By now, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that LinkedIn is to careers what Facebook is to your relationships. Almost nine out of 10 hiring managers use the platform to look up applicants and potential interviewees, according to Jobvite.
What you post on LinkedIn — and how you post it — won’t just help you network with connections, it could lead you to a more rewarding job. Consider the following steps, with images from LinkedIn.
4 ways to optimize your LinkedIn profile
With its approximately 500 million users, LinkedIn is a powerful resource for networkers. It could alert you to open jobs, connect you with long-lost colleagues, and even help you attract the attention of recruiters.
Your profile is the key to each of those activities. It’s your personal classified for the rest of the professional world. Here are ways you can improve your profile without paying hundreds of dollars for the professional help of resume writers and career coaches.
1. Fill in the blanks
Only 35 percent of professionals feel confident about describing their achievements at work, according to LinkedIn. Filling in every applicable field on your profile is an easy way to start if you’re new to the platform. It’s also a good way to remove the rust from your profile if you’re logging in for the first time in a while.
Your profile’s headshot is the first thing people will see. Including a professional photo increases your profile views by up to a factor of 21, LinkedIn claims.
In your picture, dress the part for the job you’re in or the one you’re seeking. The snapshots of aspiring investment bankers and startup web designers probably won’t be similar, for example.
Your headline defaults to your job title, but use this space to describe what you do or what you’d like to be doing, plus what value you offer.
Mine would say “Content Writer at Student Loan Hero,” for example. Although I love my job, I changed my headline to “Personal finance writer, digital editor, and content strategist looking to help consumers make better decisions.”
No matter how you format your headline, know that it will be seen by other LinkedIn users when you request connections and send messages.
Although other profile sections — from your summary to your work experience — don’t get this kind of attention, it’s important to give them yours.
The more information you provide, the more likely someone will find and read through your profile. LinkedIn says, for example, that including five skills on your profile makes it 31 times more likely you’ll receive messages.
2. Don’t forget the details
Filling in your profile from top to bottom is an important first step, but you’ll also want to provide the right information in the right way. Whether you’re new to the platform or wanting to optimize your profile, this next step requires more effort.
Scrutinize your listing as if you’re a recruiter. Ask if what you see would qualify you for your dream job. And think about how each piece of information you provide could be perceived. Without driving yourself crazy, use these questions to improve your profile.
Take your location as an example. More than 30 percent of recruiters look for candidates by location. You might not think twice about entering the zip code of your home. But if you’re finding it harder to land an out-of-state job, you might decide to select a different city or metropolitan area.
Here are a few more important sections of your profile where details matter:
- Contact information: Providing your email address and website URL helps recruiters find and connect with you off the platform. While you’re at it, customize your LinkedIn URL to strengthen your profile’s searchability.
- Experience: Listing your past job titles and companies is a must. But you can tell the story of your work experience by providing detailed summaries and attaching multimedia projects. Focus more on quantifying your achievements than listing job duties.
- Education: Look to share details that will matter to your potential hiring manager. In the case of your college or graduate school experience, you might want to highlight your extracurricular activities and awards instead of listing your college courses. This is especially true if you’ve been out of school for a few years.
3. Make it easier for recruiters to find you
Now that you’ve filled in and pared down your profile to its necessary elements, the time’s right to make it more searchable.
LinkedIn’s search engine rewards profiles that have more complete fields. Professional summaries, which is the section below your headline, are much more likely to be found when they’re 40 words or longer, for example.
Here are more ways to help your profile rise to the top of search results:
- Keywords: If you know your career path and your field inside and out, this should come easy. If not, you might need to do some research to come up with a list of terms to target in your profile headline and summary. Without stuffing in keywords, try to layer in details that are tied to your situation.
- Links: Linking your LinkedIn profile, social media accounts, and blog or website helps Google connect the dots. This practice should help your LinkedIn listing be found on all search engines. It’s a particularly important practice if you’re unemployed and want to get search results to show your best side.
- Accuracy: There’s another way to ensure you show up in recruiters’ search results. Comb through the endorsements you’ve received from LinkedIn connections to make sure your skills exemplify the job you want. If you’re switching careers, at least de-emphasize the skills that are less relevant to your new field.
Making sure your optimized profile meshes with your resume also keeps your profile accurate. Here’s one of the many secrets of job recruiters to consider: They’ll be wary of job applicants who pump up their profiles beyond recognition. To avoid being accused of embellishing your experience, confirm that your profile meshes with the resume you hand over during an interview.
Although you want to boost your profile views during a job search, review LinkedIn’s privacy settings. You can edit your public profile, for example, to choose how much information recruiters and others can see before connecting with you on the platform. Including fewer pieces of personal information can also keep you safe from identity theft.
4. Be an active user
Only 18 percent of LinkedIn users log on daily, according to the Pew Research Center. But networking on the platform is a lot like networking offline. You find the best results if you do it steadily, not just when you’re searching for work.
Keeping your profile up to date is the first task. But making the most of your profile requires being an active user. After all, engaging on the platform gives you a better chance at being seen as a thought leader in your field, not just another professional on a site that’s full of them.
Here are some easy ways to be more involved on the platform:
- Make connections: LinkedIn says 70 percent of its members have been hired at a company where they had a connection. That should be enough motivation for you to start networking with professionals even if you haven’t met them in person.
- Join groups: The platform allows you to join as many as 100 groups. You could also follow companies and influencers to stay in the know and find subgroups of professionals looking to collaborate.
- Recommend colleagues: Receiving recommendations from a past boss strengthens your profile. But offering to recommend someone you supervised could also show recruiters that you have managerial experience.
- Write posts: Treating your LinkedIn profile as your personal blog allows you to share anything from your professional projects, side hustle successes, and industry insights. To help yourself even more, be a regular reader, commenter, and sharer in your news feed.
Include your LinkedIn profile in your next job application
Having an optimized and accurate LinkedIn profile is one more way to put your best foot forward. It can show a whole new side to a prospective employer considering your credentials.
Having a profile comes with others benefits, too. Some companies’ online job portals encourage you to load your application details straight from LinkedIn.
Still, hiring managers might interview you in person before looking you up on the platform. To ensure that your optimization efforts don’t go to waste, tell them to check you out online.
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