With the first half of 2020 finally behind us, it feels like we’re on the cusp of something big, brand new, and exciting, and what better time to start really working for all your goals? This includes, of course, finding your dream job.
As a leader in the tech staffing industry, my best advice to job seekers is to update your LinkedIn profile first, and worry about your resume later. This is probably opposite from what you’ve heard before, but let me explain.
When most people sit down to think about job hunting, the first step they come to is updating their resume. There are countless articles online meant to prepare people for the job hunt, and they’ll walk you through exactly how to do this... but they don’t mention the most relevant aspect of this process. Your potential employer has most likely made up their mind about you even before you have a chance to interview, and it’s not because of your resume.
The way to impress employers in today’s job market is to have a LinkedIn profile with a strong personal brand, and a professional online persona. LinkedIn is not used to get a job, in the way that your resume is, LinkedIn should be viewed as a branding tool to get an interview. This involves curating your LinkedIn profile to showcase your strengths and what makes you stand out from the competition.
According to the Syfter Market Research we did this year, almost 20% of employers ask about a candidate’s LinkedIn profile in an interview, but 65% of candidates say they haven’t updated their LinkedIn profile since the pandemic and work from home began.
Let’s put it like this: your LinkedIn profile is your business card. In 2020, so many things have become digital, and business is no different. Think about the last time you handed out a business card. How often does it really happen, outside of entering fishbowl raffles for free office lunches? Think about it, when someone gives you their business card, what do you do with it? Take down the information and put it in a drawer, if you’re anything like most businesspeople.
A business card is also only good for as long as you’re at your current company. If you make a connection with someone via business card, when they leave that company, you’ve lost your link to them. With LinkedIn, you can follow and contact your connections as they move from role to role. It’s a better system for building long-lasting business relationships.
Who Are You Curating Your Profile For?
If you want to land your dream job, you need to think about who your audience is on LinkedIn. Try this: close your eyes and picture your future boss at your dream job. Now, open your eyes. The person that you pictured is not the person you should be targeting with your LinkedIn profile. So who is?
Is it your potential boss? Your potential boss’ boss? The person creating the budget? A peer of yours? It's actually none of the above, because believe it or not, those are not the people deciding who gets an interview.
Typically, when a position opens up within a company, the people running the show are not the ones going out to find potential candidates. The people in charge of the hiring process are most likely to be someone in Human Resources or a corporate recruiter. They’ll be the ones choosing whom to reach out to, and the odds are that it’s going to be based on a LinkedIn profile. Yours needs to stand out.
At the time I’m writing this article, the national unemployment rate is a steep 11.1% At the beginning of this year, it was the lowest it had been in my lifetime, only 3.5%. The effects of COVID-19 have been dramatic when it comes to the job market, and many talented people now find themselves unfortunately unemployed. If you’re on the market, you want to impress the recruiter at the other end of the screen. LinkedIn has become the go-to recruiting tool for corporate recruiters, and to impress a recruiter who is going through hundreds of profiles a day, yours must be maintained and kept up to date. This should not take hours and hours of work, but you should definitely give it some thought.
Especially with the uncertainty of the job market, it’s best to be prepared and have your profile ready to go. Even if you’re currently working, or if you’ve been laid off, being at home gives you a leg up you wouldn’t have otherwise had - with your manager unable to physically lurk over your shoulder, now is the best time to update your profile so that when a role opens up, you have no excuse not to go for it. Here’s how to do it.
Who Your LinkedIn Target ACTUALLY Is
After leadership has exhausted their current company’s internal promotions as well as their own personal network, they’ll put the pressure on their internal HR team or the internal/corporate recruiters to find the perfect candidate.
What do we know about these people?
As of writing this, on LinkedIn there are just over 600,000 people with the title “Recruiter”.
About 240,000 of those are internal recruiters (people with the titles “Corporate Recruiter”, “Internal Recruiter”, “HR Recruiter”, or “Talent Acquisition”.
