LinkedIn is an invaluable social network for both job hunters and seasoned professionals, but it's also used by recruiters to find the candidate with the perfect mix of skills. The right LinkedIn profile can boost your visibility, improve your overall Web presence and strengthen your professional brand. Consider it your online resume, being that it contains all of the information from your resume plus a healthy splash of personality, if you've done it right.
Using LinkedIn strategically can help give you an edge over your competition. But where do you start? CIO.com has put together this list of tips to help you get the most out of your LinkedIn experience.
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1. Temporarily Shut Off Activity Broadcasts
When you make a change to your LinkedIn profile, such as adding a past work experience, LinkedIn broadcasts this activity to your connections' streams. If you don't want people to see that you are updating your profile, you need to temporarily shut off this feature. To start, click on Settings from the menu under your name in the upper right-hand corner.
In the "Profile" tab, click "Turn on/off your activity broadcasts." In the popup that appears, uncheck the box and click save.
Note: Don't forget to go back to this setting and check the box once you have fully updated your profile.
2. Add Keywords
In a Forbes article, General Manager of Lock Search Group, Peter Zukow had this to say, "We have 35 recruitment consultants" "Different recruiters have adapted to different strategies but all of our consultants have adapted LinkedIn." Recruiters, employers and school admissions officers search through LinkedIn and other career sites using keywords to target potential hires or students. That's why keywords are important throughout your entire profile, but especially in the "Specialties" section. That's why you should invest some time to choose your keywords. Think here about what terms might be important to potential employers. To boost your chances of being found by prospective companies, align your keywords with the role you are trying to get into.
There are several keyword tools available and you should use more than one. Here are several free ones that should do the trick.
WordStream Keyword Tool
3. Update Your Photo
Recruiters and employers regularly look through LinkedIn to find candidates and a professional picture sets the right tone. So it's time to update that old photo of you in a concert t-shirt. Find the most professional looking picture of you and crop it to a head shot. Once you have chosen a photo it's time to upload it to your LinkedIn profile. This can be found by clicking on Profile -> Edit Profile and then clicking on "Edit Photo" in the upper left hand corner of your page.
4. Update your Professional 'Headline'
Your headline, located just beneath your name, is set by default to populate this field by grabbing your most recent job title, which isn't always in your best interest. This is the first thing people will see when visiting your page and as always first impressions are often the most important. Since you can only make one first impression, this message needs to be clear succinct, meaningful and tell people what you are about. Use one or at most two of your top keywords in your headline.
5. Let Your Personality Shine
Your "Profile Summary" is where you can show a bit of personality. Some people copy and paste their cover letter into this section; others use their resume summary. According to Zukow that's not enough, he recommends adding as much relevant data as needed. Your job here is to get readers to take notice and compel them to want to know more about you. Include your accomplishments, your experience and technological prowess. You have 2000 characters here--make them count. Use them all if necessary and sprinkle in keywords where possible. There are many samples available with a simple Google search.
6. Build Your Connections and Connect With Groups
Get out there with the people in your field and interact--that's what social networking is all about. That doesn't mean "connect" with every person, targeting the right people is paramount to your success. Be selective and choose respected colleagues, industry experts, potential clients and the people they work with and so on. In an article from Forbes.com entitled, Recruiters Say: Avoid LinkedIn At Your Peril, Kathleen Yazbak, partner at Executive search firm, Bridgespan Group, had this to say, "using LinkedIn to be strategic about expanding your network is just plain smart."
Involve yourself in a group or two relevant to the position you would like to be in. Groups are found in the top navigation bar and are easy to use. LinkedIn has recommended one's available. These are located in the top navigation--click Groups and then, Groups You May Like. To search on your own click on Groups and then Groups Directory. There are, at the time of this article, 1418650 results or groups. Use the filters in the left column to drill down to the groups that interest you.
Add content to groups when possible and contribute to ongoing conversations. Doing so will not only help you learn more, it will also help you network with people that could potentially hire or recommend you down the road. Which leads us to number 7...
7. Get Recommendations
Just like letters of recommendation are an important part of the hiring process, recommendations are a key characteristic of your LinkedIn profile. Recommendations from former bosses, co-workers and colleagues can go a long way when employers are looking through profiles. All too often, two individuals with the same credentials could potentially boil down to who has better recommendations.
