Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile

It may be time for you to take a second glance at how you've set up your LinkedIn profile. Why is it important in this day and age? It's a valuable networking tool, helping professionals connect for jobs and advice. I cringe at the fact how so many talented, skills professionals don't take the time to set up a profile, let alone connect with industry professionals.

What was the basis of starting LinkedIn? It was meant to allow business professionals to have a home on the Internet, where they could connect with current colleagues, find new connections, and in turn be found by industry peers. This evolved into recruiters using it to find top talent, companies to find leads or business deals, and professionals asking for advice in specific areas of expertise. It gave people the ability to understand a person or company, based on certain metrics such as job titles, industry, or positions.

If the above items mentioned are exactly what you are looking to do as a business professional, I suggest optimizing your LinkedIn profile. Here are some tips I suggest for fine-tuning that "All-Star" profile of yours.

1. Build Your Network

You need to have a large network so that you can tap into it later. A common use of LinkedIn is to find jobs. Imagine the earth-shattering event of you becoming laid-off from your company. You have less than 50 people in your network, most of who are friends, family, and some past colleagues who you worked with. Well now you need a job and you know no one that help you find one in the industry you are in or want to be in. It's a suspicious thing to add a massive amount of people in a short amount of time (if LinkedIn doesn't flag you for it) and people who you don't really know wonders "This individual just got laid off and clearly just wants to connect to find a job." It may come off selfish and desperate.

2. Connect with Recruiters

I remember an article written on last year how over 97 percent of staffing professionals used LinkedIn to recruit. And that was in 2012. Imagine the stats going into 2015. So not connecting with the very people that offer you interviews or a step into the door is your second biggest mistake. Think about what recruiters do when they look to fill positions. A part of their job description is to find recruits that have talent working for other competitive companies. They want your skills and are more likely to pay you more for what you are currently making. If you don't have a profile, you are passing away the opportunity of being discovered and making more money.

What's the best way to connect with recruiters? My suggestion is to first research everything about the company you are looking to work at and apply for the positions you feel would be a great fit for you. Then search for people in your area or the area you are looking for related to XYZ company. You’ll find an entire list of people if you click the "See all" link on the right under "How You're Connected". You're search here should start you connecting with regular managers, titled corporate recruiters, hiring managers, peers who hold the same title that you desire, etc.

3. Connecting the Right Way - Writing a Great LinkedIn Invitation

First of all, this is LinkedIn, not Facebook. I am often amazed at how people connect with each other professionally these days. It's almost too impersonal and just plain selfish at times. So I am taking the time to break this section down to cover all grounds relating to networking the right way.

Be Honest

Why are you even connecting with that person? Amanda Haddaway, author of Destination Real World: Success After Graduation: 25 Tips You Didn't Learn in School says ”Just say something. There’s nothing worse than receiving a LinkedIn request with the standard, generic format and not having any earthly idea who the person is or why he/she wants to connect with you.” Open communication is generally the best policy when you are seriously networking or looking for a job. It clears the air and gets rid of any suspicion or second-guessing towards your intentions.

Tell Them How You Know Them

A brief mention of why you want to connect and how you found out about them goes a long way. It shows initiative and the thought of you genuinely wanting to connect for professional reasons. It gives a great first impression as well.

Find Something In Common

If you are struggling to find something to break the ice or find in common, think of these three questions:

  • Is it a mutual career field or interest?
  • Do you have connections in common?
  • Are you connected through LinkedIn Groups?
Here's a beautiful example of how that works:

Dear Musanna: I found out that you are a member of XYZ group. I am also a part of this group and would like to share some ideas with you. I'd like to connect with you, if that's OK. Thanks!

Do you see how easy it is?

Make It Personal

Can you imagine saying this face-to-face with someone in your field or a recruiter? Go up to a networking event and start saying this to people: I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. I triple dare you. I have a feeling not a whole lot of people are going to talk to you. Similarly on LinkedIn, speak to your connections like human beings, not robots that are built for efficiency. Yes, the immediate goal is to connect. The long-term one is to build a professional relationship.

Be Enthusiastic!

Did you read my above post? To add to that, if you're looking to apply to a job, start with showing your enthusiasm for the work that they do as a company. Your expertise, background, and skill set should always be second to the passion and enthusiasm you have for the company, position, and industry you are going into. There are few ways to grab attention and break the ice and this is one of them.

Reference Their Profile

Don't just connect with people because they work for a specific company, have a certain title, or are in the industry you are in. Take the time to read up on them and reference their profile to make the connection a bit more personal. Remember, robots get sent to the spam folder and may lose the opportunity to connect permanently.

