If you’ve been in today’s job market for more than five minutes, you know it’s a complex, competitive, even cutthroat environment that’s difficult to navigate. Not only is the market overflowing with highly qualified individuals, but to complicate matters, the job search and application functions of yesteryear are no longer valid. If you simply update your resumé and (e)mail it off to a hiring manager, you’ll probably be left twiddling your thumbs for a long, long time while other applicants get all the interviews.
Whether you like it or not, you need to take your job search on the social media road…but even then there are numerous do-and-don’t rules you need to follow. And the most important place of all to cross your t’s and dot your i’s is your LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn continues to evolve at a fast pace, but many job seekers’ profiles are stuck in past years. That’s a big problem, because an increasing number of businesses use LinkedIn to find prospective employees and fill openings. So, if you want to maximize your chances of landing that interview, you need to consider your LinkedIn profile to be the front page for ‘the website of you’—a place that summarizes who you are, what you represent, what your professional history is, and your area of expertise.
If you’re asking, “Why LinkedIn?” the answer is clear: It’s a professionally-geared site that’s focused on the quality, rather than the quantity, of its users—meaning that it’s fertile ground on which to find and develop meaningful networking connections. From a demographic perspective, LinkedIn is very different from other social media channels in that it has a very influential, affluent, and educated audience. According to reported data, more business decision makers, people with household incomes exceeding $100,000, and college and postgraduates are LinkedIn users than the physical distribution audience of the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. I don’t know about you, but that’s definitely the group to whom I want to be showcasing my skills and experience.
Ready to get the most from LinkedIn? It takes implementing these 17 must-haves components into your strategy:
Must-have # 1: A serious photo.
You should always have a professional picture to represent you. In other words, wear office-appropriate attire and avoid distracting backgrounds. And no cocktail-in-hand photos or on-the-beach vacation shots.
Must-have # 2: A professional name.
Trawl LinkedIn for a little while, and you’ll probably come across individuals who use keywords, or even worse, phone numbers and email addresses, as part of their names. When you employ this tactic, you may think you’re making yourself more conspicuous and/or more accessible, but the truth is, you look cheesy—and I can tell that you’re blatantly trying to sell me on something, which is a turn-off.
Must-have # 3: A headline that reinforces your professional brand.
Speaking of areas to differentiate yourself, look no further than your Professional Headline—the 110 characters that appear prominently just under your name both on your profile and, more importantly, on search results. You don’t need to put here that you are TITLE at COMPANY NAME—viewers can see that in your profile. Instead, you need to include information in your Professional Headline that will draw your potential visitor into wanting to find out more about you.
Must-have # 4: An optimized location.
On LinkedIn, it’s sometimes best for your stated location not to match your physical one. Yes, this sounds counterintuitive, but it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of your target visitor.
For instance, I live in Orange County, California, but if I were in charge of a territory that was primarily centered around Los Angeles, I would want to change my location to Los Angeles.
Must-have # 5: An optimized industry.
Much like optimizing your location, think about what the people with whom you’re trying to connect might type into the “Industry” field during a search. You might have to do some experimenting in this area. While not everyone uses the Industry feature to filter search results, you should still put your best foot forward and experiment in seeing how changing your industry might affect your profile views.
Must-have # 6: A customized profile URL.
LinkedIn provides you with a default URL that you can—and should—customize. Some talk about the SEO (search engine optimization) benefits of doing so, but you should look at your LinkedIn URL in a simpler way. Once you’re invested in LinkedIn as part of your professional infrastructure, you’ll probably want to include your LinkedIn URL in your email signature or even print it on your business card. Wouldn’t you rather have a professional looking—and easy to input—URL like http://www.linkedin.com/in/nealschaffer rather than http://www.linkedin.com/pub/neal-schaffer/4a/z89/145/?