You know the drill. You’re unhappy in your current job — or unhappy with no job — and are desperately updating your LinkedIn profile that hasn’t been touched since the last time you were in this situation.
Well, you’re not alone; this sums up the dysfunctional relationship many professionals have with their LinkedIn profiles. While some flock to LinkedIn only when in need and apply to already posted positions, the platform is at its best when maintained regularly and optimized to allow hiring managers to reach out to you. LinkedIn’s career expert Nicole Williams helps elaborate on six ways to optimize your profile and attract more recruiters to you now.
Develop a Keyword Strategy,
If search engine optimization is not your expertise, here is a mini lesson. LinkedIn’s search functionality makes it easy to find people by their name, skills and any other words that appear in their profile — which is why these words should be chosen with thought. First, make a list of terms associated with your skills and experience. Ask yourself, “What words would someone search for to find me?” If strapped for terms, seek inspiration from a job positing you are interested in.
Next, take those terms and rework them from the perspective of a searching recruiter. For example, you may have the term “digital strategy” in your LinkedIn profile; however, a recruiter would be more likely to search for the term “digital strategist.” Synonyms are also important; you never know if recruiters will search for “digital,” “online” or “Internet,” so include them all. Lastly, you want to organically incorporate these key terms into your profile to attract both the search engine and human reader alike.
Williams says that “hiring managers are seven times more likely to view your profile if you have a photo; it’s a must have.”
Not only does a photo allow your profile to stand out in the search results, but also shows recruiters that you are active on the network and LinkedIn is a viable way to contact you. Williams suggests using a photo that places you in the context of your job. You want to help hiring managers envision you in that position.
“If you are a chef, feel free to show yourself in a kitchen, or in front of a whiteboard if you are a marketer,” Williams says. “But don’t use a picture of yourself with your dog, unless you’re a veterinarian.”
Williams also prompts all passive and active job seekers to claim their vanity URL. This is a customized URL that drives directly to your profile.
“Using your name in your vanity URL gives it a chance to appear in a Google when someone searches for you,” says Williams.
This makes it easier for hiring managers to find you and share your information with other hiring managers. If your preferred vanity URL is already claimed, incorporate a relevant key term, for example http://www.linkedin.com/in/CarlySimonSinger.
Trestle up Esteems,
Solicit recommendations from people you have worked for or with. “Make a strategic plan for your recommendations,” says Williams. “Approach different people and suggest particular skills or experiences you would like them to highlight.”
This strategy helps provide hiring managers with a more holistic view of you and your past work. However, the most important part of the recommendation is not necessarily the content, but that it exists at all. It shows that someone was willing to take the time to personally vouch for you.
The more connections you have on LinkedIn the more likely you are to come up in a hiring manager’s search results. Strategically identify people you’d like to be linked to and approach them with a custom connection request.
“The biggest mistakes users make is asking for too much in the first request,” says Williams. LinkedIn are no different than connections in real life. “Find an affinity you have in common, ask a question, but don’t ask for a job in the first connection.”
Groups work similarly and if you and a recruiter are in the same group, you can rise to the top of their search results. Join groups that are relevant to the industry you are in and a few recruiters in your field will most likely be members as well.
Now Share with your Connections,
“Don’t just set up your profile; actively engage in LinkedIn,” says Williams. Share useful content or comment on the shared content of others to make your profile more viewable. Interacting with others on the platform not only makes you visible to them, but also their connections.
If you don’t have time to scour the Internet for shareable content, Williams suggests leveraging LinkedIn Today, a feature that allows you to receive the most read news on your chosen topics. Choose one story per day from that feed and not only will it help you in your current job, but it might catch the eye of a hiring manager for a future position.
While it’s crucial to do the right things in a job search, it’s also important to avoid making common mistakes. Here are the top five missteps to avoid — and how LinkedIn can help you overcome them:
Mistake 1!: Being uninformed
Companies today want employees who can hit the ground running, and that means knowing as much as possible about what that company does, who its competitors are and what’s happening in its overall industry.
Beyond thoroughly researching the employer’s own website, you should follow that organization’s Company Page on LinkedIn. Pay special attention to current news the company is posting (which can provide ideas for specific questions to ask during networking conversations and formal job interviews) and the “Products & Services” page, which provides a cheat sheet to the company’s overall structure and offerings.
For general insight into an employer’s industry, subscribe to that industry’s LinkedIn Channel and join a few LinkedIn Groups in that field to get a sense of what industry insiders are talking about. Not sure which groups will be most valuable? Look at the LinkedIn profiles of people who work for your dream employer and join the groups they belong to.
Mistake 2!: Losing touch
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70% of jobs are found through networking. This means that every member of your network should be cherished; any lost connection is potentially a lost opportunity.
You can use LinkedIn Contacts to manage all of your existing connections and integrate them with your daily calendar. This means you’ll never miss an opportunity to congratulate someone on a new job or follow up on a recent meeting. Scan through your LinkedIn feed on a daily basis, too, to look for opportunities to comment on people’s status updates and the news they share. Even a simple “like” on an article someone has posted can lead to a chat, which can lead to an opportunity.
To reengage with people you’ve lost touch with, check out the alumni groups of any corporations you’ve worked for and the LinkedIn Alumni tool to search for former university classmates, then send InMails or customized LinkedIn connection requests. The best way to avoid any potential awkwardness with a long lost contact is to read that person’s LinkedIn profile thoroughly before reaching out, and then mention something specific in your outreach to show you’ve done your homework and are genuinely interested in knowing that person again. For example:
I came across your LinkedIn profile in the Intel alumni group and wanted to get back in touch. It’s terrific to see that you’ve launched your own consulting business! I remember that was a goal of yours. As for me, I’m still working in software sales and am looking to make a transition back to the East Coast. I’d love to reconnect, catch up and perhaps see if we might assist each other. Would you like to chat by phone sometime in the next few weeks?
Thanks and all the best,
Mistake 3!: Using uncommon words
Here’s an example of a mistake I see frequently: wanting to be unique and creative, an aspiring writer will create the LinkedIn headline, “Passionate and clever wordsmith.” That’s great, but when someone is looking to hire a writer, he or she is most likely to search with the word “writer.” Don’t get too fancy!
Recruiters, in particular, use keywords to find talent, so it’s important to research the keywords that a recruiter might be using to find someone with your particular skills. If you’re not sure what keywords to include in your headline and throughout your profile, scan through the job listings that appeal to you. Recruiters have likely provided you with the exact words they want. To test whether or not you are attracting the right people (including recruiters) to your profile, check out your Who’s Viewed Your Profile stats. In particular, check out the listing of keywords that people used to arrive at your profile. If you don’t like what you see, it’s time to adjust the words you are using to describe yourself.
Mistake 4!: Telling not showing
In today’s multimedia world, it’s no longer enough to have a list of bullet points on a resume explaining your fabulousness. More and more, employers want to see actual examples of the work you’ve accomplished, such as PowerPoint slides of presentations you’ve created, videos of speeches you’ve given, photographs of products you’ve designed, examples of code you’ve written and other visuals depending on your industry and job function.
It’s no secret that jobs can get filled quickly in today’s competitive economy, so don’t make the mistake of waiting too long to submit your application. In my opinion, you should apply for a position within 12 to 24 hours of discovering it. (This means, of course, that you have already invested the time in creating an All-Star-level LinkedIn profile and have drafted template cover letters that you can quickly customize for each position).
To summarize, a successful job search requires research, relationships, attention to detail and action. There are never any guarantees in a tough job market, but if you avoid the common mistakes listed above, you’re sure to be way ahead of the competition.