HOW TO: Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile for the Job Hunt
About 120 million people now use LinkedIn, and 1 million more join every week. But how many users have a professional profile that’s actually attracting interest from hiring companies? Research my company has conducted shows that 87% of companies use LinkedIn for recruiting, so it’s a good bet that your next employer will look for talent there.
But how easy are you to find? With all those millions of profiles available, recruiters use specific search terms and network connections to narrow the number of prospects. However, it’s still worth taking the time to tune up your profile so that it pops. Furthermore, using the new “Apply with LinkedIn” plugin, you can also use link your profile to job applications on many company career sites.
Here are some tips to maximize the likelihood a recruiter with the perfect job contacts you first.
1. Profile Headlines: Simple and Direct
The headline is one line of text that appears underneath your name and in search results. In your headline, avoid overused buzzwords or over-the-top phrases (“game changer” or “change agent” are two that come to mind).
Your headline doesn’t have to include your job title, but it should be clear and concise. Use it to describe the qualities you can offer, and position yourself for relevant job opportunities without inflating your experience. There are even times when it’s smart to downgrade a title. Say that you are a VP at a small company, but would happily consider a director title at a larger company — it may be strategic to leave out the “VP” title in your headline.
2. Summary and Experience: Keep Your Story Tight
People will scan your profile just as they do a news story. When I worked as a reporter, we used the inverted pyramid method to structure a story, making sure all the important facts were stacked near the beginning. You too should answer the who, what, when, why and how in your profile summary section. Point to results and quantify your impact to render your record more concrete. If you’ve written a compelling summary, your audience will read on.
Underneath the summary is a section for specialties. This area frequently contains keywords used to make profiles findable. Optimize your profile for search engines (SEO), but not too much. The Google algorithm is too smart for keyword stuffing — and so are recruiters. If you include five lines of special skills in this section, chances are you won’t be great at any of them.
Interest will wane further down the page, so spend your time making the top sections of your profile (summary and recent experience) the most substantial. Although in most cases, not every job you’ve held needs a detailed description.
3. Company Name: What Does It Do?
Recruiters and hiring managers search by industry terms as well as skills. If your employers haven’t all been household names, describe those companies in a couple of words. That way, recruiters will know whether you’re right for a job in fashion or social gaming, for example. If a former employer has been purchased since you left, and no longer exists, use the name of the acquiring company instead.
Briefly describe ways in which that company was successful: for instance, a market share leader in a $6 billion industry, the leading patent holder or the highest-rated for customer service. If you worked in a very large company, focus on your particular division or project to help readers understand your experience better.
4. Recommendations: Don’t Go Overboard
It’s good to have a few meaningful recommendations, but employers take these with a grain of salt. Promote the most current or best recommendations and hide extras to prevent profile clutter.
Public positive recommendations are easy to obtain, not to mention often too generic to be very insightful. Hiring managers can easily follow up with the people who supplied those recommendations and see if their offline comments match what’s online.
If you’re early in your career, get one or two recommendations from professors, classmates or current colleagues. If experience as a summer lifeguard isn’t relevant to your current job search, ask contacts to speak to your work ethic rather than your backstroke.
5. Connections and Groups: Say Yes and Say Something
It’s an unspoken rule that people accept most connection requests on LinkedIn. Why? You may find out about an opportunity through those connections. And search results are sorted by the closest to furthest degrees of connection — so you’ll be closer to the top of the pile when your connections perform searches.
To raise your visibility among your connections, share news about the industry or relevant companies. Then join a few professional groups that interest you. Recruiters often mine groups for prospects, and answering questions or participating in discussions shows your expertise and engagement.
Bonus Tip: Activity Settings
If you’re worried what your current employer might think about all this activity, change your “activity broadcasts” setting before making profile updates so your current contacts don’t see them in your feed. Too often I have heard people comment when they see someone has updated their LinkedIn profile, that “they must be looking for a job.”
But positioning yourself for potential new opportunities shouldn’t surprise any employer. When my company asked employers how long they expect new hires to stay, one-third answered two years or less. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is ready before you are.