The social network LinkedIn has 423 million registered users and you're probably one of them. It's a simple, efficient platform for connecting with people in your industry and hearing about the latest job openings.
But if that’s all you’re using LinkedIn for, then you’ve tapped into only a fraction of its potential. “The biggest mistake I see people make is they assume LinkedIn does all the work,” in other words, you fill in the blanks on your profile, hit post and you’re done, says Joel Elad, author of "LinkedIn for Dummies."
Instead, think of LinkedIn as a tool. If you just open the box and set it up without reading a manual, you're probably not getting much out of it—specifically, you're not being seen by the thousands of recruiters who prowl the site for candidates.
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“Out of an eight-hour day, I’d say I’m on LinkedIn seven hours,” says Shane Plantz, a recruiter and partner at Universal Coding Solutions, a Tampa, Florida, staffing agency.
To help get your name and résumé in front of hiring managers, we put together a list of eight ways recruiters say you can harness the power of LinkedIn and make it your secret job-seeking weapon.
You Should Complete Your Whole Profile
You’d be surprised how many people don’t—and it’s a colossal mistake. Recruiters use LinkedIn as a first stop when they hunt for new candidates. When they’re weeding through thousands of profiles, the richer the detail you give about yourself, the more likely they are to pinpoint you as a fit and reach out to you.
“When I have more information to draw from, it catapults you up from a credibility standpoint,” says Todd Maners, president of Titan Search Partners in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I’d rather talk to the candidate who is on target than track down a person with an incomplete profile only to find they’re not the person I’m looking for.”
Completing your profile means listing all past jobs that are in any way relevant to your career now or the field you’d like to transition to, uploading multimedia that shows off skills and talents crucial to your industry and filling out your educational background.
And though it may not seem like a big deal, adding hobbies, volunteer work and any foreign languages you speak or understand can help round you out as a candidate and help you stand out from the crowd.
A word about photos: Don't blow off this step, no matter how camera-shy you are, says Plantz, because it helps recruiters put a name to a face and complete that first impression. "Never use a selfie, and while a photo taken by a pro at a studio is nice, it's fine to use any clear photo in which you look professional," he says.
You Should Put Industry Buzzwords in Your Headline
Your headline is the first thing people see when they go to your profile; it also appears in multiple locations throughout LinkedIn. Leave it open, and it will default to your current or last position held.
This puts you at risk of slipping through the cracks, since recruiters often use a service to search for headline keywords to see which people on LinkedIn are best suited for their job openings. “The algorithm that LinkedIn uses weights keywords used in the headline when ranking people, so you want to ensure that you use this section to highlight key attributes using specific buzzwords,” says Maners.
You can find which buzzwords strike the right note in your industry by looking at job openings that appeal to you and by looking at competitor profiles. Don't forget accreditation initials specific to your field, which recruiters also search for.
And if you’re between jobs, say so rather than leave the headline blank. “Recruiters will put in a current job title, like CFO or controller, when searching, so if you don’t have one, you’re not being pulled up,” says Maners. Try something like “CFO in transition,” he says. “Don’t be afraid to articulate that you’re looking.”
You Should Sell Yourself in the Summary
If your entire profile details your brand and what it can do for an employer, then the Summary section is your 15-second commercial.
“I tell job seekers to approach the Summary like an elevator speech,” says Chris Careccia, recruiter and partner at Beecher Reagan Advisors in New York City. “It’s the same as if you were at a networking event and a hiring manager says, ‘Give me 15 seconds.’”
You’ll want to cover briefly what you do; for example, "I help (target audience) achieve (goal) by providing (service or skills set)." Include who you work with, phrasing this info along the lines of, "I partner with (target leadership level, industry, organization type). Then, sum up your achievements, such as a track record for boosting sales or market share.
Don't overthink it though; just keep the summary simple and on point. “Your role as the job seeker is to convince potential employers that you will be an asset to their company,” says Elad. You want them to be intrigued by your summary, so they go through your whole profile.
