LinkedIn is a mecca for job hunting. It’s a place for professionals to display their experiences, connect with colleagues, search for jobs, join groups, and develop skills. The way you utilize the opportunities available through the site can open many doors for you, but first, you need a profile.
Memberships are free, though you can upgrade to a premium account that costs between $30 and $120 each month. Some of the reasons members upgrade are to promote their businesses, seek jobs, and send their résumés to the top of submission piles. For the recent (and probably broke) graduate, however, a free account will do just fine.
First launched in 2003, the site had a total of 4,500 members by the end of its first month. Today, it has more than 433 million members, many of whom are recruiters looking for new talent to hire. The fastest growing demographic on the site is recent college graduates, of which there are 40 million. If you hope to use this site to land a job, here’s what you need to do in order to stand out as a competitive applicant.
Choosing a Profile Picture
Research performed by LinkedIn proves that having a picture instantly makes your profile 14 times more likely to be viewed. That being said, if you don’t have an image that fits the following guidelines, it’s worth the time out of your day to have a photo taken.
- This is a selfie-free zone. Use a quality photo that someone else took of you. If you have a professional headshot, use it!
- Your face should be clearly visible, taking up the majority of the image, and not compromised by a distracting background.
- Be sure that you look professional. In your picture, you should be wearing nice clothes. As my mom says, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Your image should represent your long-term career goals.
- Keep the image recent. Represent what you currently look like, because if you get to an interview and look different, recruiters will feel like they’ve been catfished and can’t trust you.
Filling Out the Sections
While your profile may resemble your résumé, if you copy and paste yours into these slots, you’re limiting yourself. LinkedIn allows you to give your résumé superpowers, so don’t be your own kryptonite. Each section of your profile has a different purpose and should be tailored suitably to make your page easily searchable.
- Headline: Headlines show up beneath your name on your profile page, and they also are visible when people search you, so you want to stand out. LinkedIn’s default setting saves your most recent occupation as your headline, but you can change it to something more attention grabbing. It’s best to keep it short and skills-oriented, but you can get creative (for example, “Wordsmith who excels in content creation and business branding” or “Science nerd specializing in botany and the great outdoors.”)
- Summary: Needless to say, this is where you want to put the good stuff: awards, accolades, achievements, and whatever will stand out to recruiters. A summary can be a short paragraph or bullet points (2,000 character limit) that describe your skills and career goals. Similar to your résumé, this should be written in third person. In addition to highlighting the skills you have to offer, this is the section that LinkedIn draws from to search for keywords. Use popular words related to your profession if you want to optimize your profile for the LinkedIn search engine.
- Experience: This is, of course, a section that details your previous and current jobs. Potential employers will read through this information to determine if you are qualified. It’s unnecessary to include every job you’ve ever held, so keep this information tailored to relevant work experience. Then, turn on your superpowers and show off a bit. Unlike your average résumé, this section can include images, videos, letters of recommendation, and links to articles. Share screenshots of websites that you have designed, photos of events you’ve planned, or scans of interior designs you’ve created. Interesting additions will stick out in the memory of a recruiter who is looking over dozens of applications.
- Keep it relevant. Update your profile with information that relates to your field. It goes without saying, when you receive new jobs, post them in your experience section. In addition, recruiters love seeing that you are involved in your field, so read and “like” articles, share articles, and join group discussions.
- Endorse and be endorsed. It’s basically an unspoken rule: If you endorse a friend for her skills, she will do so for you. When your attributes have been affirmed by multiple connections, you look much more reliable.
- Ask for recommendations. Employers are impressed when potential employees have a good rapport with their old bosses. Often, applications request references, but LinkedIn allows you to be two steps ahead. Your goal should be one recommendation letter from each of your previous jobs.
- Make yourself available. Add contact information to allow recruiters to reach out. Although recruiters with paid accounts can message potential employees, there are often limits regarding the length of the messages they may send. Adding an email address will show that you are worth their time to contact because you are open to receiving direct communication at their convenience.
- Connect. LinkedIn coach Julie Holmwood suggests that users compare this to a job fair. Technically speaking, if you connect with 501 or more people on LinkedIn, you become a “serious networker.” What Holmwood recommends is that you connect as little or as much as you like. It’s not the number of connections but how much you engage with them that truly matters.
- Be sociable. The extent of your availability is up to you, but if you’re hoping to gain clients or employees, it’s smart to be social. Make it easy for people to reach you by adding your contact information and allowing outsiders to message you. Congratulate friends on work anniversaries and connect with others in your field by seeking groups and companies that interest you.
LinkedIn allows you to show your value to recruiters. Don’t create a dull profile; use these tips to vibrantly highlight the qualities you have to offer future employers. Once you’re done, go on, network, and search for your dream job. Happy (job) hunting!