I’ve been talking a lot lately about LinkedIn and exactly how LinkedIn should be viewed as a branding tool to help you get an interview.
LinkedIn is a vital tool and a great platform to build your credibility and your career. If you have a LinkedIn profile, it’s typically for 1 of 4 reasons. You might be an aggressively searching candidate, someone who wants to tip off recruiters without tipping off your boss, a hiring manager, or someone who just wants to look professional.
There’s a few things that everyone should have in common on a LinkedIn profile, if only for the sake of aesthetic and readability. I’ll talk you through these first, and then I’ll go into the specific moves you need to make to hit your career goals.
We’re going to start at the bottom of the LinkedIn profile and work our way up.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Interests- This section isn’t necessarily the most important. It can give your audience some insight into your character or what you enjoy, but it’s not a make-or-break.
Recommendations- If you have them, that’s great. It always helps to have someone willing to speak to your work. If not, no one will look poorly on you. It’s just one of those “nice to have” things.
Play to Your Strengths
Skills & Endorsements- Not everyone is going to look at this section, but it can be nice to have something here. It’s not hard to get people to endorse you, especially friends and colleagues. I wouldn’t recommend having anymore than ten skills and endorsements. Instead of looking well-rounded, you’ll look like you’re trying too hard, and you’ll look sloppy.
Get Smart About It
High Schools/Prep Schools- First off, there’s no need to put your high school or preparatory school on your LinkedIn profile. If it was extremely prestigious, then maybe you can make a case for it, but for the most part, if you’ve been out of college, there’s no need to have any education beforehand.
College & University- Make sure all of your schools have logos. Without them, it won’t look official. Most, if not all, colleges and universities should have logos for LinkedIn. The most controversial aspect is not putting the years you attended. There’s typically three reasons why you wouldn’t have the year- you’re trying to hide your age, you didn’t graduate, or you have something to hide. People will always assume the worst, so my advice is just to put the years and get ahead of whatever the problem is.
Certifications- If they’re relevant to the field or the field you’re looking to get into, list them. If not, don’t. If you’re going to list them, make sure they’re not expired.
Awards & Accomplishments- This is an “all or nothing” section. You should either put them all or put none of them.
Work It Out
This is where you need to ask yourself, “What is the story I’m trying to tell, and what is the goal I’m hoping to accomplish?” Ideally, you want to show a progression throughout your career. This is the meat of your profile. Have you moved up in various leadership roles? Maybe you’ve managed global teams. What are you trying to show the world?
Correct Logos- This is important especially if your current or past companies have gone through any kind of rebranding or structural change. You want to ensure every company has the correct and most up-to-date logo when it appears on your work history on your profile.
Dates, Titles, & Locations: These are the three things that should accompany each position you worked. At every company, you should have at least one job title. The dates you were employed there should be correct and updated, and the locations should all be accurate. This is important- people will look at what you’ve done and use it to interpret your story of your career. Maybe you don’t need to mention waiting tables in college, but show the journey of how you worked your way up through your growth from role to role and company to company. One note: you do not want to just recreate your resume in this section. There’s no need for drawn out bulleted descriptions below all of your titles.
Current title- This is very important, because your current title is how people will find you on LinkedIn. If someone is looking for a software engineer, they’re going to type in “Software Engineer” on LinkedIn. Recruiters pay for search engines to look up good people, and one of the ways they do that is by title. I have a whole article on how to fully use LinkedIn where I explain more about that.
What You Say Says A Lot
Articles- Articles are a great way to put out knowledge and build up your credibility in your field. They can be long or short, and you can write them about anything, but on that note, make sure what you’re saying is relevant. Don’t be overwhelmed at the idea of publishing something. Your first article can be short- just put something out into the world and see what kind of reaction you get.
Activity- You want to make sure that what you’re interacting with is relevant. LinkedIn isn’t like Facebook or Twitter. What you post on LinkedIn should be something you’d be comfortable with your boss or the CEO of your company seeing. Are you commenting on the latest drama with the Kardashians, or are you responding to a thought-provoking post by Bill or Melinda Gates?
Down to the Details
About- This is your elevator pitch. This is the nitty gritty of exactly what you want everyone to know about you. This should be carefully crafted to showcase your best professional self. Mention some of your great characteristics, projects you’re working on, or current responsibilities. Be careful - don’t make this too long or no one will bother to read it. It’s called an elevator pitch for a reason.
Headline- This is the first thing people will see when they look you up, so you want it to be catchy and straight to the point. It can be your current title at your job, or if you’re trying to entice recruiters, make sure you’re using a keyword that relates to the kind of role you want to be considered for.
If You Want to Talk
Contact Information- If you’re going to put anything here (which you don’t have to), make sure it’s the correct information. There’s nothing worse than realizing all your career-related emails have been going to your “.edu” address you haven’t touched since you graduated.
