Wikipedia describes LinkedIn as a "a business-oriented social networking service" (Wikipedia), but it's become so much more than that. It is the largest Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and it is used by 96% of recruiters. LinkedIn is a great tool for job hunters and passive job seekers (meaning, you're employed but keeping your options open) with minimal effort and maximum opportunity.
LinkedIn can seem complicated and expensive for a technology-shy job hunter, so I've put together a breakdown of the most important information you need to know to have success with LinkedIn.
You Can Do A Lot With A Basic (Free) Account
LinkedIn offers several options for account types: Basic and Premium for Job Seekers, Premium with Sales Navigator, Premium Recruiter Lite, and Premium Business Plus. While the Premium account for Job Seekers has exclusive tools like Applicant Insights and Featured Applicant, you don't need to pay a monthly membership to get noticed by or connect with employers.
With a Basic (Free) Account, you can:
- Create a branded profile filled with the keywords and personality employers are looking for.
- Develop a large, trusted network of professionals including coworkers, classmates, friends, and family.
- Request endorsements and recommendations to really pump up your profile.
- Search for, view profiles, and connect with of other LinkedIn members.
You're only limited by the number of search results you'll see, the number of searches you can save, and the number of profile views you can see. That's a lot of opportunity for free!
Skipping Corners Will Hurt You
Your LinkedIn profile should be consistent with your resume, but you have a lot more room to shine! LinkedIn gives you an array of sections to fill including:
- Skills & Endorsements
- Volunteer Experience
While your resume may be the first glance they have at what you bring to the table, your LinkedIn profile should expand on a lot more. Include your achievements, your volunteer activities, and your side-projects to show employers how exceptional of an applicant you are. Leaving out certain sections, like your education or skills, will make your profile look incomplete. You don't want to give employers the impression that you don't care about how you present yourself, do you?
More Is More When Talking About Connections
Connections (LinkedIn's name for followers) are put in tiers. The people you know and connect with are 1st Connections. All the people they know become your 2nd Connections. See where I'm going with this?
Let's say your old high school buddy is the cousin of your dream employer's Human Resources Director. You connect with your high school pal and show up as his cousin's 2nd Connection. When you reach out to his cousin, you're no longer a complete stranger but part of his network indirectly. The moral of the story here is don't get shy with making connections. Look for family, family friends, friends, classmates, coworkers, colleagues, and so on. Connect with these people and see the opportunities come flooding in!
You Can Ask For Recommendations and Endorsements
There is no shame in asking those familiar with your skills to send a little public praise your way. Let your connections know you're working on your profile and ask if they'd be willing to endorse you on a few skills and give a recommendation. Recommendations are like reviews given by the supervisors and coworkers that have seen you at your best and want to see you advance in your career.
Be careful when working on your profile if you are currently employed. A sudden spark of recommendations, endorsements, or edits to your profile may concern your employer and make things more difficult for you at work. Start by asking one person for a recommendation and three endorsements each month to avoid looking like you're about to jump ship to coworkers or employers.
You Can Make It Easy To Find You
LinkedIn will let you set a custom URL. Rather than your profile link looking like a bunch of nonsense, you can include your name, location, or industry. Why is this so great? You should link your profile to your resume by listing the URL in the heading. Which looks better: www.linkedin.com/in/as-12e2848473wsd, or www.linkedin.com/JohnDoeCA? When someone Google searches your name, your LinkedIn profile will come up more quickly if your URL contains your name as well.
How else can you make sure employers and recruiters find you quickly? Don't cringe, but the answer is keywords. Keyword-stuffing your LinkedIn profile will not help you one bit, but strategically placing your most relevant skills in your Headline, Summary, Experience, and Skills sections will make it much easier for employers looking for someone with said skills to find you. You can search for relevant keywords (or skills) in job descriptions online.
It's Easier Than You Think To Stand Out
I briefly mentioned the Featured Applicant benefit to paying for a premium membership, but this is definitely not the only way to stand out from a crowd of profiles. Although LinkedIn opts for your most recent position and employer to be listed as your headline, you have the ability to get creative and strategic with this little section.
Your headline is just as searchable as the rest of your profile, so use a couple keywords. Use emojis or symbols to separate key phrases in your Headline for a change. For someone seeking a management positions, his headline could read, "Sales Management Expert | Team Leader | World Class Customer Relations." You could get creative too. An event planner's headline could read, "Your Next Event Planner: Conquering chaos, coordinating teams, and making your day perfect."
Another way you can go above and beyond is to create and link multimedia to positions or your summary. You can add links, photos, videos, and presentations (using Slideshare) that support and display your talents. Need some ideas? Attach a link to a blog post you wrote that was featured on a popular website. Upload a photo of your recent award. Create a video resume, a 30-second clip introducing yourself and showing your personality. Better yet, show off a video of you demonstrating your skills. If you're in a creative field, you can use Slideshare to create a portfolio that recruiters and employers can browse easily.
Show Off Your Personality
The most important thing you need to know about LinkedIn is that it's still social media. It was created for the purpose of building a professional network and connecting with people in your field or geographic area. Use first person point of view when completing sections of your profile and make it conversational. In other words, fill out your profile in a way that sounds like how you would introduce yourself and discuss your qualifications in an interview.
If you're a great storyteller, write your summary as a story of how you got to where you are today. Just keep it brief and relevant to your career goals. If you are in a technical field, use appropriate jargon for someone else in your field to follow without sounding so stiff. Consistency with your resume is important, but your LinkedIn profile should support it rather than mimic it completely. Remember, it's just social media.