Prepping Your LinkedIn Profile for the Job Search

job seekers LinkedIn

In part of one of this series on mounting a job search in 2014, I launched with a lot of questions and considerations. Yep, it may seem a bit daunting but guess what? If you don’t consider the big picture and have an answer for those questions, you may not make it in the door or past round one. We don’t want that, do we?

My primary business focus and that of  today’s post is using LinkedIn. There are lots of reason why, but perhaps the most important and relevant is that it makes the most sense as a professional and a brand. It has the greatest credibility of all “social” platforms in the search engines. Notice where your LinkedIn profile ranks when you do a Google search on your name. Unless you’re super famous, it will generally be the first thing that comes up.

In this post, I want you to carefully prepare your LinkedIn presence so you can be found by recruiters, CEOs and HR managers. We’ve done several posts on how to personalize your LinkedIn profile, how to create a great LinkedIn headline, privacy settings, and more on our blog. If you haven’t read those, I encourage you to take a few minutes and review. It will help round out what we are talking about here.

Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn’s CEO, presented an insightful perspective at the Disrupt Conference last fall. He talked about LinkedIn creating the largest economic graph in history and why LinkedIn is so highly valued by its members. Most importantly he discussed what a profile really is and needs to become.

To that end, Weiner said that one of LinkedIn’s missions will be centered on “evolving the profile” so that prospective employees can showcase a living portfolio of work to their potential future bosses.

“We want to provide as much flexibility as possible for professionals of any background to be able to showcase their identity,” Weiner said. And although it’s unclear what exactly that feature would look like, you can bet your bottom business card that it will strengthen LinkedIn’s place as the first stop for anyone looking to hire or be hired.

Take notice. When LinkedIn talks about its focus, you should pay attention. Build your profile to be more than a brief biographical sketch, build it out as your professional narrative, your professional story. More is more in this case and your goal is to build your competitive advantage as quickly as possible.

LinkedIn works for you

Remember this about your LinkedIn profile:

• It’s turned on 365/24/7 and you can’t possibly be.

• It works for you when you are sleeping, eating, working, exercising, etc.

• Your profile shares your professional story and promotes you in an non-intrusive manner (but don’t include annoying videos that come on as soon as people arrive at your profile).

• Your LinkedIn profile lets others know how connected you are. Your professional currency increases with a strong, highly engaged network. (It’s not just numbers―connecting to lots of people you don’t know only means you’re connected to a lot of people you don’t know, it doesn’t even qualify as a good address book.)

Before you start

Check your settings. If you are currently working and don’t want your current employer to know you are job hunting, please carefully consider how you update your profile.

  • Go to your privacy & settings (top right, under your photo).
  • Then review the options under privacy controls and determine the appropriate settings.
  • Consider using your private email address as your primary LinkedIn address for a while.
  • Shut down your activity broadcasts when you are making tweaks to your profile. If you don’t, each update you make to your profile pings your network. This can be annoying for your connections and can get you in hot water.

If you’re bold, have a meeting with your manager. Tell him or her you are updating your profile so it’s stronger for business purposes. Additionally, any changes you make for a job search will probably be beneficial in your current role as well.

Prep your LinkedIn profile and stand out in the job market

Beyond the basics of updating your profile to include a good photo, complete summary, and full work history, consider keywords. Understand that keywords can make a significant difference is whether you will be found on LinkedIn. You need to benchmark what your current keywords are and what they should be, based on the jobs you’re searching for.

1. Open a word cloud creator like Worditout or Wordle.

2. Copy your current LinkedIn Profile content into the word cloud creator and press “Create.” Save it or print it out.

3. Note the largest words are the ones that are the most popular in your current content. Do they describe who you are and what you do? If not, you’ll need to do some rewriting and editing.

4. If your biggest words are things like “about” “creative” “results-oriented,” it’s also time to rewrite and try again. Here is a list of the most overused words in a LinkedIn profile. Let’s try to not use too many of them, ok?

5. Now copy your resume into the word cloud creator and click “Create.” Save it or print it out.

6. Do your resume and your LinkedIn profile keywords look similar? This is good if you like what you see in your word clouds, not as good if you don’t. If they don’t look the same, which is more specific, more in line with how you want to be known and more appropriate for the job you have and want? Use that one as a starting point for editing.

7. Copy two or three job descriptions you are interested into the word cloud creator and click “Create.” Save it or print it out.

8. Do the keywords (the largest words) in the word cloud from the job descriptions match any of your keywords? If so, definitely great. If not, you need to review and begin to weave those words into your resume and LinkedIn profile. That’s how recruiters search, and the more keywords appropriate for your target job that you have in your LinkedIn profile, the greater the likelihood of you showing up in their search for a particular position. (But don’t overload on one word, make sure your documents are still written well and use a variety of the words emphasized in a job description.)

Recruiters search in a variety of ways, including:

  • Skills
  • Company (competitors are and have always been a great source of potential candidates)
  • Title
  • Location
  • Keywords
  • Recruiters are specific about searching for exactly the candidates they need, using Boolean Search strings to narrow searches. LinkedIn taps into five of these Boolean modifiers: And, Or, Not, Quotes, Parenthesis.

Recruiters can also use as many of the filters in LinkedIn as they are eligible for (depending on their level of membership).

I can, for example, use and find people with the modifiers above PLUS:

  • geographic metro area or zip code radius
  • job function
  • years of experience
  • industry, school
  • interested in new job opportunities

If you build your profile correctly and completely you will place yourself in a larger pool of potential opportunities.

Complete each section of your profile that is appropriate. Go to profile, edit profile, and on the right side notice additional sections that you can add: publications, projects, organizations, and several others. Add those that are appropriate.

Students and young professionals: this is very important since you don’t have a lot of past experiences. Add your coursework, your community service, your Capstone project, honors, etc. Yes, add those painful part-time jobs you had in fast food, retail, construction. Add in all your internships, study abroad experiences, sorority/fraternity, and athletic accomplishments. They paint a picture that is far more significant than if they are not included.

I recently spoke with someone who told me she did not add in her sorority because she interviewed with someone who told her it was frivolous and she did not want to work with a “sorority girl.” As you might imagine, that annoyed me. Really? I’m not necessarily big on Greek life but I see the value of what it stands for, the affinity it creates, and the alumni network it builds. In this case, the sorority my young friend belonged to was all about community service and had one of the largest alumni networks in the country and on LinkedIn.

I told my friend to make sure she never works for the kind of person who said she wouldn’t work with a “sorority girl” and add the sorority to her profile. Then I suggested she connect and network with those other women and leaders who understand the value of strong peer groups, including those in her sorority’s alumni network.

Don’t forget to download our LinkedInProfileBuilderGuideJanuary2014 to help you with your profile development. See you next time, we’re going to be talking about how to strengthen and leverage your LinkedIn network. Let us know what else you might need to know around this topic, we will see if we can address it.

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Our blog posts, tips, and suggestions are accurate at the time of publication. 

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