Whether you’re in the midst of a job search or among the 60% of professionals that aren’t actively looking, but would be willing to listen if someone approached them about a new position, you need to be on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a powerful social networking site that is a vital tool for all professionals, and is arguably the most important part of a job search. Some companies exclusively post openings on LinkedIn and 80% of recruiters use LinkedIn as a tool to find candidates. When used correctly, LinkedIn can help connect you with employers, alert you to positions you may be a candidate for, secure you interviews, and even launch your career. With weekly emails of jobs you’re qualified for and the ability to apply for many positions with one click without leaving the site, LinkedIn is a job seeker’s best friend.
It wasn’t until social media guru Wendy Soucie taught me how to use LinkedIn that I realized how important it is to have a strong profile. Wendy probably has the most robust LinkedIn profile of anyone on the social network, so I recommend you use hers as a reference as you build or improve your own profile.
LinkedIn is one of those things where you get out of it what you put in. It is most effective when you’ve developed an expansive professional network on the site, which is all predicated on you building a profile that other people want to connect with. If you showcase yourself correctly on LinkedIn, it won’t be long before people start reaching out to you about jobs they want you for. There is an art to building an appealing profile and this post will endeavor to convey it to you.
In your profile, you want to include information that will be seen as authentic by colleagues as well as future and past employers since all three audiences are vital to your success on LinkedIn. Before creating your LinkedIn profile, think about keywords that describe you, your current position, any unique skills you posses, and the type of words that your target audience or employer would be looking for.
How Recruiters Use LinkedIn - Employers, HR reps, headhunters, and recruiters will use the search function on LinkedIn to find specific keywords in profiles they believe will lead them to an ideal candidate. If you want to be found by those people, your profile must have those keywords. I want to be found for jobs that are relevant to Leadership Development (among other things), so I have the words “Leadership Development” in my profile. When someone searches for “Leadership Development”, my profile and others with those words pop up. Picking the right keywords is important, so put yourself in the mind of a recruiter. If they were searching for a candidate for your ideal job, what keywords would they be searching for? Once you identify them, be sure you work them into your profile.
Picture - TMB has waxed poetic about how much one’s looks affect desirable outcomes. Given all the research that shows the importance of appearance to securing a job, a good LinkedIn photo is essential. The photo should always be professional to reflect both your personal brand and your current or desired employer. You are a brand ambassador. Use a headshot picture from any digital camera with a clean, white background or something similar. Most university career centers will take these pictures for you free of charge and you should utilize this resource. Avoid avatars, group photos, logos, or pictures where you have obviously cropped out one or more other people (especially if it was taken at a bar or club). You can upload up to a 4Mb file and the system has a cropping tool, but fair warning: it is a serious pain in the ass to use.
Your Name - Your name should only contain your name. Avoid adding any additional titles, email, acronyms or credentials. There is a section for education to show you have a masters or PhD, so keep your name clean and concise! LinkedIn may even ask you to remove or shut down your profile if other things are used and abused in your name field.
Header/Headline – Your headline should be memorable and have keywords you want to be associated with. This is the most important section on your profile. If you don’t customize this section, it will default to your Current Job Title at Current Employer if you don’t uncheck the box when you set your profile up. Use those words that you want employers to find you for. This is critical in attracting people to click through from search listings. Create a headline that captures your target market’s attention to encourage them to check out your profile. Your profile MUST have those keywords in it for you to come up in searchers and eventually be contacted by employers. Keep your audience in mind. For me, I have words like “Management Consultant” “Human Resources” and “Industrial Organizational Psychology” in my header because those words appear in the titles of jobs I would be interested in. Identify what those words are for you, and be sure to use them in your header.
Personal URL - Below your profile picture is the URL that links directly to your profile. Edit this so that it is custom to you. I suggest using your name if possible. My name wasn’t available, so I included my middle initial making my personal URL http://www.linkedin.com/in/aaronjkraus. I like having a personal URL because I include my LinkedIn profile URL in my email signature. It looks more professional and people are more likely to click on it because they know where they are heading.
Summary – This is your elevator speech in written form. You get about 2,000 characters to work with so you have some space. Begin with how your work has helped others or an organization. Only include current and relevant information, as this is a high-level overview and can be focused on a specific market that you are pursuing. There are other sections to talk about what you’ve done in the past. You can also think of this is a cover letter. This is the best place to include results oriented statements such as, “grew sales by 15%,” “reduced costs by $5M,” “improved customer satisfaction ratings by 20%” etc., but be careful to avoid including any proprietary information from a current or past job. Be sure to keyword load your summary and profile, strategically place them in various sections, but be sure they are at least in the first sentence and last sentence.
Experience (Work History) – When it comes to the “Experience” section, you have some choice points. You should include every employer since college because it broadens your network to include people in all of those companies. If you had multiple positions at a company, use the highest position held. However, if you have been with only one company and held multiple increasing roles, you can add them as separate positions. When you put in the dates worked, you should only use the years you worked there and omit the months. LinkedIn requires three positions to have a “completed profile” so be sure to include at least three.