The average salary for a human resource worker in the US is about $69,077 according to Glassdoor.
Internal recruiters typically don’t make commission.
The median age of an HR worker is 40.8.
Compare this to who you thought about at the beginning of the article. This recruiter or human resources worker is drastically different from the potential boss you probably pictured earlier. If your boss was a CTO, who typically ultimately makes the decision, that would look more like an average pay of $245,091, and a higher male population (91%).
Curate Your Profile for Your LinkedIn Target
So now that we know we’re targeting a recruiter instead of a CTO, let’s talk about what this looks like - let’s call our recruiter Jane Doe. The overall appearance of your profile should be clean and easy to read so that Jane can have an understanding of your personality and experience quickly. Make sure you only have high-quality images. Your average recruiter reviews a hundred profiles every day, and you need to make sure yours is the one that they choose to look more closely at and make the decision to call and give you a chance to land that interview.
The broad overview is that if your profile is aimed at the typical recruiter and not the CTO of a company, you should be focused on legibility. Be wary of:
Highly technical details
Although there are many recruiters who are experts in technology, it is important to remember that not all of them are technical or experts in the industry of their employer. Most HR reps and internal/corporate recruiters are generalists. You do not want to alienate recruiters who don’t understand the technical details of your work. Your technical skills will be evaluated by the hiring manager after a recruiter has contacted you for an initial interview. Keep in mind that LinkedIn should be viewed as a branding tool to get an interview. The goal here is just to get the initial interview, and creating a LinkedIn profile that is specific but uncomplicated by details is what will help you reach that goal.
The competitiveness of today’s job market can improve career options for job seekers, but it can also make it much more difficult to actually be found and called in for a job interview. To increase your chances of being found and contacted by a recruiter, you need to help them find you. The best way to convince them that they should call you for an interview is with a really great LinkedIn Profile.
Recruiters Pay For Premium Search Engines To Find You
When recruiters are looking for talent on LinkedIn, many of them will utilize LinkedIn’s paid-for search tool, LinkedIn Recruiter. Think of this tool as Google on steroids. It is a search engine within the LinkedIn platform that allows recruiters to filter through every single profile on LinkedIn, using keywords. Top recruiters use this to find LinkedIn profiles that have their ideal search criteria. Within seconds, they can cut a list of millions of LinkedIn profiles down to a few hundred potential candidates. Just for context, there’s over ten million profiles just in the New York City Metropolitan Area. This means that no matter how good your profile looks, if you don’t show up in these searches, recruiters won’t be able to find you.
How LinkedIn Recruiter Works
LinkedIn Recruiter searches with boolean filters that apply an exact keyword search to the different sections of a LinkedIn Profile.
This is what it looks like.
To build a good candidate pool, recruiters look at certain qualifications or criteria. Most of them focus first on the following:
Keywords related to the job
If the information in these specific sections of your LinkedIn profile are out of date or have information that isn’t geared towards your current job search, you won’t even make the first cut. It’s like if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it; you could have the best profile in the world, but if a recruiter doesn’t see it, then it’s useless.
What To Write In Your Title
Your title on LinkedIn does not have to match the one given to you by your manager or written on your business card. LinkedIn is your professional social media page, not your resume. You need to keep in mind the following things:
Write your title the way it would be most commonly written.
Accurately reflect the work that you do.
If possible, keep in mind the job that you want.
Often, people get hung up on what their title is within their company. However, it is essential to note that titles that are important internally may not have the same recognition outside of your company. For this reason, it is best to simplify or generalize your title on LinkedIn to gear it towards recruiters.
Your title within your company might be “Python React Developer”, but if you have experience with other languages and want to market your wider skill set, “Backend Engineer” would be a broader title to get you called in for more interviews.
