As promised in our post titled Making Connections — LinkedIn, here’s information on building your LinkedIn profile.
It’s an excerpt from our book Job Search Essentials 3.0. Buy the book and find out the ending! It’s all about finding your next career adventure.
Given all the power of networking within LinkedIn, none of it works if you don’t have a polished professional profile. It’s really like having a resume on steroids.
As noted earlier there are now over 400 million users on LinkedIn. So you can imagine that a few best practices have been determined. Let’s look first at why you should expend the effort necessary for an All-Star profile and then how to do it.
You Are Who You Appear to Be
“You are who you appear to be.” We’re quoting the guy that hired Jim to take on massive challenges at a training development operation. At first Jim was stunned. Shouldn’t people look beyond appearances to find the “real” person? Isn’t there more to who we are than our appearance?
Perhaps. But in the lightning world of recruiting and hiring, people don’t have time, or better said, don’t take the time to move beyond appearances. You can find the research in the resume section of this book that revealed recruiters spend six-seconds reviewing your resume. We call it “your six-second casting call.”
So appearances are important. While you can address that requirement with your superbly crafted cover letter and resume, both targeted at the specific position and organization you’re pursuing, it is often your LinkedIn profile that will be used as follow-on information by recruiters. It is also your LinkedIn profile that will be searched by recruiters, and others, looking to fill important positions that you haven’t even heard about.
Users with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn. Yet only 51% have completed their profiles. Given this, completing your profile to the All Star status gives you a big advantage.
Search results on LinkedIn are ranked based on:
- Profile completeness
- Shared connections
- Connections by degree, first or second, etc.
- Groups in common
So it makes a great deal of sense to spend some time fully completing your profile, in addition to building your network.
Otherwise, every change will be broadcast to your network of connections – the 500+ list of contacts that you are growing. When you’ve completed this round of editing, change the setting to broadcast changes to your connections. Then make one more change to alert them that your profile has been updated.
This is also a good time to look over your profile privacy settings. You can find this when you mouse over the photo in the upper right hand of the page and selecting “Privacy and Settings.”
The only thing we would note here is that you should turn off your activity broadcasts while you’re editing your profile, as noted above. Also under “select what others see when you view their profile” opt for “your name and headline.” Otherwise you will not be able to see who has viewed your profile.
This is something that you’ll want to monitor as you apply for positions. Often times after you’ve applied for a position you can actually see that the recruiter has viewed your profile. Then you have another connection to pursue – a connection that’s actively interested in your background.
At the top of your LinkedIn profile is your photo. Since this is a professional networking site, your photo should also be professional. Try not to match your Facebook photo. You know the one where you cropped out the other people in the photo just to capture your own head shot – too bad about the arm that is wrapped around your shoulder in that photo.
Take the time to capture a professional photo. You don’t have to schedule a sitting with a professional photographer.
One of our local social media experts tells the story of giving his wife his cellphone and having her take literally hundreds of photos of him while moving around the house and posing with different expressions. Out of that, he captured just the right look for his dynamic LinkedIn profile.
My own photo was taken at a business conference where a vendor set up portrait lighting along with a professional photographer and offered free profile photos in exchange for contact information.
One further note on your profile photo – use your keywords in your file name. We were amazed to hear about this search optimization technique at a workshop. It makes sense. You want your name and your keywords everywhere. Your profile photo filename is one more opportunity to turn recruiter searches in your direction.
You can also add a background photo to your profile. You’ll need an image that’s 1400 by 425 pixels. It should be professional and reflect you or your industry. You can find images available through online services or you can make your own, either with online tools or other image software.
At the top of your profile, mouse over the area at the top and select “edit background.” Then upload the image of your choice. Make sure you verify that it’s working. Your profile is always live. So make sure it’s just right.
Public Profile URL
Make sure you’ve updated your LinkedIn Public Profile URL with a strong username.
When you first set up your account, LinkedIn assigned your profile a number. You can edit that by clicking on “Edit” near the URL information directly under your profile photo. It will tell you if your selection is available when you attempt to edit it.
Once you have a more user-friendly profile URL, you can add it to your resume, business cards, etc.
Next to the URL is the button to edit your contact information. Jim elected to include all his contact information including phone number, email address, and physical address. You can also provide links to your Twitter account and any websites, such as your blog.
Jim also includes this contact information in the profile Summary. You want to take every opportunity to help the recruiter make contact with you about that next career adventure.
Well, we’ve spent a great deal of time on some details. Now we get into the content of your profile. But first a word from our sponsor – branding.
“You are who you appear to be.” And so much of who you appear to be is about your personal branding. If you haven’t already starting thinking this way while preparing your resume and cover letters, now is a good time to start.
Everything that is posted on this profile is about your personal brand. That branding work must start with your compelling headline. You only have so many words to use in this space.
