Employment attorney Jeff Nowak works in Chicago--or, at least he did until the coronavirus hit. Now he works out of his suburban home. While his LinkedIn profile still says Chicago--since that's where his office is located--LinkedIn recently asked him to change his location to the site of his suburban home office.

At the same time, LinkedIn updated my town from Basel Area, Switzerland, to Basel, Basel-Town, Switzerland. I recently moved from the Basel suburbs (which I would classify as Basel Area) to the middle of the city. I figured they must be classifying people based on their IP addresses with Jeff's experience and mine. With everyone working at home, IP addresses were showing up as homes rather than offices.

I was wrong.

It's actually all about Bing, which like LinkedIn is also owned by Microsoft.

I spoke with a LinkedIn spokesperson and learned that the locations field is far more complicated than I would have thought. 

LinkedIn gets its list of possible locations from the search engine, Bing. You want information on LinkedIn to be accurate, so you want people to choose only existing places, and not identify themselves as living on Mars. 

First, they use your zip code. The zip code on my LinkedIn was still my suburban town (Münchenstein), but some behind the scene changes at Bing meant that the default was no longer Basel Area but Basel-Town. Basel Area was correct, but Basel Town was not, Münchenstein is not in the town. But, updating my zip code gave me the option using Basel Metropolitan area rather than the ridiculous Basel-Town. (The official name is Baselstadt, which can be translated as Basel Town, but no one says that--in English or German). 

For Jeff, he's lucky he got placed in the suburb he works in. He can (and did) override it to keep his location as Chicago. But, Bing's data placed a whole bunch of people in Brisbane, Australia at the Brisbane Airport. Everyone is working to improve the accuracy.

The LinkedIn spokesperson said they are working out the kinks. With a half a billion people on LinkedIn worldwide, getting locations correct and all zip codes up to date is complicated. They are working on refining the process so that no one ends up assigned to a suburb they don't work in, and airports only show airport employees.

For most people, this probably isn't a huge deal--but it can cause business losses if would-be customers are searching for employment lawyers in Chicago and Jeff doesn't show up because now LinkedIn says he's in a suburb. If you're looking for a new job, placing yourself in the metropolitan area rather than your tiny suburb may be the difference between catching a recruiter's eye and not showing up in a search.

If your location is wrong, LinkedIn has a resource for you to correct it. You won't be forced to display a town you don't work in for the rest of your career.