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LinkedIn has lasted through a decade of networking apps that have come and gone, proving a little investment in the platform can reap significant benefits. Along the same lines, a little time invested in optimizing a personal profile, especially if you are currently job searching, can go a long way. Here are some tips for LinkedIn optimization.
Start at the Beginning
The first two visible pieces of a LinkedIn profile are the headline and biography. While it’s tempting to pack as many keywords as possible into the headline (or to shout “Now looking for a new job!”), a good rule of thumb is to keep the headline brief and clear.
Try to identify three words or phrases that clearly encapsulate the career trajectory or job type desired. Sometimes, it’s easier to leave this piece until the end, as the process of optimization will help distill and define the keys to an employee’s skills or an ideal job.
The biography–for better or worse–has a high word limit, and many job seekers pack it full of a resume-like rundown of their entire work experience. Think of this section as the TL;DR of a LinkedIn profile – it’s best if it’s to the point. Use this section to highlight soft skills: talk about a philosophical approach to a chosen industry or methodology; outline the job seeker’s personality that doesn’t readily show through a list of CV bullet points; emphasize interpersonal and communication skills that may not be apparent until an interview. Try to keep the biography to ten sentences or fewer.
LinkedIn offers customizable modules inside the platform that a job seeker can elect to complete if pertinent. Highlighting writing and communication skills early on is a great idea: use the Media section of the LinkedIn Intro to showcase one or two links that are highly relevant to the skill sets and ideal job postings a seeker might be interested in.
Choose one or two links (they can be recorded talks, articles written, YouTube or SkillShare lessons, etc.) that focus a recruiter’s attention to the key skills and interests of the job seeker. Keeping media links clean and limited also helps the reader move along to the rest of the profile, while still picking up important details.
Articles Are Next
These are the in-platform articles the profile owner has written on LinkedIn. They auto-filter in, newest first. If the job seeker hasn’t written any articles on LinkedIn, now might be a good time to consider a brief, thoughtful piece on their particular philosophy toward their methodology or a prediction around the industry they work in. Articles are absolutely not necessary, and for those that are uncomfortable writing, are fine to be skipped over.
It’s tempting to get into the Experience section and brain-dump every position and responsibility ever held, to create an extensive digital resume. But be careful: this is a chance to craft the reader’s perception of various skills and positions, to show how each built to form the present day job seeker and the value they offer.
Choose the current and second most recent roles to elaborate on in great detail – the earlier positions can be summarized in less depth and shaped to point towards growth and experience. For the current role, use a common resume format, outlining briefly higher categories of responsibility and listing under each category the day-to-day tasks.
Back up claims of company or bottom-line improvement with hard data – if a process change resulted in reduced customer support call times, find the numbers. Demonstrate cause and effect clearly; link to case studies when possible. This is the right place to talk about hard skills and results.
Beyond the two most current roles, write a clear summary statement for each position held, responsibilities managed, and draw a clear tie to the position the job seeker wants or the key skills acquired in that position.
Media links are available under each section of a past experience – if there are recorded talks, videos, articles, or even commercials and TV spots that highlight the job seeker’s work at that time, link them in context to the job being performed.
Education, Certifications, and Volunteer Experience
The remaining widgets of the Background section deal with education, certifications, and volunteer experience. Formal education is not always a requirement for job applicants, but it’s a nice-to-know if it exists. And as self-learning and online programs continue to grow, certifications become more valuable in relation to extracurricular education. (They also speak to self-motivation, commitment to excellence, and follow through.)
Volunteer experience may seem like an outlier, especially for someone seeking work in for-profit industries. However, volunteer experiences add color and personality to a job seeker’s resume and offer a recruiter a hint that they are a well-rounded person who chooses to spend time giving back.
Skills, Endorsements, and Recommendations
A lot of LinkedIn users may not realize that Skills and Endorsements can be edited from the profile owner’s side. In fact, if a job seeker is continuously endorsed for a skill they don’t prefer to be known for, they can edit this widget and remove any unwanted endorsements.
A good way to get endorsements for the priority skills is to send personal messages to colleagues, requesting an endorsement. It’s a quick, single line request; takes the replier about 30 seconds; and helps build out the job seeker’s resume in minutes.
If a job seeker is going to ask for a favor from a colleague though, start with a full recommendation, and offer an endorsement as the easier option. It’s most effective to email people the job seeker has worked directly with, and request a recommendation around a specific skill or project the two collaborated on. This approach offers the job seeker more control over the content on their profile page, and it helps recommenders who are uncomfortable with writing to have a concrete line of thought to talk about.
Below the Recommendations is a sort of catch-all section for any other key recognitions or skills the job seeker may possess. Again, while it’s tempting to fill them all in, unless it is relevant to a job listing that Angie won the 10th Grade Regional Spelling Bee in 1992, choose carefully what goes in this section. Choose awards and recognitions that highlight the job being sought or highlight the job seeker’s commitment to that line of work. Choose accomplishments that add color and personality to the person behind the profile.
The Secret Sauce
LinkedIn does a pretty good job of guiding users through profile creation and optimization. But here’s a way to level up in the job seeking market with a LinkedIn profile: put on an SEO’s hat.
Find a good ten or twelve job descriptions that sound ideal or listings from companies that seem to know exactly what they’re looking for. Copy/paste the text from each into a Word or Google document. Search and highlight through the document keywords that recur–these are the words job posters are using to describe the candidate they’re looking for. Go as far as multiple colors, highlighting personality traits and employee characteristics, hard skills, softwares or tools, and job requirements.
Pull these keywords into a spreadsheet, and organize them by category. Now review the job seeker’s profile and identify places where these keywords could be substituted in. Pay attention to the order and hierarchy of the keywords as well – emphasize the ones that seem to carry the most weight across all the job listings. Then go back to the beginning with these keywords and craft a headline and bio that match not only the job seeker’s goals but the phrases a recruiter will be on the lookout for.
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