Location On LinkedIn
This is very basic, but make sure your location on LinkedIn is the same location that you’re job-hunting for. If you’re within commuting distance to a larger city, your location should be the greater area of that city, like “Greater New York City Area”. Writing this instead of the smaller town your work in will maximize the search area you will be found in.
If you’re looking to relocate, one of the simplest mistakes you can make is not updating your location to where you want to relocate to. You will not appear on a recruiter’s list unless your LinkedIn location is within the boundary they’re looking in, so be sure to keep your location current.
Keyword Search Sensitivity
LinkedIn Recruiter is only able to search the exact match of a word. I want to show you how you may be overlooked for certain roles and found for others based on the keywords you use in your LinkedIn Profile.
Here, you can see a search that I did, trying to find myself. I only appear in the search if the keyword is “CEO”, not if it is written out as “Chief Executive Officer”.
The solution here is to be aware of titles, skills, certifications, etc. that can be written with either acronyms or full spellings. When possible, use both the acronym AND the written out form to maximize the number of searches you will appear in.
Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile With Keywords
LinkedIn Recruiter is able to look through every profile on LinkedIn that matches the keywords recruiters use in their search criteria. Keywords are the most important terms related to your career experience such as:
Technologies you use
Words that express your skill level (manager, leader)
Qualifications / Certifications
The keywords you use in your profile tell a story to the recruiters about who you are, what you do, and what jobs you may be interested in. Recruiters don’t care about your exact internal title or the exact timeframe you worked at a job- they care about what you did at the company you worked for and what skills you have.
Having a LinkedIn profile that is optimized for the wrong keywords is lethal to your job search. However, if you use keywords effectively within your headline, summary and work experience, you will put yourself in the right recruiter’s search and boost your LinkedIn profile to the top of their lists.
Using Keywords To Set Your Profile Apart
The keywords you use in your profile need to stand out to attract recruiters, rather than turning them off and repelling them by giving out too much information.
Take a look at your LinkedIn profile. Does it look just like your resume? If it does, it won’t stand out to a recruiter. They don’t have time to spend reading paragraphs of information. If they can’t get what they need to know within a few moments of skimming your profile, they will move on.
The goal is to get the recruiter to call you so that you can sell yourself. Don’t rely on your profile to do all the work for you.
Decide on the keywords you want to use to market yourself. Anything that is not related to these keywords can be taken out. Remember that your LinkedIn Profile should be used as a branding tool to get an interview, and using this mindset, write a short headline and summary that utilize your keywords, and only if absolutely necessary, you can add a quick sentence or two to your specific jobs within your work experience.
Think of your LinkedIn profile as the CliffNotes - the recruiter wants the summary, but they won’t take the time to read the whole book. They have the equivalent of a library to consume, so you want your book to stand out.
Think about the technologies or skills that you use the most within your current position.
What words associated with your current skills, projects, and job experiences will get you on the list of the recruiter for your dream job?
When you’re gearing your profile towards your job search, it’s also useful to consider what skillsets or experiences recruiters want to see in their dream candidate. If you can identify the keywords associated with the next job you want, and they are true to your work experience, they will be the most impactful keywords and ones you should definitely use.
Preparing yourself for an interview can often be a stressful endeavor. You're worried about many things: a history of job hopping, a previous company’s reputation, gaps in employment, but I’m here to tell you that those worries don’t matter, especially now. When you’re looking for a new job, the number of jobs you’ve already had doesn’t matter. The number of times you’ve changed industries doesn’t matter. The number of times you’ve moved locations doesn’t matter. What does matter is how you use the story of your career to get an interview for your dream job.
When the economy falls on hard times, most managers are willing to give what I call a “hall pass.” If you lost your job during the dot-com bubble burst, or the 2008 recession, or, most recently, COVID-19, managers won’t count that against you as a lack in judgment or a red mark on your resume. They’re human - they get it. Life happens. Don’t stress over things you can’t control, but rather focus on how you’re going to weave the story of your career so far to get you where you want to go.