The most common way of getting a recommendation is to recommend someone else. Seek out recommendations only with people who know your work well. The same holds true for providing recommendations.
8. Set Your Profile to Public
Unless you're a celebrity or in the witness protection program then you should have your profile set so that the public can view it. LinkedIn allows non-logged in users and search crawlers access to your public profile, however, your public profile has limited information available by default. If you are on the hunt for a job then you want to turn on full-view.
Setting your profile this way is good if potential employers are browsing because they can see your entire profile and if you've taken the time to set up it up right, they will notice you. It's also good from an SEO perspective, allowing search engines to crawl some pertinent information regarding a very important topic, you.
Doing this is easy, click on settings:
Now in the "Profile" tab click on the link entitled, "Edit your public profile". On the right you will see the "Public Profile" settings. Click the portions you want to share and the settings are saved automatically.
9. Update Your Contact Information
You want employers to be able to find your profile and see what you're about but if your contact information is out of date then you may never get that chance. So get in there and add your most recent email addresses. Make sure that you use a personal email for your primary account. Nothing is worse than being locked out of an account because you can't get a password recovery email.
In the "Additional Information" section you'll also want to add links to your personal site, as well as your social networking links.
10. Setup a LinkedIn Vanity URL
Vanity URLs are cleaner than a URL string of random letters and numbers, and they can be customized to include your first and last name. Having a URL with your name in it is also important from an SEO perspective.
To set up your own vanity URL, click Profile from the top menu and choose Edit Profile. Then, click edit next to the URL beneath your image.
On the right side of the page beneath your Public Profile settings is where your current URL is listed. Click edit to customize it.
11. Add LinkedIn Badges to Your Websites
A LinkedIn badge is a small image that is linked to your LinkedIn profile. You can use it in your email signatures, website, other social networking sites or any online profiles you maintain. This creates backlinks to your profile page, which improves your SEO rankings.
To grab the code necessary to do this, click on Profile and then Edit Profile. Now click on Edit in the same place as you did for your vanity URL.
In the right hand navigation column, near the bottom, you'll see Profile Badges. Beneath that click the link, Create a profile badge. Here's an example:
12. Include Relevant Data in the Experience Section
Recruiters and employers who view your profile are likely interested in your past work experience, so it's important that this section be up to date and informative. Add some layers to your experience by including more than just a job title and dates. Add a paragraph or two for each of your positions that highlight your responsibilities and achievements. Especially important here are prior responsibilities that are relevant to the job you are looking for. Highlight these or bring them to top of your paragraph.
13. Remove Unnecessary Information from Your Work History
Many technology professionals have had several jobs but they might not all be relevant to your current career goals. Scale back old positions that may not contribute to the role you are seeking. Don't remove them completely that could raise a red flag with employers by creating a gap in your work history. Simply limit them to company name and title.
14. Show Off Your Education or Awards
The education portion of your profile is in the left column beneath the Skills and Specialties section. This is the place where you will add all of your classes, bootcamps and seminars. Once you've located this section click the link entitled, Add a School, fill in the requested information and click Save Changes.
Outline in the Honors and Awards section any and all awards received or accommodations given. This section is also located in the left column, down the page beneath Education. Inside of the Additional Information section, you'll see a small area labeled Honors and Awards. Click the +Add link right next to it and add your honors and awards. When finished click Save Changes.
15. Share Your Work
Find a way to share your work inside your groups. Writers may want to add links to their articles; developers or IT managers may want to show how they handled a common problem or share links to different tools, information they discovered on relevant technologies or anything that they think might help or inform someone.
Using LinkedIn applications, you can share Powerpoint Presentations, store a copy of your resume that is downloadable and more. These can be located on the LinkedIn Applications page here.
A strong profile can be a key differentiator when recruiters or employers search online for potential candidates. Keeping your LinkedIn profile up to date should be something you strive to do each year just like your resume. LinkedIn is one of the only social networking sites that can give you career ROI, because it appeals largely to professionals, so there is no reason not to spend some time there to create a new profile or straighten up your old one.
This story, "15 LinkedIn tips to improve your job search" was originally published by CIO.