With 500+ million users and counting, the LinkedIn networking site has emerged as a critical tool in the search for professional-level career opportunities. What you may not realize, though, is how this tool differs from another job search mainstay: the traditional resume.
While resumes and LinkedIn profiles share a number of similarities, it’s important to realize they shouldn’t be a carbon-copy of one another. As a career coach who has been helping folks craft these documents for many years now, let me pass along five key insights into how people approach these two related — but different — presentations.
Formal vs. Informal
Historically, resumes have tended to be rather stuffy documents, where you present details of your work experience, education and accomplishments in a sterile and largely unimaginative way. They’re most commonly written in what’s called the implied first-person voice — avoiding the use of “I” or “we” pronouns. And again, they tend to center around a straightforward presentation of facts on your background and experience.
Let’s face it, resumes are pretty dull. But they get the job done and communicate the key facts of where you’ve worked to inquiring employers.
On the flip side, LinkedIn profiles tend to be written in a more creative, personalized and informal manner. On LinkedIn, it’s perfectly acceptable to talk in a first-person voice (“I did this …” and “I did that …”) and to use creative flair, humor and storytelling to differentiate yourself from the competition.
So with LinkedIn, don’t be shy about explaining the passion you bring to the work you do, the key things you feel set you apart from the crowd or the values you pride yourself on modeling in the workplace. Let your professional hair down a bit, so to speak, since this kind of material is right at home in the digital world of LinkedIn versus in the more orthodox domain of the resume.
Singing Your Own Praises vs. Calling on Your Connections
Not the world’s biggest self-promoter? On your resume, you’re forced to take center stage and take the lead in promoting your own skills, strengths and qualifications. Most modern resumes don’t even contain any mention of professional references any more, as they did in the old days.
With LinkedIn, however, you don’t have do the needed horn-tooting all by yourself. As you’ve likely noted, there’s an “endorsements” feature where your friends can vouch for your talents in various areas, as well as a “recommendations” section where your contacts and connections are able to submit personalized testimonials directly on your behalf. Again, many people find it much easier to let their friends tout their strengths than to take direct credit for saying these things themselves.
Text, Plain and Simple vs. Text With Flair
When developing your resume, it’s important to keep things text-centric. You want to shy away from using graphical elements (like photos, diagrams, columns and tables) since many resume scanning systems can’t decipher resumes that are too fancy in terms of layout. While I’ve seen some people try to incorporate more of a graphic design flair into their resume presentations, all of the HR folks I know advise against this, saying such documents are hard to read and generally get chopped up beyond recognition during the application process.
On your LinkedIn profile, however, you’re given the opportunity to use multimedia files and links to accentuate your personal brand and underscore your capabilities. If you open up the editing screen for any of the main sections (i.e., Summary, Experience, Education) on LinkedIn, you’ll see Upload and Link buttons that let you link work samples, presentations and websites to your profile and give your presentation a little visual flair.
So go ahead, link to that article you wrote for an industry publication. Invite readers to check out the white paper you authored for your company website. Or upload a PowerPoint presentation outlining the 90-day sales plan you wrote for a prospective client. Just make sure any content you add is something you legally have the right to publish, of course — and that it’s relevant to your current career goals.
Keywords vs. Keyword Placement
Thanks to the rise of applicant tracking systems and resume-scanning technology, it’s important to make sure your resume includes a healthy dollop of current keywords, jargon and terminology pertaining to your professional field and industry. It doesn’t matter that much, however, where you place the keywords on the page, as long as they’re on there somewhere. It’s a pass or fail kind of thing. You might have these keywords listed at the top of your resume, tucked away near the bottom or sprinkled almost any place in between — such as in one of your work descriptions.
With LinkedIn, however, the plot thickens. While many folks don’t realize this, there’s an algorithm in play that determines which profiles show up near the top of the search results page and which ones show up (and therefore tend to get overlooked) near the bottom. So on your LinkedIn profile, try to embed as many appropriate keywords as possible into your opening Headline, your Summary box and the Featured Skills & Endorsements section you’ll see farther down. The terms you insert into these areas are given heavy weight in the LinkedIn search formula and can help you leapfrog many of your competitors.
Additionally, when you run as many searches as I have, it becomes readily apparent that keywords contained in one’s actual job titles (within the Experience section) are also given VIP treatment in terms of how LinkedIn ranks candidates. So while your resume calls out the literal job titles you held in each past role (e.g. Marketing Manager), it’s wise to augment your LinkedIn titles with additional descriptive words (e.g. Marketing Manager – Traditional, Digital & Social Campaigns) to capitalize on the extra keyword weight these sections contain.
Close Cousins — Not Identical Twins
At the end of the day, there certainly aren’t universal rules about what exactly you should (or shouldn’t) share on your resume and LinkedIn profile. And if you’ve basically just copied your resume text into your profile up to this point, for convenience, that’s a decent starting point.
However, as described above, there are some significant distinctions between each resumes and LinkedIn profiles when you really study them in detail, so consider these differences carefully, and attend to them, if you want your materials to have maximum impact!