Decoding the New LinkedIn Interface
Decoding the New LinkedIn Interface

LinkedIn is shaking things up. Several months ago, LinkedIn announced it would be making the greatest change to its interface in history — and if you haven’t seen your own LinkedIn account get switched over yet, brace yourself, because you should see the change shortly!

So what do you need to know about the new LinkedIn layout? What’s different about it? And what will be the keys to embracing it effectively?

For starters, the profile page has been given a facelift.

One of the first changes you’ll notice on the updated interface (LinkedIn will alert you when your account gets converted, if it hasn’t already) is there’s no longer a “Profile” menu on the top header bar. Oops! Where did it go? Did LinkedIn eliminate all of the data you’ve so painstakingly been entering over the years regarding your experience, education and interests?

Fear not, your data is safe. It’s just been consolidated under the new “Me” header you’ll see on the top right, tucked under your photograph. As you’ll note, once you click the “Me” menu, you can select “View profile” and all of the traditional profile sections (Summary, Skills, Recommendations, etc.) are still there. They’ve just been rearranged into a new layout that the LinkedIn designers ostensibly felt was more attractive, intuitive and well-organized.

So poke around a little and you’ll see that all of the traditional profile sections are still there, although they’re grouped a little differently, so it might take you an extra moment or two to find them. Definitely take note of the “See more” link at the bottom of the page, too, since a number of key features are now tucked into this menu — including LinkedIn Groups.

As for my perspective? The only changes in this section that really rub me the wrong way are the inability to see your entire profile all at once and the fact that for some sections, like Skills, you now have to slowly enter your items one at a time, versus inputting them all at once. But all in all, those who aren’t ingrained in the old ways of doing things (and even some of us who are) will probably appreciate the new streamlined look of the profile page. It’s definitely more cohesive.

Okay, so how about adding connections and managing your network?

As for how you track and interact with your network itself, again, the new interface has some good things going for it. For example, it’s now simpler to view everybody you’re connected with and find potential new connections using the “My Network” icon at the top of the page. On this page, the system will suggest a ton of other LinkedIn users you might know, and want to connect with, and it will also allow you to import potential contacts directly from your email account.

Another change I absolutely adore is the elimination of the pesky “How do you know this person?” question that always popped up when you tried to connect on the old interface. This always seemed like an unneeded obstacle, forcing you to decide whether somebody was a friend, a colleague, or was best labeled as some “other” type of contact entirely. These distinctions were clunky and confusing, in addition to never seeming that useful from a search standpoint. So now, thankfully, you can just connect with people without having to categorize them in any way.

Another awesome change? In the new system, when you look up somebody you want to connect with, you’re now always prompted to add a personalized note to the invitation. In the old interface, this wasn’t the case. You had to have a person’s profile fully open when inviting them in order to add a note, leading millions of users to inadvertently “spam” their acquaintances without being given the chance to include meaningful context. Now, happily, LinkedIn has gotten back to basics and realized that adding a personal note is a very important piece of etiquette that should be encouraged at all costs.

And yet, what LinkedIn giveth, LinkedIn can taketh away. While the above changes are extremely welcomed, LinkedIn has also decided to entirely eliminate the ability to add notes to your contacts or to tag them by certain categories you create. Rumor has it this functionality is still available in the premium “Sales Navigator” package, but for the vast majority of users, it’s no longer an option.

Searching for referral contacts, hiring managers and the like — how has that changed?

Buckle your seatbelt, this one’s big. In an apparent attempt to make things less confusing, the new LinkedIn interface now just sports a single search bar at the top of the page — without any of the prior advanced search menu options or the ability to specify exactly what you’re searching for (People, Companies, Jobs, Groups, etc.) up front.

While some people will appreciate the simplicity of this new approach, more experienced users will be frustrated by the lack of control over their searches and the fact that it now takes several clicks to drill down to the data you’re looking for.

You can’t, for example, build a search up front that will find you sales managers in the Seattle area who work for medical device companies. You have to first run a generic search for sales manager, then clarify you’re looking for human beings, then use the set of filters on the right side of the page — one at a time — to keep chipping away toward the end result. It’s painfully slow-going compared to the old days.

In what appears to be atonement for this limitation, however, LinkedIn announced that they will now support several Boolean syntax operators that members can use to run more advanced queries. For example, you can now type a title: prefix in front of any word to only search on language that would be in someone’s job title. Or you can use the company: prefix to track down people who currently work for a specific organization. If you’re not already used to this kind of searching on the web, it might be a little tricky at first, but LinkedIn has put out a helpful blog article, including training videos, about how to make the most of the new LinkedIn search.

The final analysis, when all is said and done?

At the end of the day, I reckon that labeling the site’s new features as either good or bad is a rather specious exercise. Think of these new features like the wind. Or the rain. They are what they are, and since it’s very unlikely they’re going to change anytime soon, we’ll all need to adapt to them.

Ultimately, I’m happy to report that, all appearances aside, the core value of the site — the ability to promote your talents to the global marketplace and connect with “friends of friends” you’d never uncover otherwise — is still 100 percent intact. So once you’re upgraded to the site’s new format, don’t panic. Browse around a bit, start clicking on things, and before you know it you’ll find the interface more familiar than you might have anticipated.

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Matt Youngquist

Guest writer Matt Youngquist is a recognized career coaching expert and LinkedIn trainer in the greater Seattle area. He’s the founder and president of Career Horizons, where he helps clients across the Pacific Northwest tackle the challenges of job hunting and employment transition.

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