Job Hunting? 15 Ways to Make Your LinkedIn Profile Work for You
If you’re like a lot of people, you might be wondering what you’re supposed to get out of your LinkedIn profile.
A LinkedIn profile can be a powerful tool for career advancement, but you have to know how to use it — just like any other tool.
Here’s some solid, actionable advice about how you can make your LinkedIn profile look better to recruiters and hiring managers.
A Decent Profile Picture
LinkedIn isn’t a social network. It’s a professional network. Your profile picture should not be similar to what you might use on Facebook.
You should look professional, be well dressed and use a plain background. Think of this as being more like what you would put on a company website or even your driver’s license picture — but with a smile.
You should look approachable and pleasant for sure, but professional is the most important part of this calculation.
That might vary from one field to another. For example “professional” in the world of graphic design is not the same thing as “professional” in the world of finance. Use your best judgment, but think of what you might wear on a job interview, not a night out at the bar.
A Headline Is More Than a Job Title
The headline of your profile is what is going to draw recruiters and potential employers in. Make it pop so they want to read on.
View your headline as being a bit like the opening sentence of an article.
It doesn’t have to say everything. It just has to say enough to get someone to keep reading to get to the meat.
Write a Solid Introduction
In years past, people use to put subject lines on resumes. Then this practice fell out of favor. Now it’s kind of come back in a roundabout way with the introduction part of a LinkedIn profile.
Think of this as the headline of your profile overall. You want to catch people’s attention here so they read the rest of your profile. At the same time, you have to let the rest of your profile do the heavy lifting in terms of what your skill set and experience is.
Try and boil down what it is you do — how you add value to a company — to two or three sentences. That can be hard. But this is where you need to be the harshest critic possible when it comes to your own self-selling.
Pretend that you’re a recruiter or hiring manager. Would your introduction make you want to read further? If not, you need to punch up that copy. You don’t need to be crazy here and you should keep things professional, but you also need to grab them by the lapels a little.
Build Your Network and Connect With Influencers
Your LinkedIn profile is only as good as your network. If no one can see your profile, it might as well not be there. Connecting with people in your field is essential.
The best people to connect with are influencers. Not only are they going to be a hub for other people in your industry, they’re also going to share the best and most relevant content for your field.
Be Specific With Your Dates
The day of the month doesn’t matter, but the month does, and you need to state this for every position that you’ve held.
Hiring managers and recruiters will look at vague dates (seasons or even just years) as an attempt to pad your resume. They might also start looking at your LinkedIn profile overall with a bit more suspicion or, even worse, close your profile all together and start looking elsewhere for candidates with more specific information.
The fact is, it may not seem like a big deal, but any time you choose to do less work you’re losing leverage against other people who took the extra steps to polish their profile. This is one of those little things that can keep you out of the discard pile.
It only takes an extra couple of minutes to make sure that you have the most specific information possible with every position.
List Certificates You’ve Earned
Your certifications might seem mundane to you because they may not be considered particularly outstanding accomplishments in your field. It doesn’t matter.
Recruiters and hiring managers are going to assume that you have the certifications you list on your LinkedIn profile — no more and no less. When you don’t list certifications you have, they’re going to err on the side of caution by assuming you’re not qualified for the position they’re trying to fill.
Remember that like your resume, a LinkedIn profile is one of the socially acceptable places to brag about yourself.
Your list of certifications isn’t going to be too long. The fact that some certifications are required for entry-level positions in your field is all the more reason why they should be present in your profile. If you’re not certified for entry-level work, you’re not going to have certifications for more advanced positions that you’re probably looking for.
Write Recommendations Regularly
You want recommendations on your profile. Unfortunately, you’re probably not going to get them unless you write recommendations of your own.
Recommendations are the LinkedIn equivalent of karma — you’re going to get back what you put out.
Find reasons to put up recommendations for people. Remember that employers want to know that you valued the guidance of a supervisor just as much as they want to know your supervisor valued your work.
