In my role as the Job Search House Mother, I’ve seen thousands of LinkedIn profiles over the past few years, many from individuals who are currently searching for their next great opportunity.
I’m always surprised by the number of job seekers doing themselves a huge disservice by having no, or a weak, LinkedIn profile. Every hiring manager, every HR department, looks at that profile and expects/hopes to see a networked, known, sharp professional whose list of connections reveals they are individuals of influence with a significant rolodex and numerous resources at their fingertips. Why would they want to hire anyone else?
If the HR argument doesn’t sell you, how’s this: LinkedIn now has 100 million profiles in 200 countries, it’s the #2 most popular social media site in the U.S., in 2010 over 2 billion people searches were done, and every week 1 million new members join – that’s more than one every second!
No LinkedIn profile? Welcome to invisibility. A profile with no content and only 2 connections? Sit over there on the invisible bench, we’re saving you a seat.
Friends, LinkedIn is the most revolutionary job search turbo-charge of the century, bar none. There are some professions that likely don’t rely on this tool so heavily, but for manufacturing, nonprofits, IT, professional services, banking/ finance, real estate and marketing, it’s a massively-used online resume service. While you are sleeping or mowing the lawn, headhunters and HR recruiters are doing searches for “quality managers” and “telecom sales” and “plant controllers” and “Oracle analytics developers.” When employers start to go through a stack of resumes, and begin to cross-check applicants with a LinkedIn presence to learn more about (and corroborate) a candidate’s qualifications and social media presence . . . you’re really convinced you want to be invisible, and let your competition lead the way?
OK, I think I’ve converted a few doubters out there. Ready to start, or boost, your LinkedIn profile? Here are some Helpful Hints as you build out your page.
Is Your Headline a Grabber, and Action-Packed? Does your LinkedIn headline tell the world you are available RIGHT NOW to move the dial for the right company? Or it a generic, bland, “Sales Professional” or “Fundraising” or “electronics engineer” that is utterly forgettable and does you no favors as a job seeker? “Dynamic, results-oriented copywriter seeking next opportunity to ring cash registers” is more like it. So is “Strategic finance leader with global manufacturing experience” or “hands-on retail manager with a track record of growth.” Keep your key job title in the headline, but spice it up with action and outcome-oriented phrases.
Are You a Hermit? Do People Admit They Know You? If your profile says you have 25 years’ experience, but show only 36 connections after decades of working, employers come to several conclusions, none of which put you in a positive light as a candidate: you either have no social skills, no connections in the community, no initiative, are unmemorable, perhaps weak on computer abilities, or are myopic/oblivious in your business dealings. “I’ve failed to make a positive impression” on co-workers, vendors, staff and clients, is what a tiny amount of connections says. Employers want to hire individuals with wide-angle, not tunnel, vision, and a meager connection list tends to put your resume at the bottom of the pile with other . . . hermits.
Building Out Your Job Experience. Job descriptions should be showcasing results-filled accomplishments and responsibilities under all positions you’ve held, and tell the story about how you created, executed and moved the needle every day. One caveat: If you’re currently working, and in a confidential job hunt, there’s no better way to announce you’re in search mode than one day, out of the blue, go from no content to a full blown profile with a summary, detailed job descriptions, photo when none existed before, and lots of new recommendations. It’s like standing on your car in the parking lot, and waving a giant red flag. If you’re heavily connected to current co-workers, it’s even more noticeable. Here’s a tip: Go into the LinkedIn Privacy Settings, and uncheck the Activity Broadcast box that says “let the world see every time I add content, a photo, or change my headline.” Then, slowly, gradually, begin building up a little content here and there. Add a photo, and then don’t do anything for a week or so, for example.
Who to Connect With? Here's my own approach: each and every LinkedIn connection is somewhat of a personal recommendation from me, about that person. Would I put my reputation on the line for a stranger? Would you? I didn’t think so. LinkedIn makes it easy to begin building your authentic connections with a feature called “Add Colleagues” and “Add Classmates.” Job hunting is all about creating a wide network of people who will be advocates for you in your search. That means that tracking down people you used to work with at Company A, who over the years have landed at 20 other companies, exponentially boosts the hallways and offices where someone can recommend you for a new job that was just posted.
Declining Requests to Connect. I receive a dozen requests a week from individuals who may know who I am, but: I’ve not met them, I’ve not worked with them, and I honestly cannot vouch for them professionally. They receive either the "Ignore" option, or a brief note from me (you can select the Reply – Not Accept Yet feature) that gently explains my guidelines, with a “perhaps our paths will cross in the future” close, and then I thank them for understanding my policy. Don’t feel pressured to connect with total strangers – it’s not a good practice, and I don’t recommend the “connect with anyone who can fog a mirror” approach.
To summarize, make certain your free LinkedIn profile – the paid upgrade isn’t necessary – is working for your job search by boosting its impact and the content it offers readers, headhunters and the hiring manager. Be judicious in whom you ask to connect, and you’ll be on your way to a more powerful online presence as part of your job search.
Kelly Blazek shares job search and work success tips from the corporate front lines in her Job Bank House Mother blog at http://kellyblazek.wordpress.com. She asks one favor of Patch readers: please, no LinkedIn invitations - thanks!