Social Media- To keep your LinkedIn profile professional, it is imperative you do not share any social media links that aren’t also professional. If you’re a tech professional tweeting about the latest in AI, by all means set up that link. If you’re live-tweeting pictures of your kids at a soccer game, LinkedIn is not the place to showcase that.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Headshot- You need to have a photo of yourself on LinkedIn. It’s nonnegotiable. If people are looking for you on LinkedIn, having no photo will instantly make you less credible than you would’ve been otherwise. It doesn’t have to be a professionally taken headshot, either. You can have it taken on an iPhone. Really the only thing you don’t want to do is crop yourself out of a group photo from an event. This looks sloppy, and your career shouldn’t scream ‘sloppy.’ Afterall, would you wear a wrinkled shirt to work? One more tip: SMILE! People don’t want to reach out to someone who looks angry!
Header Image- This is something that will make you look a lot more put-together. Yes, LinkedIn gives you that generic blue header, but updating it will make you stand out. See what other people in your company have used for their backgrounds, or pick something that represents your personal brand.
Overall, when it doubt, you want to look at people who have jobs that you want. Mimic what they’ve done, because clearly, it’s working. Take a look at one of my recent articles, How to Maximize LinkedIn in the New Decade, for more insight as to how you can get LinkedIn to work in your favor.
That’s the basic rundown on what your LinkedIn should have at the very least. Based on what angle you’re coming from, and which of our earlier categories you classify yourself as, you’re going to want to curate your profile even more specifically to match those goals. Choose which one sounds most like you and read the appropriate section below.
If You’re an Aggressively on the Market Candidate:
You’ve got nothing to hide - you need a new job and you need it now. Maybe you’re unemployed, maybe you’re getting laid off, or maybe you’re just so desperate to get out of your company that you don’t care who knows it. On that note, before you classify yourself as an aggressive candidate, make sure you’re really okay with everyone at your current job knowing you’re on the hunt. If you think your colleagues aren’t using LinkedIn, you’re fooling yourself, and they will find out. Sound irrelevant? It’s not.
You’re going to specifically want to curate your profile to attract the HR contact/recruiter recruiting for the job you want. Of course, you don’t know who this person is specifically, but you can get a safe idea of what type of person they might be.
The person who will be your boss is not the one searching through your LinkedIn profile. It’s going to be a recruiter (internal or agency) or someone working in HR. These people aren’t going to be super technical, so don’t waste your time filling your profile with impressive lines of code. Instead, they’re just going to click, do a quick scroll-through, and decide if you’re worth a call. This is where those keywords we discussed earlier come in handy.
You can also choose to display that you’re open to opportunities on your profile through a setting on LinkedIn, but like I mentioned, people at your current job will see this, so make sure you’re okay with having that out there.
If You’re a Passive Candidate:
If you’re a passive candidate, your profile won’t be that different from an aggressive candidate. You definitely won’t want to make any mention of your job search on your profile and you do not want to click the option that allows you to appear as open for jobs, unless you want your boss to call you in for an awkward meeting Monday morning. Instead, you want to appear as a content and integral part of your current team.
The reality of living in a society with the lowest unemployment rate in fifty years is that all the good people are working. The idea is that if you’re one of the best, you’ll already be happily working somewhere, and that’s the impression you’re going to want to give on your LinkedIn page.
Make sure your dates are accurate for your current job tenure. If you’ve had a steady stream of promotions, accurately depict that on your profile. Interact with things relating to your company on LinkedIn. Fill your profile with keywords, especially in your about section and headline. You want to ensure recruiters can still find you, but you definitely don’t want to put on your profile that you’re open to new positions at risk of opening an awkward conversation with your boss.
If You’re a Hiring Manager:
If you’re on LinkedIn as a hiring manager trying to fill a role, not find a new one, your plan of attack is going to be a little different. The number one thing you want to do is make sure you’re representing both yourself and your company in a positive light. You want people to get excited about the chance to work with you and your company.
Start with changing the header on your profile to something with your company’s logo- bonus points if you can get other colleagues to also use the same headers. Uniformity is a good look. In your about section, write a paragraph about your experience within that company. Mention opportunities you’ve had, projects you’ve worked on, things that you’ve learned - things that you would want to see if you were researching a company you might want to work for.
If you went to a good school, feel free to put that information at the top of your bio as well. It builds your credibility and speaks to the caliber of people your company hires.
If You’re Just a Working Professional:
Maybe you want to give a good impression, but you really don’t have any interest in keeping up regularly on LinkedIn or growing your online presence. In this case, there are some bare minimums you should meet.
You should at least have the companies you’ve worked for listed on your profile, and they should all have logos. You should list at least one job per company. Put your title on your headline. Have a profile picture, preferably one in which you’re smiling. Make sure all your dates are accurate and updated, and as a final touch, you can upload some kind of header, maybe something with your company logo.
Regardless of where you want to be, this shouldn’t take you longer than 15 to 30 minutes. LinkedIn is an important platform for all of us, no matter where we stand in our careers. If you want to invest in your career, this is something you should take the time to do, and why wouldn’t you? There are different ways we can utilize it, and hopefully now you’re able to understand which direction is right for you based on where you’d like to go in your career.