Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile

I don’t know who needs to hear this right now, but if you are looking for a job, LinkedIn is where you need to be. 

Did you know that as early as 2016, 87% of all recruiters regularly use LinkedIn to vet applicants, especially those who are under 45? Did you also know, recruiters are not just researching their existing applicants, they are also using LinkedIn as a recruiting tool? 

A recent study revealed that 122 million people received an interview through LinkedIn and 35.5 million people were hired by a contact from LinkedIn. Even more interesting, LinkedIn saw a 6 times increase in the number of remote job postings added in the U.S. from March to December 2020, resulting in over 300k remote positions. 

The Pros Say So

In Forbes Magazine, HR thought leaders talked about LinkedIn’s role in recruiting in the future. Here are a few important quotes.

My crystal ball says that, within five years, companies won’t seek applications online; they will just source directly from LinkedIn. They will find the candidates based on algorithmic searching and AI and decide which ones they want to talk to. Candidates should prepare now in two ways: First, make sure your profile has relevant words, and then, learn networking for job search to reach the hiring team.

 Dana Manciagli, Job Search Master Class

Social and professional proofing will begin to carry greater weight as professionals want to know “who is endorsing this individual.” With this, LinkedIn recommendations will begin to become more of a focal point. Recruiters and job seekers can prepare by tailoring their current functions to incorporate (review, consider, rank, track, etc.) recommendations

 Corey Castillo, Truth & Spears

A résumé? What’s that? Something from the days of cassette tapes! When hiring, I trust what you decide to make public on LinkedIn more than what you may have “customized” or exaggerated on your résumé just for my eyes. LinkedIn is dynamic—with connections and public endorsements, it offers a degree of external validation that résumés don’t. 

 Chuck Ainsworth, AIIR Consulting & Pilgrimage Professional Development 

In other words, if you are not on LinkedIn, create your account now. If you are on LinkedIn, where was the last time you updated your profile?

Your LinkedIn Profile

As with most elements of a job search, using LinkedIn effectively takes thought and work. You should not just create a bare-bones profile and hope the recruiters come to you. An optimized profile is your key to success. 

An optimized LinkedIn profile is completely filled out and shows viewers what you do, who you are, what you want, and what skills you are an expert in. It includes strategic keywords and other important job elements recruiters are looking for. When your profile is optimized,  it will rank higher in LinkedIn searches. You will stand out from the crowd. 

Who Needs to Find You

Before you begin writing your profile, take a moment to consider your goals and how you can achieve them. Who can help you? Who are you trying to reach? What would you want them to glean from your profile? What are they looking for? 

The tone, language, keywords, and calls to action you include in your profile should depend on who you’re trying to reach.  If you are applying for entry or mid-level jobs online, your target audience is probably hiring managers. If you are looking for executive or C-suite positions, your target may be recruiters or headhunters.

Think about the cultural norms of your target industry or sector as well. For example, if you are looking for a job in the start-up sector, you may be able to use an informal and forward-thinking tone and language that would resonate with entrepreneurs. However, if you are looking for a job in the financial sector, it may be more suitable to present a more formal tone. 

Clarifying your goals and target audience beforehand helps give you a framework before you begin writing.

Don’t Forget Keywords

LinkedIn is not only a social media platform. It is also a search engine. Users can search for industry-specific topics to educate themselves or their team, and interact with others interested in those topics. Recruiters use the search function to find potential job seekers possessing certain skills or keywords. When you include these keywords in your profile, your profile will appear higher on the page in a LinkedIn search. 

The best way to find relevant keywords is to identify the profiles of peers who have the jobs you are searching for. You can also find keywords in recent recruitment ads for jobs you want. Make a list of the most used skills, results, and phrases and include them in your profile. 

But a word of warning. Don’t fall victim to business buzzwords like “innovative”, “team player”, and  “hardworking”. These will not help you rank and don’t really mean much to hiring managers. Use keywords that are specific to your industry and the job you want. 

We’ll talk about how to incorporate keywords in the sections below. 

Let’s Start Writing

There are certain fields in a profile that the LinkedIn search algorithm values the most. These include:

  • Headline
  • Profile summary or About section
  • Past and present job titles
  • Work experience

The Skills & Endorsements section also contributes to LinkedIn search results but is not weighted as heavily in the algorithm. 

