In my PathForeWord writing business I’ve started to take on some clients who have asked me to write their resumes, cover letters, and update their LinkedIn profiles. They are saavy enough to realize that you need not only a specific cover letter for each job application but also a customized resume to highlight the skills and experience you can bring to that specific job. You may recall that I’ve been suggesting this approach since my passage through resume purgatory.
They have also started to see recruiters visit their LinkedIn profiles. This often happens right after they forward their resume and cover letter. The good news is that their resume and cover letter are making an impact with recruiters. The even better news is that they have yet another opportunity to impress that recruiter with their polished LinkedIn profile. Before we get into profiles, let’s look more closely at the world of LinkedIn that currently holds 300 million profiles.
When I first started to explore social media, many years ago, the first one I could really connect with was LinkedIn. I immediately understood the benefit of connecting with fellow professionals. Moreover, I loved the search function where I could really narrow the search focus. I actually found a number of former colleagues and was able to catch up with them. Thus began the process of building my LinkedIn network. This is one of the key features of LinkedIn. Take those business cards you’ve been collecting and start building your LinkedIn network. Remember that great boss? Find her and connect.
The job search recommendation is to build your network to at least 500. This is where the connection counter on your profile will top out. It will read 500+. This number will help you show up in recruiter searches. It will also help you find links to people you’d like to contact to learn more about any company that you’re trying to penetrate.
One of my job search experiences was trying to learn more about a small non-profit. I could find just two people on LinkedIn that had this organization on their profiles. For one of them, I found a direct connection of mine who I had met in a job search focus group. I reached out to him, he forwarded my request and while I didn’t make that connection, I did get a response from the recruiter! I learned later that they were told to forward all such requests to the recruiter for follow up. So, a web of connections helped me make the critical connection I was seeking. Bottom line, relentlessly build your network on LinkedIn.
The next level of connection is through LinkedIn Groups. There are all manner of groups that have been established on LinkedIn. They can be groups that exist outside of LinkedIn, such as professional organizations. They can be groups that exist only on LinkedIn, such as discussion groups around a particular topic. The job search recommendation is that you join at least 50 groups. You should also select a few and become active in the discussions. All this gets your profile showing up in recruiter searches. It is also helpful when you want to make a connection outside your range of first level contacts. If you share a group with the person you’re trying to contact, that is a perfect way to open the connection. Moreover, LinkedIn allows you to make that invitation to connect directly since you’re in the same group.
There are also company pages on LinkedIn. In fact, any time someone enters a company on their profile it links to that company page. I’ve created one for PathForeWord. For your job search the big benefit is that you can follow companies of interest. In addition, they will often post jobs on LinkedIn. Plus, they help you find connections within the company for your further research and contact.
Another huge benefit of LinkedIn is their job opening postings. You can search these openings based on your key words. You can save those searches and run them on a scheduled basis. LinkedIn will also alert you to openings that match your search criteria. Furthermore, some job postings actually identify the recruiter that posted the job. So you can reach out to promote your candidacy for the position.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of LinkedIn is publishing your own information via your profile. As noted above there are now 300 million users on LinkedIn. So you can imagine that a few best practices have been determined.
LinkedIn Profiles: You are who you appear to be
“You are who you appear to be.” I’m quoting the guy that hired me to take on massive challenges at a training development operation. At first I 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’ll recall the research work that revealed that recruiters spend six-seconds reviewing your resume. I 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 which you haven’t even heard about.
So let’s get down to editing that all important LinkedIn Profile. The first thing to do is select “Edit Profile.” At the right hand side of the page where it says “Notify Your Network” select “No.” Otherwise, every change will be broadcast to your network of connections — the 500+ list of contacts that you are growing. Which, in turn, will lead to people congratulating you on your new position titled “Seeking my next career adventure.” Which loosely translated means “I’m unemployed” or “I’m looking to move to a new job.” 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 by mousing over the photo in the upper right hand of the page and selecting “Privacy and Settings.” The only thing I 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” I would 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, as noted in my previous post, 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.
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 your contact information.
One further note on your profile photo — use your keywords in your file name. I was 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.
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. I’ve been able to select jbwilson for my user name. 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. I’ve elected to include all my 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. I also include 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’ve only got so many words to use in this space. I’ve chosen to use my personal branding statement “Freelance Writer | Consultant | Blogger.” I use this same statement on my resume, website, business cards, etc. It also helps with my one-minute (or is it 30-second?) elevator speech. Work on that headline until you find one that really fits your personal brand. [This is my second brand statement. The first was Communicator | Organizer | Builder. This fit my early goal of obtaining a director level position. Now I’m focused on my freelance and consulting business.]
Next in this section is your Location and Industry. I’ve selected the broader geographical location — the Dallas/Fort Worth area — as recruiters can better relate to this over my hometown of Grapevine, which could be in any part of Texas for all they know. For me, selecting an industry was challenging as my career has including publishing, communication, writing, etc. Pick the broadest category that best fits your career goals.
If the Summary section isn’t shown on your profile, add it from the list which should be 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, I’ve also used it to provide my contact information. I suggest searching through other LinkedIn profiles in your industry to see examples of how people are sharing their personal message and, yes, branding, on 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. I’ve chosen to provide a link to my visual resume on YouTube and to provide a PDF file of my 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 mine, I’ve chosen to add reports or presentations. In looking at this again, I should probably add one or more videos. This is an opportunity to show off your best work. This is something you can’t readily do on a resume or cover letter.
On my profile I’ve elected to show most of my executive positions but not my early days in the Air Force and other early technical jobs. Even at that, I’m showing far more than I typically would on a targeted resume. Some of that is due to the fact that I’m trying to make as many connections as possible. Part of it is because I’m proud of those achievements and want to show them off. You may elect to narrow what you present. As a writer, I’m trained to be concise and to the point. But sometimes I just can’t help myself…
My big recommendation around Education is to not show the dates unless you have a compelling reason to do so. Even though my education is relatively recent, having earned my degrees well after I started my 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.
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. I have recommendations for nearly every position. I’ve always thought that this is one of the more powerful features of LinkedIn. I will note, however, that I’ve been called numerous times for reference checks, often on those for whom I’ve written LinkedIn recommendations. In those calls, the recruiters seem to be unaware of my written recommendations. So I’m not sure that it is as effective as I’d like to believe.
Even so, I 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. I feel this is a really cool feature of LinkedIn.
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. On my profile, I have a great deal of experience in this area. Plus, much of that experience can directly apply to potential positions and assignments. So I’ve played it up quite extensively.
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. I’ve added an extensive listing of Publications to my profile, since that’s a big part of what I do. However, I have not listed Patents, since I don’t have any. You may want to list Courses of special note for your professional or personal development. Projects could also be an interesting category to add. I may do that as I complete some of my current consulting assignments. I have used Test Scores to highlight my StrengthsFinders top five strengths. So this gives you get 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.
This process is one that never stops, just as your personal development never stops. It is all part of your PathForeWord. Good luck.