Here is a great example of how it can work:

“Hey, Sam! I had a chance to look at your profile and found out that you attended XYZ University. I also graduated from there and have love how the Alumni are holding events every semester. I’d love the opportunity to connect with you. Thanks! Have a great day.”

Boom. Done.

Thank Them

Thank your future connections in advance. In the end you want to convey the message you are offering to help and encourage them to call on you for advice. And vice versa. Everyone wins and both parties gets something out of the connection. Remember that golden rule? You get what you give!

4. Location, Location, Location.

Many times recruiters look for local hires for positions, especially in bigger cities. Why fly out candidates to interviews when comparable talent is right at our doorstep? Change your location to the area you want to live and work in. Hypothetical situation: What if I get the interview in New York and I live in Dallas? Since you’re not local, you can explain you have a place to stay in XYZ city and are available to interview at their convenience. If they ask when you can interview, give yourself a week and be ready to book that flight on your own dime. This company may really be your first choice a perfect fit. I emphasize this: Don't lie about your residency! Dishonesty gets you nowhere and can hurt you in the future. There is a chance they’ll fly you in to interview if you’re a strong match and maybe offer relocation help.

5. Your Profile Lacks the Right Keywords.

Did you work with search engine optimization techniques at your last job or interested in working in that? Then your profile should reflect that in the summary and work experience. Mention it in your profile without making it look like a spam account. Here's an example of a summary:

My current goals are to become experienced in the field of marketing research and web design. I currently work as a web developer. I am learning new things every day relating to online branding, e-commerce, search engine marketing, programming, and last but not least, social media strategies.

The summary is the best place to list those keywords out because it's usually on of the first things recruiters and potential connections look at.

6. You Have a Boring Generic Summary

This is your 30 second pitch to recruiters and those you wish to connect with. Simply put should accomplish the following four things:

  • Showcase your specialties
  • Speak directly to the audience you want to entice
  • Be specific and accurate
  • Worm important keywords recruiters would search to look at your profile
You have 2,000 characters to use. Make them count.

7. Get Recommendations

If there is a "golden rule" you should follow for every place you worked, then I suggest you getting a recommendation from one manager/supervisor and two peers.

As recruiters and hiring managers start to completely rely on LinkedIn to hire talent, remember that recommendations help recruiters get to know you better; specifically your soft skills. If you took the time to complete your profile you'd notice that you laid out all your hard skills. But companies know better and they are looking at soft skills as well. They accomplish this by hearing what your peers and managers have to say about your dedication, hard work, leadership, etc. when relating to your job.

In the future, it can help get you gain that promotion. If peers and clients recommend you for exemplary work, that helps management see more value in you and bolsters your case for promotion.

8. Where's Your Profile Photo?

I feel I have more to speak about this than normal because I have had some very interesting conversations about profile pictures on LinkedIn. But I would like to start of by listing why you should have a LinkedIn photo.

First of, you're killing your chances of people finding and connecting with you. You may not realize it and may even do it yourself, but profiles with no photos get passed up all the time. How can you expect recruiters to remember you when they can't put a face to a name? That generic picture of a silhouette looks boring and does not represent you well. LinkedIn has said that entries in LinkedIn search results with photos beside them are 7 times more likely to be clicked than entries without photos. Like I said, robots get discarded in more ways then one.

Besides adding credibility, personal appeal,and reinforces your personal brand, it portrays potential and strength.

I speak to many colleges on LinkedIn optimization and recently I had a question that I was not prepared for by a senior student. She told me, "The reason I don't have a profile photo is because I don't want to be discriminated. Why hinder myself when I have my grades and work experience to speak for me?" I thought to myself this is a great question and I later came back at her with this answer. This is what I said to her:

"Discrimination will happen regardless. There is little you can do to stop it or police it. That behavior and action is usually the fault of the recruiter, the job poster, the supervisor, etc. and not the company as a whole. But it's important to recognize the caliber of employees at that particular company and what they represent. Their actions represent themselves in a unfavorable light and represents the company poorly as well. Ask yourself this question. If somebody doesn't want to hire me because of my name, race, color of my skin, age, etc., do I really want to work for them? Save yourself the time and headache to interview with those that will disregard you in a heartbeat over the wrong items that they think define you. Your time is precious and your energy should go towards companies that look past such irrelevant factors in your hire. Good luck!"

Are you done yet?

Well there you have it. I've talked about as much as I could about LinkedIn to help you strengthen that profile and connect better with peers. I am confident if you take note of the things I mentioned above you will have an advantage over your peers on such a powerful professional platform. Just imagine how much easier it is to network this way than say 20+ years ago. I'll continue to update this as I learn new information or add suggestions as I see relevant and fit. Please ask questions and join the discussion below. I'll answer any questions as best as I can.

Good luck!

You can find out more about LinkedIn here.