The feedback you have to give about superiors and subordinates alike will help them to shine compared to the competition. Then, when you want to ask for a recommendation back, it’s going to sound less like fishing for compliments and more like doing each other a favor.
Prune Your Recommendations Regularly As Well
The more recommendations the better, right? Well, no, in a word.
Recommendations are great, but like everything else on your profile, they tell a story. Are the recommendations in your profile currently telling the story you want them to tell? Or are they telling some other kind of story?
Occasionally removing or hiding recommendations from your wall will help you to keep your wall on topic and tell the story you want told, not some other one.
Advocate for Your Employer
Even if you’re actively looking for greener pastures, it pays to advocate for your current company in your LinkedIn profile.
That can mean sharing things like white papers and case studies that reflect well on your current organization. This shows a passion for where you work that can be attractive to prospective employers.
Even if your passion for the job is a bit in your rear view mirror, try to tap into the passion you once had and exhibit that.
Create Quality Content
One of the best ways you can distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack when it comes to your LinkedIn profile is to regularly create content that is relevant to your field.
The term “thought leader” gets thrown around a lot, but you don’t necessarily have to be a pioneer in your field — though that certainly doesn’t hurt.
Still, if you don’t think you can aim for being a thought leader, instead use this space to highlight value-adding propositions for your clients. Do you have ideas about how organizations can be run better, with less overhead and for more profit? This is the place to talk about them in an engaging manner.
There’s nothing a business owner likes hearing more than how you’re going to help him make more money or make his life easier. Talk about how you can do that here. And before you know it, you will be a thought leader in your field.
Share Meaningful Content
The second best thing you can do after creating quality content of your own is to share the quality content of others.
Let’s face it, not everyone is a content creator, but not everyone has to be one to be seen as a thought leader.
Being known as the person who shares groundbreaking ideas of others might not be as good as having those groundbreaking ideas yourself, but it’s a pretty close second and it will create a similar kind of engagement on your LinkedIn page.
Comment on the Content of Others
The third pillar regarding content on LinkedIn is to comment on the content of others. This engages you with other people you’re connected to on LinkedIn.
In turn, this provides them with a reason to go look at your page, as well as the other people in the discussion.
You never know when the insightful comment you make on someone’s content will catch the eye of a hiring manager looking for someone just like you a month or a year down the road.
Think of this as small investing that will pay dividends over long periods of time.
List Projects You’ve Worked On
Don’t just talk about where you’ve worked. Talk about what you did when you were there. And wherever possible, use specific numbers.
One of the best ways to attract the attention of potential employers is to use metrics about what you actually did, when and for whom.
A lot of LinkedIn profiles, much like resumes, are clogged up with business speak. People who haven’t actually done much want to make themselves sound like they have.
This is your chance to shine by outlining exactly what you did when you worked for specific employers. Bound by an NDA? It doesn’t matter. Just talk about what industry the client was in and what metrics you helped them improve in the most general terms possible and you should be good to go.
Don’t be afraid to do a bit of keyword stuffing here for the search function!
Inject Your Personality
The best resumes have a bit of personality… and are still pretty dry.
However, LinkedIn profiles, despite similarities with a resume, are not resumes. They lie somewhere in a realm between resumes and social media profiles. So you want to strike a balance between the professionalism of the former and the freewheeling nature of the latter.
The best resume in the world on LinkedIn can go unnoticed because you’re focused on what you do to the expense of who you are. Try to include both without going too far into social media land.
Join Groups — and Participate!
Joining groups is a good way to get to know people who can provide you with employment in the future. Participating in them is even better.
You can make connections, exchange useful information and lead people to your profile. Don’t participate for the sake of participation. Try to add value.
The best part is, you probably only need to start using LinkedIn a little bit every week to make a difference.
Block out some time this week to polish up your LinkedIn profile. You’ll be glad you did.