Writing a LinkedIn Headline

Your LinkedIn profile headline is equivalent to a first impression. It’s your first opportunity to tell recruiters and hiring managers what you have to offer. By default, LinkedIn makes your current job title and company your headline. That is not good enough. You have 120 characters to write a headline that will stand out and show up in a search. It’s ok to include your current position but try to expand on it by highlighting what you do now and what you’d like to do in the future using your identified list of keywords. 

Here’s an example courtesy of JobScan

Web Developer at ABC Company | Full Stack Engineer | Front End Specialist | HTML5, CSS3, Bootstrap, JQuery, PHP

As you can see, this headline lists the candidate’s current job and features the hard skills and specialization experience they offer to an employer. 

The Profile Summary/About Section

This section is your chance to tell your story in 2,000 characters or less. It’s your introduction to anyone visiting your profile. Use this area to paint a picture of your work life, past, present, and even future. Talk about your career ambitions and the road you took to get where you are.  Outline why you like the industry you are in and what you’ve learned along the way.  Mention the things you hope to learn in your next opportunity. This is the section where your true personality should shine. Just remember to use the tone and language that is relevant for your sector. Use keywords where it makes sense but don’t try to stuff them into every sentence. Keep in mind that only about 300 characters will show on your profile before readers have to click to reveal the rest of your story, so make sure the first few sentences make the reader want to know more. 

What to Include in the Experience Section

The Experience Section is your best opportunity to optimize your profile for search. Focus on both job titles and the description of each job. When adding job titles, be as descriptive as possible using keywords when applicable.  For example, you could say “Web Developer”,  but it is much better to say “Javascript & HTML Web Developer”. 

For job descriptions, use keywords that reflect the hard and soft skills you bring to the table.  Hard skills are tasks that you learn, such as coding or graphic design. Soft skills are interpersonal traits like communication and leadership. Even if you have past positions that didn’t feature the hard skills you need for your potential new job, there are usually soft skills you can highlight. 

Don’t forget to emphasize achievements and accomplishments in each job description, including measurable results for critical hard skills. Recruiters want to see you can back up your resume with actual data. They also want to see that you work well with others or have leadership skills. These accomplishments are harder to measure but if you have awards or testimonials from colleagues, make sure to add those in the applicable sections of your profile. 

The Skills and Endorsements Section

These sections are towards the bottom of your profile but still vital to complete. This section will feature many of the keywords you want your profile to rank for. The skills assessment quiz is a relatively new feature. This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your level of knowledge of certain work-related tasks and platforms such as  Google Analytics, Photoshop, C++, and MQL. If you do well on the assessment, you will receive a Verified Skills badge to add to your profile. You can also choose skills to add to this section without taking an assessment. 

These skills are now ready for endorsements. You will need to ask for help from colleagues to add endorsements to your profile. This may be uncomfortable, but it is worth it. Including the positive opinion of others can be the piece of information that inspires a recruiter to contact you. 

Other Sections

While endorsements give hiring managers a small glimpse of your credibility and talent, recommendations offer them details. Recommendations are personal testimonials written by colleagues and others to illustrate their perception of working with you, as well as your skills and experience. Again, you must reach out to specific contacts to request recommendations. Take the time to personalize your request and, if applicable, offer to submit a recommendation to your contact in return. It’s worth the extra effort.

We skipped over the Education section because not all industries think schooling is necessary. However, if you have a higher education degree, make sure to add it to this section. You can use that as a connection point with other alumni when needed. 

Your Profile Picture

Before we wrap up, let’s take a minute to talk about your profile photo. A profile with an image usually receives 21 times more views. Professionalism is key on LinkedIn. It is especially significant if you’re applying for jobs or trying to attract recruiters.

Do not use a phone selfie or a candid photo of you in a group of people. A professional headshot is ideal. Recruiters can make a snap judgment about you based on your photo that could send your resume to the bottom of the pile simply because they assume if you don’t put any effort into your profile picture, you won’t put any effort into a job. That’s a harsh reality, but still true.

Do Not Set It and Forget It

Searching for a job can be a full-time job. The most successful job applicants are constantly researching potential companies, networking with colleagues and contacts to learn about new opportunities, and sending out resumes. Your profile on LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for your search if you continuously review and evaluate it. Keep researching relevant keywords to include in your profile and keep asking for more endorsements. With LinkedIn, your job search can end with the job of your dreams.

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