You Should Ask for Endorsements
While recruiters aren’t fixated on endorsements, they can help if recruiters are on the fence about you. “If candidates A, B, and C all have the same résumé, but candidate A has more endorsements than candidate B or candidate C, I’m most likely to look at them,” says Plantz.
True, being endorsed is as easy as your best friend or running partner (who know nothing about the work that you do) clicking a button. But endorsements gain credibility in patterns. “It's hard to fake 100 endorsements for the same exact skill,” says Elad. “Endorsements are a nice visual tool. They let recruiters see what everyone thinks your top skills are.”
Even more helpful are recommendations from colleagues. “Testimonials add credibility,” says Maners. “They’re social proof of your claims, and they work to build confidence in the mind of your profile viewers, like me.” Having at least three up-to-date recommendations, but no more than eight (at which point they become overwhelming to read and possibly out of date), is ideal.
You Should Connect With (Almost) Everyone
The more connections you have, even if they’re not in your industry, the better. First, connections improve the chances that your name and brand are seen by a wide range of people. If your dream job is in fashion, it may be your lawyer friend who is connected to someone who can help get your foot in the door.
“Leveraging other people’s contacts is big,” says Maners. “It’s rarely the person that I target who ends up getting the job I need to fill. It is the person that they know or someone they’re connected with who ends up being the perfect fit.”
As for the number of connections, recruiters say it doesn't necessarily matter. Users in the 500+ club don't come off as more professional than those who have 200 connections. Under 100, however, sends a message that you aren't active on LinkedIn, which might translate to mean you're not active in your field, says Careccia.
That doesn’t mean you should accept every invitation. “Don't add someone who could tarnish your name by trying to contact your network and ask for things that make you look bad,” says Elad. Stick to people who you have a real connection with: a colleague or higher-up from your first job, a longtime client or someone you went to college with.
You Should Consider These Little-Known Features
If you already have a job and don’t want to make it public that you’re looking, turn off the feature that broadcasts updates to your network. “It’s a great way to keep your current boss from knowing your activities,” says Elad.
On the flip side, for more exposure, connect your LinkedIn status updates to your Twitter account, so that every time you post on LinkedIn, a tweet goes out. And to get even more people looking at your profile, customize the URL of your LinkedIn profile, so you can print it on a business card or keep as a permanent staple on your email signature line, suggests Elad.
One feature you probably can blow off is the option to upgrade to Premium; the basic offerings are enough for most job seekers and connectors, says Elad. The premium account gives you the option of messaging strangers, he says, so it's helpful if your goal is to recruit people to your company or gain sales leads.
But for most professionals who want to score face time with recruiters, it's not necessary. The regular free account allows you to message as well. "If you upgrade and don't use the added features, you're just throwing money away," says Elad.
You Should Add Your Contact Info
Most of us are wary of posting personal information on social media. On the other hand, you want to make sure that a potential employer can easily contact you. Make sure you set your account so you are open to receiving messages from other LinkedIn members, suggests Maners.
And consider setting up a new email address and making that public as well. An email address devoted to your job search means it won't get buried in your work or personal inbox, says Maners, and you won't miss a recruiter. "It just makes it easier for you to see the message and respond in a timely way," he says.
You Should Be a Groupie
Another way recruiters run a search is by looking for candidates fitting certain criteria who follow professional groups. By joining LinkedIn Groups for your industry and participating in discussions or sharing relevant articles within those groups, you increase your chances of success.
First, you’ll be in the loop about what’s going on in your field, including hearing about new jobs as they pop up. And when you comment and make connections in that group, you’ll also get your name in front of the people you want to work for.
“When employers get a sense of who you are through your content in discussions, you automatically go up the scale on a credibility standpoint than people they’ve never connected with,” says Plantz. Think quality, not quantity. “It’s just like in college: If you join a lot of clubs but aren’t heavily involved, it shows you’re not really interested,” says Careccia.