LinkedIn now has over 300 million members and 40% of its users visit the site daily. Used by 98% of recruiters, there is no denying the importance of having a presence on this platform. I spent some time this spring counseling young professionals on their online presence through the Step Up organization. We discussed the difference between professional and personal networking and how to maintain a clean and compelling profile.
First of all, you should have one. LinkedIn career expert, Nicole Williams says, “You’re seven times more likely to have your profile viewed if you have one.” Make sure your picture is clear, simple and it looks like you are wearing clothes. This is not the place for wedding photos, baby photos or pictures of you in a Santa costume. You should be the only one in your picture and it should be recent. Using a picture from 30 years ago to appear younger might make you seem deceptive if you meet someone in person. Having an accurate picture also serves to help people find you on LinkedIn after meeting you once at a networking event.
The summary is your only opportunity on your profile to show a bit of your personality and voice. It should be written in the first person and give a brief snapshot of who you are and what your experience is. If you work experience appears rather disparate, this is a great place to bring it all together and tell us what you do now and what you want to do next.
Your Contact Info
Be sure your contact info and the links you include there are up to date. Too often we follow the link to a website that no longer exits or an email that bounces back, or even a blog that hasn’t been updated in over a year. Stay on top of those platforms you want to represent you.
While it’s good to stuff your summary with keywords (i.e. crisis communications, content strategist, financial services public relations), be sure to include them in your previous work experience as well. Recruiters and others who are looking for people with certain types of experiences will often do a keyword search but that only searches the work experience part of your profile, not your summary. For this reason and to clarify your function in past roles, write brief descriptions of the positions you’ve held. Being a Vice President at Morgan Stanley doesn’t give us enough information. Be sure the content of your LI profile matches up with your resume. Discrepancies in dates and brief stints at jobs listed on one and not the other are immediate red flags.
Be intentional about gathering new connections. Personalize your outreach whenever possible to remind someone how you met or who you have in common. Potential employers will be impressed if you have a broad network in your industry. Check out LinkedIn Maps for a visual representation of your connections and see if they fall into recognizable categories. While it is good to have a diverse span of influence and you shouldn’t be afraid to link with other professionals, I would be cautious of someone who has no information in their profile, for example. Your connections should appear relevant.
Given that anyone can endorse anyone else, the legitimacy of this section can be debated. However, the more endorsements you have for a certain skill, the higher you will rank in search results for that term. Giving intentional endorsements every once in a while is also an easy way to stay in touch with your contacts.
Jenn Saldarelli, a recruiter here at Chaloner, reminds to check for spelling and grammar mistakes. “This is a huge red flag and I’ll often immediately pass over anyone with these types of errors in their profile,” she says. “You would be surprised at how often I come across people who have misspelled their name or employer!”
In general, be an active participant on LinkedIn- join groups, keep up on new functions, keep an eye on who’s coming and going and participate in the conversation. As with anything, the more effort you put into using this platform strategically, the more you will gain from it.
Chaloner, founded in 1979 as Chaloner Associates, is a national executive search firm that focuses on recruiting mid- to senior-level communications, public relations, marketing and investor relations professionals.