Time and time again, I hear people refer to their LinkedIn profiles as an online resume. While similar in some ways to a resume, a LinkedIn profile page is truly a unique entity and offers a number of creative ways for you to shine and promote yourself professionally. As I’ve worked with many of my career coaching clients to help their LinkedIn pages stand out in today’s climate, here’s a quick breakdown of the top nine tips I’d share:
1. Avoid embarrassment; fine-tune your settings. If you're looking for a job confidentially or simply want to avoid bugging your friends with notifications, I’d recommend visiting your LinkedIn Settings menu and turning off the “Share Job Changes, Education Changes & Work Anniversaries” setting before you edit your profile in any way. This will prevent the system from notifying anybody that you’re making tweaks to your page.
2. Don't just settle on a good profile photo. Have a great one. Nothing pops off a LinkedIn search page better than a friendly, crisp, high-quality mug shot. Don't sell your personal brand short by using that fuzzy picture from your cell phone or that distant shot somebody took of you on a ski slope.
Invest in getting a truly professional headshot taken – or, if funds are tight, have a friend of yours do the honors. Just be sure you look friendly, approachable and professional—and that the photo has good lighting and a non-distracting background.
3. Think hard about your headline. Right under your name at the top of your profile, you'll find a critical section known as the LinkedIn “headline” field. The information you put here will go a long way in shaping peoples' first impressions about you and explaining to them what you do, career-wise.
In most cases, you’ll want to replace the default headline with 10-15 words that better describe your career focus and the top skills you want to emphasize. Examples might be "Marketing Manager – Architectural & Engineering Industry Focus" or "Business Analyst | Expertise in Data Mining, Business Case Development, Strategic Decision Support & Tableau Software Usage.”
4. Personalize your LinkedIn address. These days, many folks share their LinkedIn address (also known as your LinkedIn URL) with other people in the networking process. However, in case you hadn’t realized it, LinkedIn allows you to customize your address, versus sticking with the long, clunky one you were assigned when you first joined the site.
To create your own customized URL, go into the “View Profile” screen and click on the “Edit Public Profile & URL” link at the top right of the page. Once there, click the “Edit Your Custom URL” link, also at the top right, and you’ll see a box where you can personalize your address—provided you come up with a URL that another user hasn’t snagged already.
5. Jazz up your about section. What's that you say? You uploaded your work experience into your profile, but never took the time to fill out the “About” box? You're missing out on a terrific opportunity to tell your story and help your profile come up more frequently in searches from employers and recruiters. Ideally, your “About” section should be around three to five short paragraphs long, preferably with a bulleted section in the middle to break things up.
It should walk the reader through your work passions, key skills, unique qualifications and list the industries you've worked in over the years. Feel free to get creative or keep things fairly buttoned-up, but don’t miss the chance to insert some text into this section to help set yourself apart — and increase your relevant keyword count!
6. Let recruiters know you’re looking. Whether you’re actively looking for a new job or simply interested in hearing about opportunities from time to time, informally, you’ll want to visit the “Open to Work” section near the top of your profile and choose the best option that fits your situation.
If you’re currently employed and want to keep your search on the down-low, select the “Let Recruiters Know You’re Open” option. This will signal to recruiters on LinkedIn (but not other users—or people who work at your current company) that you’re willing to consider new job possibilities.
Alternatively, suppose you’re unemployed or looking for work openly. In that case, you can choose the “Share With All LinkedIn Members” option, making it clear to everybody that you’re open to a new job. This option adds a green “Open to Work” banner on your LinkedIn photo, reinforcing your availability.
7. Deck out your work history. When it comes to being found on LinkedIn, the more language that describes your professional capabilities, the better. So, be sure to flesh out each of your job entries with a thorough description of your responsibilities, including a paragraph of the day-to-day tasks you performed and a list of your key achievements and contributions in each role.
Additionally, keywords in job titles are given extra weight in the LinkedIn search algorithm. Consider augmenting your job titles with a few extra descriptive terms (e.g., Marketing & Advertising Consultant vs. just Consultant) to help readers understand what you did in the job and boost your search ranking.
8. Trumpet your expertise. You'll find a “Skills & Endorsements” section near the bottom of your profile, allowing you to list up to 50 skills, strengths, and competencies you possess. You can type in whatever keywords come to mind, or, better yet, start typing common terms like “sales” or “accounting” into the “Add New Skill” box and pick from the drop-down list that appears.
Do your best to stick as many relevant keywords in here as possible. For most people, the goal should be to max this section out and use all 50 slots provided.
9. Ask people to talk you up. While you might not like bragging about yourself, it can be wise to ask other folks to toot your horn for you by using the “Ask For A Recommendation” feature. This option lets you invite your friends/contacts to submit positive testimonials on your behalf that then get displayed at the bottom of your LinkedIn profile.
Recommendations are the modern equivalent of letters of reference and tend to carry a lot of credibility with hiring managers, recruiters and similar audiences. If you’ve got some acquaintances you think would be willing to sing your praises, don’t be shy. Look up their profile, hit the “More” button, and choose the “Request Recommendation” option to see if they’d be willing to write up a few nice remarks on your behalf.
There you have it — nine important tips for helping your LinkedIn profile stand out from the crowd and increasing your chances of being found in searches from companies looking to hire. It can take a bit of time to get your profile spruced up and achieve the right balance of keyword saturation and creative copywriting, but when finished, you’ll have a page that supports your career success!