Jim has chosen to use his personal branding statement “Freelance Writer | Communicator| Blogger.” Jim uses this same statement on his resume, website, business cards, etc. It also helps with his one-minute (or is it 30-second?) elevator speech.
Work on that headline until you find one that really fits your personal brand. BTW – this is his fourth or fifth brand statement. The first was Communicator | Organizer | Builder. This fit his early goal of obtaining a director level position. Now he’s focused on his freelance and consulting business.
Next in this section is your Location and Industry. Jim selected the broader geographical location – the Dallas/Fort Worth area. This is because recruiters can better relate to this area over his hometown of Grapevine, which could be in any part of Texas for all they know.
If you have considerable experience, selecting an industry can prove challenging as your career may have included many areas. It’s best to pick the broadest category that best aligns with your current career goals.
If the Summary section isn’t shown on your profile, add it from the list at the right of your profile. This is a completely open block of text that you can use to really sell your skills and demonstrate how you can solve problems for potential employers.
This is also where you can list your keywords. Finally, you can use it to provide your contact information.
We suggest searching through other LinkedIn profiles in your industry to see examples of how people are sharing their personal message and, yes, their personal branding, in their summary. Then using those examples as inspiration, draft your own that sell your skills and experience to potential employers.
Note that you can also add links or upload files to your Summary, as well as all the other content blocks on LinkedIn. Jim’s chosen to provide a link to his visual resume on YouTube and to provide a PDF file of his executive biography.
The next item on your profile should be Experience. Note that you can move these items around by grabbing the up/down arrow on the far right and dragging that section up or down on your profile.
This applies to all the major categories as well as the individual items, such as positions within your experience.
I suggest leading with your Summary, followed by Experience. However, if you’re a recent college graduate, you may want to lead with your Education.
Next add your positions, with dates of employment, company, etc. to your experience.
Here you can take a bit more time providing details about your accomplishments in each position versus what you can do on a resume.
You can also add links and files to each of the positions. On some of Jim’s positions he has chosen to add reports or presentations. This is an opportunity to show off your best work. Plus, this is something you can’t readily do on a resume or cover letter.
We will note that you can use LinkedIn as a repository for all your experience. This can often help your mindset when you’re trying to build a pinpoint resume. The resume can take the key messages forward to generate interest. Your LinkedIn profile can carry all your experience.
This approach often makes Jim’s clients feel better about narrowing the focus of the resume. In addition, when you list all your experience and companies on LinkedIn, it opens up further opportunities for networking with past colleagues.
If you’ve been in the workforce for a considerable amount of time, our big recommendation around Education is to not show the dates unless you have a compelling reason to do so.
For example, even though Jim’s education is relatively recent, he earned his degrees well after he started his career, it is still so last century. There is no need to date yourself and have a recruiter consciously or unconsciously rule you out before you’ve even been considered.
However, if you’re on the opposite end of the time scale, or a recent graduate, the dates can be important to show that you have recent training and expertise.
Skills and Endorsements
The Skills and Endorsements section lists those skills where someone else on LinkedIn has endorsed you. It can become quite a long list. Your choices here are whether to display them and where to display them in your profile. You can also elect to add or delete skills. You have an overall limit of showing 50.
LinkedIn also allows written recommendations that can be displayed on your profile. These are directly associated with positions shown on your profile.
Jim has recommendations for nearly every position. We’ve always thought that this is one of the more powerful features of LinkedIn.
We recommend that you ask some of your key connections to provide written recommendations. They only need to be a few words. Plus, you can either suggest to them a few keywords that they should use in your recommendation or even provide them some language that they can use, modify, or discard.
This is something for you to consider as you’re building your profile.
Volunteer Experiences and Causes
Another category of information that you can add to your profile is “Volunteer Experiences and Causes.” If you don’t have much going on in this space, there is no need to display it on your profile.
Volunteer experience can directly apply to potential positions and assignments. Plus, it shows you give back to your community and industry. That can be important to many employers.
There are a number of other categories of information that you can add to your profile. For example, Groups that you belong to can be sorted and selected to be visible on your profile or not.
Jim’s added an extensive listing of Publications to his profile, since that’s a big part of what he does as a freelance writer. You may want to list Courses of special note for your professional or personal development. Projects could also be an interesting category to add.
We have used Test Scores to highlight our StrengthsFinders top five strengths. So this gives you an idea of how to use some of these categories to enhance your overall presentation on this important platform.
“You are who you appear to be”
This phrase is so apt when it comes to your LinkedIn profile. Spend some time now and return often to update your profile.
If you’re not currently engaged in the job search process, you will be at some point in the future. So take the time right now to start building your profile as well as establishing and refining your personal brand.
Furthermore, don’t be afraid to change your personal branding and presentation. You’re always gaining new insight and developing your perspective on who you really are and/or want to become. LinkedIn is a great way to get that down in writing and try it out.
That’s a lengthy excerpt from our book Job Search Essentials 3.0. Pick up the book to help in your PathForeWord.