When your job search starts feeling like a time-consuming, futile chore then it’s time to change your approach. With over 87% of recruiters and HR professionals actively using LinkedIn to find qualified candidates, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be on LinkedIn.
Many LinkedIn users simply create a profile and then wait for something to happen, but LinkedIn is a game-changer in the job search if you actively use it. This networking platform increases your visibility to hiring professionals and also make applying to jobs quicker than filling out dozens of repetitive applications online.
Start dominating your job search by optimizing your LinkedIn profile and networking with other LinkedIn users!
Optimize Your Profile
Your LinkedIn profile serves as an online resume or personal branding website. A complete profile with a profile photo and keyword-optimized Headline, Summary, Skills, and Experience sections will make your profile more visible in both LinkedIn and Google searches.
Your Headline, which is typically found directly under your name, should serve as your condensed Branding Statement. You only get 120 characters (including spaces), so this section should identify your job target or current job title and what value you offer to employers. You can further optimize this section with keywords describing your most valuable skills.
Next, you can expand on your Branding Statement and tell your unique story in your Summary section. You have 2,000 characters (including spaces) to work with, so take advantage of this section. You could describe:
Your qualifications and strengths
Your passions and values
Your overall career goals
Your personal background as it relates to your career goals
You can also highlight your top achievements in a bullet list as an introduction to the rest of your profile.
Your Skills section should contain anywhere between 10-50 skills. Since LinkedIn only displays the top three skills without requiring the user to click “See More,” you should prioritize and arrange this section to display the top three skills that relate the most to your job targets. These will also be the most likely to receive endorsements from other LinkedIn users (but we’ll discuss this more shortly!).
Your Experience section should also be optimized with keywords both in your basic job summaries and in bullet lists that highlight your achievements, major contributions, or related skills in action. Your Experience section should also be consistent with the information found on your resume since many recruiters and HR professionals will rely on your LinkedIn profile for background information and since you can “Easy Apply” with your LinkedIn profile to millions of job postings.
Once your profile is complete, start searching for and connecting with other LinkedIn users. LinkedIn will prompt you to send connection requests to your contacts linked to the email address you used to sign up, and this is one way to get started. You should also start with adding family members, friends, current co-workers and supervisors, former co-workers and supervisors, professors or instructors, alumni, and colleagues who are familiar with your skills.
These are your 1st Connections. The LinkedIn users they are connected to (but you are not yet connected to) are your 2nd Connections. You can send connection requests to 2nd Connections and some 3rd Connections (the next tier).
An easy way to gain access to more 2nd Connections is to join LinkedIn Groups. You can use LinkedIn’s search and advanced search to find Groups based on your industry, company, education, interests, and more.
Connections are valuable because they expand your referral network. LinkedIn users can introduce their Connections to each other, refer and share jobs with each other, and help boost each other's’ profiles (We’ll discuss this in more detail shortly as well!).
Boost Your Profile
As you start gaining Connections, you should start focusing on boosting your profile. You can boost your profile by adding Accomplishments such as Certifications, Courses, Test Scores, Projects, Honors & Awards, Publications, Languages, Causes, and Organizations that you support. These details can easily boost your profile and present you as a well-rounded or ambitious candidate to recruiters and HR professionals.
Another way to boost your profile is to request skills endorsements and recommendations from your Connections. An endorsement serves as “social proof” of your skills because the profile photo of the LinkedIn user who endorsed you will appear next to the skill. Recommendations are replacing the traditional letter of recommendation and are linked both to your profile and the profile of the LinkedIn user who wrote it.
You can be specific in your requests for endorsements and recommendations too. Send a personalized, private message to each Connection you would like to help boost your profile. Briefly describe your career goals and ask him or her to endorse a specific skill or two. Alternatively, ask the Connection to write a brief recommendation addressing a very specific project or skill.
Boost Other Profiles
Take some time to boost the profiles of your Connections too! Start by asking a couple of your Connections which skills you can endorse that would be the most beneficial to them.
If you are rather familiar with a Connection’s skills, write a brief recommendation addressing a specific skill or situation. Broad, non-descriptive recommendations don’t benefit either of you.
You can also offer to endorse a few skills or write a recommendation when asking a Connection to do the same for you. Don’t be greedy.
Engage With Companies
Once you are comfortable navigating and using LinkedIn, start searching for and following Company pages for the companies you would be interested in working for. Many mid-sized to large corporations have Company Pages to advertise job postings and share information about the company with potential candidates.
You can search for companies based on keywords and location. You could also search for ideal companies by doing a job search based on job titles. Once you find a company on LinkedIn that you would be interested in working for, follow that Company page and start engaging with their posts. Liking company updates and commenting on posts that you can genuinely contribute to will put you on the LinkedIn moderator’s radar.
Your search should be structured like these examples:
“keyword/phrase” near:dallas (then click on Companies)
”job title” near:seattle (then click on Jobs)
Connect With Their Employees
Next, you can search for “People who work at” each company you’re interested in. You may be able to connect with several employees and start networking with them.
Why? By networking with employees at your ideal company, you can become a likely referral for a job opening. Be strategic about who you connect with. You can start with HR professionals or employees that work within the department your job target is related to.
Here’s an example of a Personalized Invite that would encourage an employee to connect with you on LinkedIn:
I recently completed my PMP certification, and I’m working on expanding my network while on the hunt for the perfect Project Manager job. I see that you work in the HR department at Company A. Would you be willing to connect with me and tell me more about working for Company A?
Networking on LinkedIn can be extremely effective if done appropriately. LinkedIn users are typically professionals that are not looking to connect with strangers unless there is a benefit to both parties. In other words, a LinkedIn user is less likely to connect with you if you send the default Connection Request without any indication as to who you, how you know each other, or why you should connect.
Once the connection is made, contribute to the conversation by describing your career goals and how he or she can help. You should also offer something in return. Ask for more information about his or her background and/or career goals with the intent of keeping him/her in mind as a referral. If you are both local and share a common interest or two, invite him or her to coffee.
LinkedIn is a great tool for networking, but you have to actually use it to network beyond gaining a new 1st Connection. Developing new professional relationships can be beneficial to a job seeker.
LinkedIn is a trusted Applicant Tracking platform, so many mid-sized to large corporations will use LinkedIn to fill jobs. In fact, there are over 3 million active job listings on LinkedIn. Start applying for jobs using your LinkedIn profile!
With the Easy Apply option, you can apply to job postings with one click both on LinkedIn and on company websites. For this reason, having a keyword-optimized LinkedIn profile can accelerate the job application process significantly.
Connect With Interviewers
Assuming you grabbed a business card from the person who interviewed you (which you definitely should!), you can search for the interviewer on LinkedIn using the company name and his or her name or email address.
Sending your interviewer a Personalized Invite instead of a thank you card or email can encourage a long-term professional relationship. Make sure to thank him or her for considering you for the position and ask to stay in touch.
If you are feeling bold, take the opportunity to ask for some feedback on your interview skills or LinkedIn profile. You’re not only provoking a personal response, but you’re following up in a constructive way.
Your Personalized Invite could look something like this:
Thank you so much for meeting with me and considering me for the Project Manager position. I'd like to connect with you and stay in touch.
I’d love some feedback, too. Is there anything I could add to my profile based on what you learned about my background?
Keep Your Profile Updated
Lastly, don’t forget to keep your LinkedIn profile up to date. Don’t risk recruiters and HR professionals passing you over due to outdated information on your LinkedIn profile.
If you have achieved a new certificate or completed a highly valuable training course, add it to your profile. Acquired a new skill? Add it to your profile. Found a new and better job? Add it to your profile and celebrate.