If you’re a college student or recent graduate, you should highlight the experiences that most support the type of job you are trying to get. Internships are a great way of demonstrating experience and skills, so they should be featured prominently. If you worked in the service industry, you should include the position if it is relevant. For example, if you worked as a bartender and are heading into a sales career, include the position and try to include any financial metrics you can that show sales increased during your time in that position.
Do NOT simply copy and paste in text from your resume. You get 2,000 characters, which is a lot of space, so make use of it by including some of the skills you used or responsibilities and projects you had that may be appealing to someone looking for an employee. Again, make sure you include those keywords you want to be found for within this section. Also, you should include a brief description of the company so that people know what industries and size firms you’ve worked in.
Publications – This section of LinkedIn allows you to showcase anything you have written that has gone in a trade journal, academic journal, or that has been presented at a conference. This has a more academic flare to it, so it won’t apply to everyone, but if you do have publications be sure to include them. You should include the citation for it, tag who you collaborated with, and provide a brief description of the work. I’ve included two papers I wrote with Chantale Wilson, another academic publication, and a poster presentation.
Skills – This is an opportunity to highlight special skills and indicate level of experience with roles or specific software. You can also add language and proficiency. People can also “endorse” you for certain skills to give credibility to your work. It’s one thing for me to say I know about Job Analysis, but having several others support that assertion makes it much more reliable. The LinkedIn search allows users to search by skill, so this becomes a very effective visibility tool for attracting prospective hiring managers, or those recruiting for a position with a specific set of skills. This section allows for up to 50 different skills.
Education – This is an opportunity to represent your Alma Mater as well as any other business or professional training you’ve received. This includes six sigma training, Hootsuite certifications, or professional/continuing education courses. If you have an advanced degree that required a capstone project, thesis, or dissertation, include the title and a description of the work. Enter each degree you have separately. You should list your High School as well to expand your network, but again only use years and omit the months. If you are still in college or recently graduated, you can also include relevant classes you have taken as part of another tab.
Certifications – You can separately add certifications such as PE, CPA, RN, MBA, M.A., PhD etc in this added section. DO NOT include this in your name field.
Volunteer Organizations – You can list in a separate section volunteer roles you have held with civic and service oriented organizations. However, if your experience section is looking thin, you can include these volunteer opportunities there instead.
Interests – What do you like to do when you are not at the office? Including a few different activities is nice because it humanizes you a bit and makes you more relatable. Formatting is important. Use single words or short phrases separated by commas.
Twitter – If you are on Twitter, you may list it in your profile and it will show up under your contact information. A general note of caution: especially if it is connected to your LinkedIn profile, whatever you post on Twitter WILL BE REVIEWED BEFORE YOU ARE HIRED. Twitter comes up as one of the first hits in a Google search for your name, which means your content is easily accessible for anyone trying to gather information about you. A good rule of thumb is don’t post anything on a social network including Twitter that you would not want to be asked about during a job interview. DO NOT have your Twitter posts automatically go to LinkedIn. Out of context tweets are often hard to understand on LinkedIn. However, if you post on LinkedIn and want it to go to Twitter, make sure its less than 140 characters. If you’re employed by or are a representative of some institution, be sure to add the following phrase to your Twitter profile if you connect them “opinions expressed are my own” or a good variation. To connect your twitter account to LinkedIn, click on your picture in the upper right hand window of the screen that takes you to Account and Settings, click on “Privacy and Settings”, then under the “Settings” header, click on “Manage your Twitter settings” where you can add your account.
Join LinkedIn Groups –Groups are a great way to expand your network. Find professional societies, interest groups, or your alumni association.
Get Some Recommendations – These further build your credibility and distinguish you from competition. People with important titles that are associated with large or prestigious companies are ideal recommenders. College professors or someone you know at a company you want to apply at are also good suggestions. Consider a mix of clients, past and present colleagues, civic and nonprofit affiliations. Friends are okay too as long as they can attest to your work. You can also request recommendations for educational experiences and nonprofit or volunteer work. Offering to reciprocate may help increase your number of recommendations too.
Update Your Status – Post helpful content for your target market. This shows you are active, consistent, and focused on providing value. More importantly, it pops your profile up in other people’s feeds making you more salient to your connections so they may think of you when looking for someone to fill a position. This also helps you appear more frequently in searches.
Connect With Everyone You Meet - Download the LinkedIn app on your phone and connect with relevant people you meet. You may include a link to your LinkedIn profile in your email signature or put it as a QR code on the back of your business card. Trade shows and conferences are great networking opportunities and LinkedIn is a great way to help you remember names and faces of people you meet. Lastly, I encourage you to connect with me http://www.linkedin.com/in/aaronjkraus.
Follow me on Twitter @Aaron_Kraus