I’ve explained to you a bit about how recruiters find profiles on LinkedIn, the secrets of staffing, and what the process looks like of moving closer to your dream job in the new decade. However, all of the components I’ve written about can’t help you unless you can bring them together to curate your professional story.
Your professional story is the history of your career along with your professional personality that you have cultivated. Recruiters rely on how you sell yourself on your LinkedIn profile to decide if you will be a good fit for a company or not.
What Is Your Story
Curating your story is all about what you choose to emphasize or de-emphasize to convince a recruiter that they should call you. The choices you make should tell the recruiter about your career up until this point and where you are going next. Your story should feed into the goal of playing up your strengths that suit the skill sets needed for your dream job.
The About section is key. This needs to be your elevator pitch. It’s not so much about what you’ve done, but how what you’ve done matches the job description that Jane is looking at. Even the most junior recruiter, if the profile looks good, will take the time to read it. You want to make sure you’re highlighting the right thing. If you’re looking for a new job, is what they’re reading going to translate to a new opportunity they’re looking to fill? In addition, this is a great chance to put some keywords that will help your profile stand out in a search. For example, use the names of some of the technologies you frequently work with and would like to continue using.
Creating a story that will emphasize where you’re going in your career is dependent on how you detail your work experience. Looking at your previous titles and companies on your LinkedIn profile, what sort of story do you see?
Now, imagine you are an internal recruiter looking at my profile, and what story does it tell you?
Everything on my profile is filled out, but remains minimal so the emphasis is on the progression of my actual career. I’ve moved up quickly from an individual contributor to the CEO of my own company within the sales and staffing industries. My activity, endorsements, recommendations, and interests all support my story with related content.
Whatever your career has been, your experience should show a succinct story. Small changes like re-wording your title, or adding a small description of your work can point to why you made the moves you’ve made and how they’ve enhanced your career.
If there is something that you don’t like as much, such as a gap in employment, don’t think you can fool a recruiter by cutting it out of your history. If there is anything left unsaid about a gap - or anything that may be negative - recruiters will assume the worst. Instead, be open and address the gap- recruiters appreciate honesty.
This goes for everything on your LinkedIn profile. One example would be if you decide not to put the year you graduated college. A recruiter will think one of four things when they see that.
Trying to hide your age.
Trying to hide something bad.
Just plain forgot.
None of those are ideal, and you should assume the recruiter will think the worst. Like I said, honesty is the best policy.
In conclusion, to recap, keep these things in mind.
A good way to understand how you measure up to your dream job - and what recruiters will be searching for - is to find a job description of the position you want. Within this description, you’ll be able to find requirements, nice-to-haves, and keywords that you can fit into your profile if you have them. When recruiters create search lists using LinkedIn Recruiter they will mostly be using the same information that is found on a job description.
Clean Up Your Profile
The details of your profile will make a huge difference in overall appearance and completeness. Recruiters are seeing thousands of profiles, which may get narrowed down to just two that could be considered identical in skill-set and experience. If one profile is complete, neat, professional, and has a good profile image, while the other is incomplete and messy, they will reach out to the person with the better looking profile.
Every opportunity for an image or icon should be used; every company should have a logo, and your profile header should remain professional. It should go without saying, but spell check your profile- you don’t want to scare off a recruiter with a simple spelling mistake.
Take A Step Back
After you’ve finished cleaning up your profile and creating your story, take a step back and look at your profile on desktop and on mobile. See if it looks professional and is telling the story you want it to tell. Ask a colleague, friend, or a professional, to tell you what story they see. Keep these notes in mind whenever you update your profile or are looking to change positions.
I hope what I’ve written here helps you to understand better the influence your LinkedIn profile has and makes you feel better equipped to move through your career. Take what you’ve read and apply it to your LinkedIn profile and see the difference it makes. And now that you have a killer LinkedIn profile - go get that dream job!