According to numerous studies, articles and anecdotal information, employers are continuing to look at LinkedIn profiles in vetting job candidates – sometimes before even reading a candidate’s resume. What this means is that you need a profile that is, at a minimum, as reasonably complete as possible and that, ideally, presents you as a unique, compelling candidate.
If you’re looking to amp up your presence on LinkedIn, consider these profile essentials:
Photo. Select a photo that presents you in a friendly, engaging way. It can be a businesslike mug shot or a more creative, if you like to experiment with different angles, expressions and/or backgrounds. Ideally, the creative approach should tie in with your profession or your profile objective. Regardless of your approach, again just try to come across as engaging and friendly, or even intriguing; basically, someone others would like to connect with or meet. Also, no selfies – have someone take your photo for you. Choose a high-resolution image and watch out for distracting backgrounds. If your photo does all these things, you should be good to go.
Headline. A strong, strategic LinkedIn headline does several things: (1) It is memorable; (2) it accurately represent who you are; (3) it includes key words that reinforce the ability of an employer to find you; (4) it conveys value; and (5) and it intrigues readers so they want to learn more about you. If your headline checks all of these boxes, you likely have a winner!
About section or summary. An engaging LinkedIn summary builds on the momentum initiated by the headline. But don’t settle for copying and pasting in the summary paragraph from your resume. Employers will spot that in a second and will not be impressed. Don’t forget that employers are looking for resourceful problem solvers; people who can think creatively in going above and beyond, when necessary, to deliver value.
Also, remember that LinkedIn is used both by people interested in networking as well as by recruiters and hiring managers. So do try to open up and be creative; write it in the first person which will help you inject your personality into it and make it seem human as opposed to sounding too stiff or corporate. You might want to start with describing what makes you tick or what you are passionate about and then build from there. Or talk about a signature moment in your life that led you to your current career.
The key point is you are a unique individual with your own unique career story. Most everyone likes a good story and you can spice it up by adding some of your key career achievements or highlights. In general, be engaging and different; try to craft a compelling summary that responds to the promise suggested by your headline.
Connections. The objective here is to build your connections to help you achieve a robust profile, which will impress recruiters and employers by showing your commitment to your career. Opinions about how many connections to have vary substantially. Many people are fine with maintaining a connection count of around several hundred while others have counts that run into the thousands. If you’re just starting out, here’s one approach. Set an initial goal of 50 (this is the minimum that is required for All Star status) and then take a disciplined path in regularly sending out invitations to business contacts and other individuals to reach and eventually surpass this number.
One thing to keep in mind is that if you maintain a very low count and you are in the middle of a job hunt, some employers who come across your profile may think you are not committed to your career, while others, more generously, may give you the benefit of the doubt and will think you are a LinkedIn newbie just starting out with your profile. All things considered, it is best to get your connection count up there. The more connections you have, the more invitations you can generate using second and third-degree prospects and things can build from there.
Skills and endorsements section. People who know you and are LinkedIn users have the ability to endorse you for one or more of your skills. For this reason, it is important that you set up this section of your profile by noting the skills that you have. To improve your ability to grow your number of endorsements, it is essential that you continue to increase your number of connections. Simply stated, the more connections you have, the more opportunities you will have to grow your endorsements. This is another key building block in creating a strong profile.
Experience section or work history. This your opportunity to show your career progression by detailing key responsibilities and accomplishments in each position you have held. Be sure to note details that convey value and that sometimes are easily overlooked, such as the number of people you have supervised or budget amounts for any large project you have managed. If you have a strong resume, it should be relatively easy to adapt your individual employment position descriptions for this part of your profile.
Education and other sections. Having a complete profile includes completing the Education section, as well as others if they apply, such as the Licenses, Certifications, Accomplishments, Recommendations and Interests sections. All of these help strengthen your profile and by taking care to complete them you will impress recruiters and hiring managers that much more by your professionalism and attention to detail.
To recap, the two keys here are to present a complete LinkedIn profile so that employers see the full value that you have to offer and then to adopt a disciplined approach in building your connections. With this said, what you want to avoid is an incomplete profile, including a very low connection count, which may result in employers questioning your commitment to your career and your ability to perform well if hired.
Properly completed, a good LinkedIn profile can function as your 24/7 networking and career development tool. Invest the time it takes to attain a complete profile and reap the rewards!