Should you post that you’re #OpenToWork? A tale of two labor markets

Job seekers face a dilemma when choosing whether to mark themselves as #OpenToWork on LinkedIn.

On one hand, it sends a clear and useful signal to recruiters. On the other hand, the badge can lump you with a crowd of people who are more likely to be unemployed or unhappy with their jobs, which could be seen as a negative sign — you know, a version of the quote often attributed to Groucho Marx: I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member.

If you’re a software engineer who’s on the market, should you list yourself as #OpenToWork? Does doing so send a negative signal? And with the recent deluge of layoffs at tech companies, has the meaning of #OpenToWork changed? We decided to find out.

We aggregated pass/fail rates from mock and real interviews and cross-referenced them with whether users marked themselves as #OpenToWork on their LinkedIns.

The setup

Our site is an interview practice platform and a tech recruiting marketplace. Engineers use us for mock interviews and companies use us to hire top performers. In our lifetime, we’ve hosted over 100,000 technical interviews, split between mocks and real ones. To test whether listing yourself as #OpenToWork is a good thing to do, we aggregated pass/fail rates in the interviews our users did and cross-referenced them with whether users marked themselves as #OpenToWork on their LinkedIns. We also made sure to check their LinkedIns twice: once in early 2021, when there were practically no tech layoffs, and again in early 2023, in the wake of the worst round of tech layoffs since 2001.

Why did we check twice? Economic theory suggests that the people laid off or searching for a job in boom times are different from those laid off in a recession. If you are let go or cannot find a job when companies are flush, it might be that you were laid off for performance reasons or can never get past a screening call. On the other hand, someone who suffered from an across-the-board layoff in a time of economic crisis could be perfectly capable, just a casualty of macroeconomic forces.

We found that being #OpenToWork is far more common now. Among the over 10,000 people that we had LinkedIn data for, only 1.4% had the badge in 2021 compared to 4.2% in the first quarter of 2023.

The results

How do these two cohorts of #OpenToWork engineers perform?

We found that being #OpenToWork was a negative signal for those who had it up in 2021, a boom time for tech hiring. The chart below shows the percentage of people who passed their interviews — our summary measure of candidate performance. On average, about 51 percent of candidates pass their interviews. In contrast, those with #OpenToWork badges in 2021 were fully 7 percentage points below that, at 44%.