We’ve all been in that position of feeling out of the professional loop, of feeling anything but “linked in.” In order to make connections, manage the necessary upkeep of your credentials, stay relevant in your field, and conduct a successful job search, you need to devote time to building your LinkedIn profile. At the outset, it is a daunting task, but it is one you will not regret undertaking. As someone who has spent countless hours immersed in LinkedIn from the recruitment perspective, I can assure you firsthand that your profile matters.
Here are 10 tips to help you build a professional, appealing profile that will stand out to the people with whom you want to connect—potential employers, potential clients, and others in your industry.
1. Specify your roles.
Spending a few minutes reflecting on your preferences for companies and positions will focus your mission and help place you in the path of your ideal recruiters and potential employers. LinkedIn allows you to denote specifics about where you stand in your career journey and where you’d like to go. You can then choose to raise your e-flag, so to speak, and alert recruiters in your field that you’re their kind of candidate and are open to connecting. From the company’s point of view, users who specify the roles they seek are critical to the hiring process. When recruiters are on the hunt for candidates, only those who are relevant to the precise search terms will show up in the results. The following steps will guide you in defining your interests and notifying the people who care:
• Click the “Jobs” icon (with the little briefcase picture) along the top bar of your LinkedIn homepage.
• Toward the top of the “Jobs” page, just left of center, click on “Career interests,” with the little pencil next to it.
• On the top, left-hand side of the page, you’ll see “Let recruiters know you’re open.” Click the circle to the right of this phrase to turn this option from “Off” to “On.” (Raise that flag!)
• Below that, you can then record notes to recruiters and fill in some brief information about the types of roles you are interested in, as prompted by programmed questions. Even if you don’t wish to change jobs at the moment, you might mention to recruiters that you’d still like to remain in consideration. (More on this topic in tip #9 below.)
2. Keywords are key.
Another simple and effective way to boost your appearance in recruiters’ searches is to align your profile with the descriptions of jobs in which you’re interested. When reading through job descriptions, take note of the keywords that indicate exactly how a desirable candidate should be equipped. Pay close attention to the terminology used in the qualifications and responsibilities sections. Then, go to your own profile, and work similar language into your summary, experience, and skills and endorsements sections in order to highlight the congruence between what you have to offer and what the recruiters are seeking. If you truly are a match for a job, the buzzwords in its description are likely already sprinkled throughout your profile!
3. Headline correctly.
A common mistake in profile-building is listing your job title as your headline. Doing so seems to make sense, particularly if you are satisfied with your current position. However, your headline should be captivating and representative of your overall identity as a professional, not limited to your “day job”—especially if your title does not accurately reflect your actual work or you’re looking to branch out. Use your headline as a space to explain your value and describe your passion. Take advantage of the chance to be creative and forthcoming with yourself and your profile viewers about why you do what you do. Three to four catchy but succinct sentences will do; save the length for your summary.
4. Pitch yourself.
If you’re not familiar with the term “elevator pitch,” it means exactly what it sounds like. When writing your summary, pretend you have just stepped into an elevator with the hiring manager for a position you’re psyched about. You have the duration of your ride to deliver a compelling plug for yourself that demonstrates why you are the one for the job. Though you are allotted more “time” for your summary than you would be between floors, imagining this scenario will keep you focused and to the point as you write while also reminding you to speak charismatically. After reading your summary, a recruiter should fully understand what you do, what you have done in the past, and in which areas you are highly-skilled. In essence, your summary should be well-written—a sharp, thorough yet pithy account of you and your career.
5. Own your URL.
With all the other steps to perfecting your profile, changing your URL might seem like a pointless effort. Taking just a few minutes to customize your web address, however, has the potential to set you up for greater success. Adding a unique touch—particularly if you have a common name—will make your profile more easily available to anyone searching for you. Personalization also serves as a subtle sign that you are conscientious and even the small details are important to you. Furthermore, a straightforward, simple-to-recall address has the benefit of fitting in seamlessly with your other contact information. Follow these steps to change your URL:
• Click the “Me” icon along the top bar of your LinkedIn homepage.
• Click “View profile.”
• On your profile page on the right-hand side toward the top, click “Edit your public profile & URL.”
