I’m a huge believer in the power of LinkedIn, and share with jobseekers that a sharp resume is 51% of your job search – but LinkedIn covers much of the remaining 49%. While you are sleeping, washing the dishes or walking the dog, decision makers are poking around LinkedIn for candidates that match the skills they seek.
Earlier this year, I posted tips and advice for LinkedIn first timers that explained the process of creating a first-time profile and promised another round of guidelines for newer LinkedIn users. Here’s Part Two of my pointers: let’s go from the top of your profile, to the bottom: Headlines, Photos, Summary, Experience, Skills and Groups.
Make Your Headline Work for You
You are up against hundreds of job seekers with the same general skills and experience. How can you stand apart from the pack? Your Headline. If you don’t fill in the Headline field, LinkedIn will automatically populate it with your Current Job – which might be a snore of a title that doesn’t do you justice. Pile up all the dull headlines that say “Accountant” or “Writer” or “Human Resources Professional” and you’ve got a mountain of mundane profiles. To find the field to create a custom headline, go to Edit Profile and next to your name is an EDIT option. It opens up a page that includes a field to personalize your headline.
Make certain your headline uses descriptive action words, describes your industry specialty, and if you’re currently in a search, removes any shred of doubt that you’d immediately return that call or email from a recruiter. Examples:
- Results-driven financial leader with global energy experience in transition
- Environmental professional combining hands-on skills with strong analytics
- Freelance Copywriter that makes cash registers ring!
- B2B marketing executive with significant logistics expertise seeks next opportunity
- Quality and Lean Leader | Aerospace Industry | Open to Relocation
Design Tip: If you’ve been seeing those vertical lines | which look like these | and wondered what fancy trick is that, wonder no more. It’s called a Pipe and used to separate words, replacing commas. On most keyboards, the Pipe character sits as the Top Option for the Backslash key, found on the upper right side of your keypad. It will look like standing-up dashes – but on screen and on paper, it’s a nifty formatting tool.
Your Photo is Your Brand
I urge candidates to include a professional photo on their profile. For women, your name may have changed over the years; your old contacts will appreciate a face because they may not recognize your current name. Gals, avoid Facebook or Match.com type photos: the prom dresses, spaghetti straps, cleavage and your “havin’ a blast” party pix don’t belong on LinkedIn. They position your brand as not ready for prime time, much less being mature enough to represent a company to its stakeholders. Guys, if you look like a lumberjack on the weekend but are a supply chain leader during the week, please don’t use your Paul Bunyan plaid flannel pix as your profile photo. Do you want a recruiter wondering if you dip snuff, wrestle bears or even own a suit? A hiring decision maker wants to speak with the candidate who looks like a business professional, not a logger living off the grid.
I’m not a fan of quirky, either: kissing a baby’s feet or using an Avatar like a Ninja warrior are a “no.” And the vacation profile photos have to go - your competition looks like an executive, and you’re sporting a National Lampoon Family Vacation look. Finally, guys – you may be the greatest creative genius in the world, but the Tie-Dye T-shirt on your LinkedIn profile says more about the decibel level in your van than it does about your ability to generate profit- and award-winning work. Stop thinking like a dude and start thinking like a CFO – there’s not a shred of mystery why the “old rocker chillin’ out” photo on a profile isn’t generating interviews.
For about $150, you can have a professional take your photo with all-important retouching afterwards (my photos are from Howard Tucker, by the way). Your attire should be selected with color and contrast in mind: if you will be against a white background, you don’t want too much white or cream in your shirt or suit, as it will wash you out. And I sadly gaze at folks who used a professional photographer but they’re against a dark background, wearing a dark suit and blouse/shirt. You don’t want to become part of the wallpaper – look at samples before agreeing to the lighting and background.
Summaries – Your Elevator Speech!
As a jobseeker, you have a brand – the unique package of skills and experience you bring to a potential employer. The secret to a brand is consistency – your offering statement/summary on your resume should be the same on your LinkedIn profile, and re-stated in your cover letter as well. Think of this as your elevator speech: use action words, talk about results/deliverables, give a sense of scale/scope of the organizations you’ve worked for. A summary is insight into your personal style and tone, and not having one means you’re withholding this relevant info from potential employers.
Experience – It’s Like a Miniskirt
You know the old saying about resumes being like a miniskirt – make them short enough to be interesting, but long enough to cover everything. You should be even a little more “tempting” on LinkedIn – enough content to make a casual reviewer say “I need to get that person’s full resume, this looks promising,” or “Let’s bring that person in and learn more.” There’s a bit of brevity inherent in a LinkedIn profile: it’s a snapshot, not a full data dump. Put a few bullets under each employer that tell a story about how you moved the needle, and most importantly, are consistent with the story you tell on your resume. For beginners, LinkedIn offers a handy feature that lets you upload your resume and it will populate key Profile sections - of course, you’ll need to do some editing afterwards. Focus less on job responsibilities, more on “what happened” because you had that role. Saying nothing about your previous jobs sends a clear message that you aren’t very proud of anything you did while earning that paycheck.
Skills – Yes You Need These!
Every time you re-state a key phrase or word on LinkedIn, it can help your profile pop up higher in searches. Skills are a super-easy way to facilitate this – add skills under your Edit Profile feature. LinkedIn has added a new “Endorsement” feature, where others can give you a quick thumbs up for your skills and you can do the same for them. When you endorse others, a notice shows up on their connections’ home page activity feed that you’ve done so. Endorsing gives you a bit of extra visibility, but don’t be the party hog who endorses 50 people in one day – moderation and restraint are good guidelines. Look at what other leaders in your industry list for their skills if you are stumped where to start – or what key words are in the job openings to which you are applying.
Groups – Don’t Miss the Boat
Groups are a terrific way to put your ear to the ground among your industry/interest peers, and alumni groups. Who breaks down doors to join Groups? Recruiters and HR, so they can post open positions to generate buzz and forwards. Useful seminars and networking events are often posted as well. You already are a natural member of many Groups: your college or high school, and alumni groups from your previous jobs. Functional industry Groups (HR or IT or engineering or healthcare) often are wide open to industry professionals, rather than limited to paid members of a trade association. And civic organizations with which you’ve been involved often have their own Groups. Once you’re in a Group, you can always manage how much e-mail or notifications you receive from them, to ensure your inbox isn’t overflowing – go to a specific Group, and click on the More link on the far right – you manage your settings there.
How do you find potential Groups? Go to Groups > Groups Directory and type in search terms in the Name Field – it’s that easy. Some Groups will approve your request immediately, and others are moderated, which can take a few days for someone to verify your college, for instance, and respond.
With these six pointers for new LinkedIn users, you’re on your way to more effectively harnessing this amazing job search resource. And remember my “make it fun” rule – make your LinkedIn time relaxing. Have those cookies, enjoy an adult beverage, play your favorite tunes while you tweak that profile. Stone-cold serious is for your resume-creating time, but LinkedIn brings a lot of smiles as you re-connect with great former colleagues and build out your online brand.