’s time that you are not thinking about developing your own business. Recruiters should use Linkedin expansively and openly, striving for a broad and diverse network within the field of their recruitment practice. In general, a large Linkedin network will serve your business better than a small, closed network. Networking within the actual recruiting industry should not be discounted as well – your competitor today is your co-worker tomorrow.