• A new tab will open. In the “Edit URL” box on the right-hand side toward the top, click the little pencil icon.
• Type your moniker of choice into the text box at the end of the URL and click “Save.”
• Your new, custom URL will be www.linkedin.com/in/yourname.
6. Narrate your experiences.
After straining your brain to create prose for your summary, you’re probably looking forward to switching into autopilot mode for the experience portion of your profile. If you’re planning on pulling up your resume and settling into the “copy and paste” routine, stop! While filling in the title, company, location, and date boxes might feel mindless, the description section deserves more thought. Recruiters have access to your resume, so they will read the bullet points that outline and quantify your stint in each position of your professional history. Repeating those same points in the description of a past job on your profile might make you seem lazy or cause you to blend in with other candidates who did the same. Instead, take the opportunity to share details that don’t appear on your resume. Expand beyond the basics and tell the story of each of your experiences. Consider your major accomplishments in each position and explain how those wins positively shaped both the company and your career path. Be careful not to become carried away and end up with novel’s worth of text. Compose a few operative sentences that draw recruiters in and direct them toward your resume for specific data.
7. Accumulate promotion.
While you, more than anyone else, can give a comprehensive chronicle of your professional journey, recommendations from others are integral to a complete profile that conveys your true identity. The endorsement and recommendation portions of your profile allow for this vital third-party input. Whereas all other parts are self-generated and have an unavoidable air of bias, endorsements and recommendations come from impartial sources who can corroborate your claims and attest to your performance, which bolsters your credibility. You may need to submit a formal request for such backing from your superiors, but you can quickly begin a collection by initiating a reciprocal exchange with those on your level. Recommend and endorse former classmates, intern colleagues, and volunteer partners, and ask for them to return the favor!
8. Engage in your industry.
Beyond the time you spend buried in the many layers of profile engineering, it is crucial to connect with others in your industry, especially those at the top. LinkedIn influencers “comprise a global collective of the world’s foremost thinkers, leaders, and innovators” who discuss trending issues. Select influencers to follow in order to stay up-to-date on the current events unfolding in the industries in which you’re pursuing job opportunities. These movers and shakers team up with LinkedIn editors to produce content intended to inform and launch conversation between users like you. By joining groups within the industries you’re targeting and engaging in this dialogue, you will develop a reputation as a thought leader and attract recognition from recruiters.
9. Keep your channels open.
Many of us tend to check out from the LinkedIn world if we are happy in our current positions and not actively pursuing a new job. This mindset may lead to professional stagnancy, however, and put you at a disadvantage whenever you are looking to make a move, whether out of choice or necessity. It never hurts to make connections regardless of your job status, and doing so, in fact, can help tremendously in the future, if not now. LinkedIn provides recruiters with a vast pool of professionals from which they can handpick candidates for their own pipelines. When a recruiter reaches out to you, and you’re not interested in switching roles at this time, be sure to let him or her know that you would still like to keep in touch. Becoming part of recruiters’ networks means that you will remain on their radar when it comes to filling openings down the road.
10. Say “cheese”!
Did you know that having a profile photo makes your profile fourteen more times likely to be viewed by others? Given this statistic and how easy the process is, uploading a photo of yourself will surely be a step you check off the list. Do take some time, though, to find a professional photo to use. Depending on your field, you may already have one taken by your company. Attempting to crop out your friends from last week’s girls night selfie, on the other hand, is not ideal; the shot should clearly feature you and you alone. If you can’t find any pictures that will work, stage one yourself. Put on a classy office ensemble that matches your style and do your hair and makeup however makes you feel most comfortable. Ask a friend or significant other to snap a head shot against a neutral background. Feel free to play around with editing tools until the image gives off the vibe you’re aiming for, but keep it as natural as possible. Your photo should complement, not detract from, your profile—you want to be remembered for your credentials over and above your look.
Having plunged the depths of recruitment in my HR experiences, I promise you that the LinkedIn network is one you want to climb aboard. The time and effort required to assemble a sleek and professional profile are intimidating, but your investment will result in immeasurable return. Put into action the 10 tips explained above, and you will be well on your way to an attractive and effectual profile to support your career goals.