The days of scouring ads for your next role are over — 85 percent of jobs are now filled through networking. If you’ve been treating LinkedIn as your resume in digital form, it’s time to re-think your strategy. The professional networking platform is a universal database for search firms that is the very key to your career advancement. LinkedIn is the biggest site of its kind, boasting 546 million users worldwide (146 million of those in the United States) with 3 million new jobs posted each month.
Rather than a cut-and-paste version of your resume, Matt Kerr, vice president at Kensington International, suggests, “View your LinkedIn profile as your online branding statement. It’s how people in talent acquisition are trying to find you. You can help them by creating a robust, searchable profile.” We’ve got tips from high-level professional recruiters on how best to utilize LinkedIn to create your professional identity, make useful contacts, and search for (or be sought out for) opportunities.
Fine Tune Every Profile Element
Before you begin overhauling your LinkedIn profile, do one thing: Disable notifications (when in “edit” toggle to “no” next to “notify network”). Otherwise, everyone in your network will get a play-by-play of each little edit you make. Re-enable it when you’re done to debut your new and improved profile. Here are important points to consider about each profile component
It’s absolutely imperative to have a photo on your profile. “No one wants to do business with a default silhouette,” says Kerr. LinkedIn research shows that just having a photo makes you 14 times more likely to be viewed by others. You don’t necessarily need a professional headshot, however Kerr says, “Don’t have a photo with you holding a fish you caught unless you own a Bass Pro Shop.” Ditto for selfies, photos with your children, or wearing revealing clothing. Joe Shaker Jr., president at Shaker Recruitment Marketing, says, “Make sure to include a photo that’s high-quality and reflective of the industry you’re in.”
“An individual’s LinkedIn headline does not need to be his or her current job title,” Shaker says. “Individuals can use this digital real estate to summarize their roles, their capabilities, their goals, and so on.”
“Use industry standard titles that you have held or could hold,” Kerr suggests. Some job titles are company-specific so your heading is a great place to spell out the equivalent as well. “For example, one company’s title may be ‘Chief Cultural Officer’ for a role that is more traditionally know as VP of HR. You can list both.” He also suggests looking for opportunities to interject nouns.
Your headline is also great place to state what you’re interested in if you’re a job seeker. “It’s an opportunity to be more creative,” says Kim McAdams, vice president at The Chicago Hire Company. “Instead of ‘seeking an executive assistant opportunity,’ try ‘effective executive assistant looking to make a CEO’s life more manageable.’”
This section is a short and sweet. “A summary is better in narrative as opposed to bullets,” Kerr says. He suggests having a paragraph that indicates the scope of your experience, i.e., manufacturing, supply chain, retail, etc. “The next paragraph can be specialties like creative writing, blogging, and so on,” he says.
LinkedIn is not the spot to post personal details about your life — save that for Facebook. The same goes for socializing, connecting with friends, and entertainment posts. You can instead post about events you’re attending or projects you’re working on. “Being active on the platform is a way to make yourself more visible to your professional network,” McAdams says.
“Share craft articles and pieces that are relevant to your industry and provide your perspective on industry-related topics and trends,” suggests Shaker. It’s a great place to build your personal brand. “This is incredibly helpful in conveying thought leadership, expertise, approach to situations, industry knowledge, etc.,” Shaker says.
Consider the search terms a recruiter might use when seeking a potential candidate. “What is your differentiator among your peers? For example, if you’ve worked with unions, you might use terms like ‘labor-relations’ and ‘collective bargaining’ to capture a recruiter’s interest,” says Kerr.
He suggests including a paragraph about your current organization — what it does, size, ownership type, etc. Then include a paragraph restating your title, the title you reported to, and what you do/did. You can also include recognizable client names.
Shaker encourages the use of stats and numbers whenever possible when explaining your experience. “Explain the direct impact of your work and where you added value,” he says.
Skills & Endorsements/Recommendations
LinkedIn has found that profiles listing five or more skills attract 11 times more views. The importance of this section varies depending upon your role. Shaker says they can help build third-party credibility. McAdams notes that when an employees who is more “green” takes the time to solicit endorsements and recommendations, it indicates a level of responsibility that is desirable.
This is the most personal of the LinkedIn sections, and also the least important to recruiters. McAdams suggests following people and companies you are genuinely, professionally, interested in. She says, “It’s less about making you look better to a recruiter and more about building your own knowledge. It’s an opportunity to target companies to keep on top of their news.”
Make It Easy to Be Found
First and foremost, if you’re openly seeking a job, make sure to select the option in your profile that says “let recruiters know you’re open.” Second, keep your profile up to date.
Increase Your Connections
According to LinkedIn research, each connection you make:
- Reflects an average of 400 new people you can get introduced to and begin to build relationships with;
- Encompasses 100 new companies who may be looking for your skills and talents;
- Represents connections to an average of 500+ jobs.
The bigger your first-degree network on LinkedIn, the bigger your entire network. The platform makes it easy to make connections by searching your address book and making suggestions based on commonalities with others in your network. When you find someone you want to connect with, take the time to personalize your request.
“The more connections one has, the greater the chances of knowing someone at a prospective employer. Being able to tap those individuals for networking, referral assistance, and/or mentorship opportunities is invaluable,” says Shaker.
“Be meticulous about inviting old colleagues to join your network and don’t be afraid to ask for introductions,” says McAdams. She suggests viewing the LinkedIn platform as a wonderful opportunity to network into your next job.
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Pamela Rothbard is a writer and photographer living in Glencoe, Illinois. Her work has appeared in various literary and mainstream magazines and on National Public Radio and her parenting and baking blog, Flour on the Floor, was featured in Better Homes and Gardens. Pamela has been a regular Make It Better contributor since 2013. When she’s not behind a keyboard or a camera, she’s trying new recipes and restaurants and adding another layer of clothing because she’s always cold. Pamela is also a supporter of no-kill shelters and animal rescue organizations (her favorites are PAWS Chicago and Best Friends in Utah). Find her on Twitter and Instagram @pamelarothbard.