If you’re looking for a new job right now, you’re not alone. One consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic is that many people are looking to shake up their post-quarantine lives. In fact, according to a March survey from Prudential Financial, almost a quarter of Americans are planning to look for new jobs in 2021. Some are seeking jobs with better benefits, while others have fallen in (or out of) love with remote work. But whatever your reasons for finding a new job, odds are likely you’ll end up on LinkedIn at some point.
Most users know LinkedIn as a professional networking site—like Facebook, but for career-oriented users. But did you know it’s also consistently rated as one of the best online job sites? According to Kinsta, the platform now boasts 740 million registered members and 55 million registered companies. Many of those companies do the bulk of their recruiting on LinkedIn; in fact, 87% of recruiters regularly recruit from LinkedIn users.
But with so many users on the site, is there anything you can do to make sure YOU catch the eye of those recruiters?
Of course! Just like so many thing online, you can optimize your LinkedIn Profile. Not sure how? Read on to learn.
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The Best Way to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
Before you begin overhauling your profile, it’s a good idea to spend time looking at the profiles of other people in your industry (or the industry you want to move into). Your profile shouldn’t look like a carbon copy of theirs, but it is important to understand the culture of an industry. For instance, some industries are more accepting of casual forms of speaking, writing, and dressing, whereas others expect employees to be more formal. Similarly, expectations vary from one social media platform to another. Knowing what’s common for professionals in your industry can help you present yourself more effectively.
Another benefit of checking out other users’ profiles is that you’ll start to notice the same words and phrases cropping up. LinkedIn is a search engine, and just like with Google or Bing, the terms you search for will change the results you receive. Take note of those repeated words you find and use them throughout your profile to increase the chances your profile will be seen by the right employers. (You might also find some new synonyms that can help you find jobs to apply to!)
Finally, scoping out the competition can help you discover what sets you apart. Capitalizing on your differences can make you a memorable candidate, especially if you present those differences as strengths.
Once you’ve done your research, it’s best to move through your profile methodically, spending time on each section. If you’ve never set up a LinkedIn profile before (or it’s been a while since you last touched it), this might seem overwhelming. But LinkedIn gives users with complete profiles a boost in search. Moreover, recruiters and hiring managers view complete profiles much more favorably, so it really pays off to have a complete profile.
Headline and About Sections Define Your Personal Brand
By default, your LinkedIn headline is set to your current job title. But if you’re looking for a new job, consider changing your headline to reflect your personal brand. Think of your headline as your elevator pitch—in one sentence, what are your top selling points? Some experts even suggest using this space to list the top skills or qualities you want to be known for. It’s good to use key industry terms to optimize your LinkedIn profile because they’ll help recruiters and hiring managers find you, but avoid empty buzzwords that will quickly go out of fashion. And whenever possible, show instead of tell by using specific details. “Successful, experienced salesman” doesn’t communicate as much as “Two-times salesman of the year bringing in over $15k in new revenue last quarter.”
Your About section works with your headline. It’s where you can explore your elevator pitch in more detail. Whereas the headline needs to be quick and attention-getting, the About section can contain more explanation. Aim for three to five paragraphs that include your best selling points, such as achievements, degrees or certifications, awards, and qualifications. You can also cover industries or employers you’ve worked for. If you have specific career goals, you can definitely include those here as well.
This area also includes a Featured section. You can link to articles, images, videos, and more here, and it’s a fantastic way to make your profile more engaging. Not only does it give recruiters and hiring personnel a sense of who you are, it also demonstrates thought leadership and initiative.
Write a Work History Focused on Achievement and Contribution
Your work history is obviously a huge part of your LinkedIn profile, so it’s essential to optimize this section just like the rest of your profile. This means pulling out those keywords you found in your initial research and ensuring they appear throughout your work experience. Remember, these are the terms recruiters and hiring managers will be searching for, so if they don’t appear in your profile, your profile won’t come up in their searches.
You may find it tempting to just copy and paste your work history from your resume into LinkedIn, but a resume and your LinkedIn work history function differently. Whereas a resume should be tailored to each job you apply to, your LinkedIn profile should be tailored to the kind of industry you want to work in. For this reason, your past positions should not all be treated equally. Emphasize jobs, internships, and volunteer experiences that are related to your industry, and focus on what you achieved in each position.
Many experts urge using bullet points in your work history because it helps recruiters quickly see what you brought to each job. It’s fine to describe your role in a sentence or two, but focus more on what you achieved in each position, how you achieved it, and how it benefited your company. The more specific you can be about this, the better. Use numbers whenever possible.
Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile with Skills and Endorsements
You might be wondering why LinkedIn includes a separate section for skills underneath the experience section. Haven’t you already listed your skills in your work history?
Yes, if you’re writing a good work history, then you should be listing your skills there. But LinkedIn includes a separate skills section to help your profile get found in search. This section is also important if you opt into LinkedIn’s job search. You can choose to have the site email you daily, weekly, or monthly about opportunities that match the skills you list in this section. So pull out those keywords you found in your research and let’s use those one more time in this area.
Currently, users can list fifty different skills here. If you’re looking for jobs in a specific industry, it’s a good idea to list a skill and multiple synonyms for that skill. For instance, a writer might list writing as a skill, but also blogging, copy editing, and copywriting. Remember “writing” might not appear in a job description if the job is for a “blogger” rather than a writer. Listing both skills on your profile ensures you won’t miss out on an opportunity because of semantics.
Another way to make this section more effective is to complete skills assessments on LinkedIn or to request endorsements from other LinkedIn users in your network. Skills assessments typically involve short quizzes that test your abilities. Score high enough, and a checkmark will appear next to that skill on your profile to indicate that you’ve demonstrated proficiency in it. Endorsements are similar, with other users vouching for your ability at a certain skill. Anyone can list any skill on their profile that LinkedIn recognizes whether they have that skill or not. But having proof that you have those skills makes your profile stand out that much more.
Profile Pictures: Your First Impression
Your profile picture may not seem important, but it’s the first impression you make on other users, which is why so many experts suggest using a professional headshot. It’s fine if you don’t have money for professional pictures, but do not use a selfie. Instead, ask someone you trust to take a picture of you instead. Front-facing cameras on smartphones are often lower-quality than rear-facing cameras, so a selfie is more likely to come out grainy or fuzzy on your profile. Plus, you’ll look more natural and relaxed when you’re not trying to pose, hold a phone, and analyze your shot all at once.
Make sure that your face takes up the majority of your profile picture and that you are the only person in it. Solid colors in natural lighting usually work best, and don’t use busy backgrounds that draw the eye away from your face. LinkedIn profile pictures are designed to be 400 x 400 pixels, so avoid small, low-resolution pictures that will become blurry when enlarged.
It’s important that you choose a recent picture that accurately represents the way you look at work. Using old photos can cause confusion when it comes time to interview, plus interviewers may view you as deceptive or worry that your profile is outdated if you look different from your profile picture.
If you’re not sure what you’re aiming for in a profile picture, then check out photos of other people in your industry and learn from them. Looking at other people’s pictures can give you a better sense of what’s typical for your industry as well as what you do and don’t like.
It takes a little effort to get a good profile picture, but LinkedIn profiles with photos receive 21x more profile views, 9x more connection requests, and 36x more messages, so it’s definitely worth the effort!
Looking to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile Even Further?
If you’re really dedicated to standing out on LinkedIn, there are a few more steps you can take to fully optimize your LinkedIn profile. The first is to request recommendations from your LinkedIn connections. Recommendations are different from the endorsements I already mentioned because recommendations go further. For one thing, an endorsement merely takes the click of a mouse and it’s done, whereas a recommendation requires someone to sit down and write down their insights about you as an employee. It says something about you that your colleague would be willing to make such an effort for you. For another thing, a recommendation goes beyond simply stating that you have a skill. It addresses your work ethic, what you’re like to work with, and soft skills you bring to a job. These insights are incredibly valuable to potential employers.
Another way to stand out is to publish on LinkedIn. It’s tough to grow regular readership on LinkedIn, but sharing essays, think pieces, or vlogs periodically can indicate to employers that you see yourself not just as an employee, but as an industry expert. Even sharing content once every few months offers a sample of your ideas and depth of knowledge for your industry.
A custom URL can be another way to stand out when optimizing your LinkedIn profile. Simply go to the top right corner of your profile and click “edit public profile and URL.” This will take you to a new tab that shows what your profile looks like to people who are not logged in as you. In the top right corner, you’ll find an option to change your URL to something custom. This should include your first and last name, but if you have a common name then you can include a job title or industry terms as well. For instance, you might change from “-john-smith-82934” to “john-smith-marketing-writer.” It’s memorable and emphasizes the two most important details hiring managers need to remember about you.
Finally, LinkedIn does allow users to share certificates. This is another way of “proving” your skillset to potential employers. Of course, the easiest certificates to add to your profile are those from LinkedIn Learning, LinkedIn’s own professional skills courses. But you can also upload certificates you earned at work or from professional development.
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