Blue Sky Resumes

How to Write a LinkedIn Profile

9 steps to getting noticed on the world’s biggest online candidate marketplace

In 2009, LinkedIn reported that they were attracting over one million new users every 2 weeks. But I had to wonder how many of those new users actually ever set up a full profile, or used the system effectively. I can’t count the number of times I check a client’s profile, only to find a scant few lines of text and very little else.

This is insane! LinkedIn is not only a great way to network, it’s also increasingly used by recruiters to post vacancies and, more importantly, to search for candidates. You cannot afford to ignore this amazing job search tool.

If you do have a profile, you might think you’re done. Not so! Most of you haven’t set up your page for maximum impact and visibility. So if you have a profile already, use my nine steps to make it better. If you don’t, use them as a guide to create your first profile.

The 9 Steps to a Great LinkedIn Profile

1. List Every Job

When you write a resume, it’s OK to be selective about which positions you include and to omit early jobs. But this is a mistake on LinkedIn. Recruiters often search for people who have worked at a particular company in the past and if you don’t include that company in your career history, they won’t find you.

Likewise, LinkedIn allows people to search for former colleagues (which it does by looking for employer names). If you don’t list all your employers, you’re missing the chance to reconnect with a lot of people. 

Important to note: Linkedin’s search rankings depend in part on the number of contacts you have, so don’t limit yourself by not making every contact possible (I’ll say more about this a little later).

So my first tip is this: List every position you have held. Also, be sure to list all associations and certifications because recruiters may choose to search by these rather than by employer.

2. Write about every position

It may seem like a drag to write a description for each role, but this is important for 2 reasons:

  1. Recruiters want to know what you’ve done and this is where you can describe your successes and accomplishments.
  2. The descriptions will naturally contain keywords used by recruiters when searching and therefore may help you to be found.

Tip: Write something about each role you held and focus not on boring descriptions of responsibilities but on actions, impact and results. See my profile for examples of this.

3. Complete the ‘specialties’ section.

The specialties section allows you to list your key skills and knowledge areas. Think about this carefully and include as many keywords as you can. Think like a recruiter for a moment – if a recruiter is looking for someone well-versed in web 2.0 technologies and you don’t have those words anywhere in your profile, she won’t find you.

Tip: It’s a good idea to go through job postings looking for commonly used words and phrases in your industry or profession because these are often the terms recruiters will search.

4. Edit Your Sub-header

When you enter your current job title, LinkedIn automatically places it right underneath your name on your profile. So mine would read “Louise Fletcher, President of Blue Sky Resumes” if I hadn’t edited it.

Don’t leave this headline as is! Not unless your job title itself is so impressive that people would want to hire you just because of it. (For example, if you’re a joke writer for The Daily Show, that might be all you need to say!) But for the rest of us, our job title isn’t the most compelling thing about us.

This sub-header is highly visible in LinkedIn search results, so make sure you use it to tell recruiters something that will communicate your value.

5. Build a Strong Network of Connections

LinkedIn’s search results don’t work quite the way a regular search engine does. Instead, when you search their system, they serve up the names of people who are immediately connected to you first, and then go on to 2nd degree connections - those people who know someone that you know - and then third-degree connections and so on and so on.

This means that the more connections you have, the more likely it is that recruiters will find you.

There’s long been a debate about whether you should only connect with people you know and can personally vouch for (this is what the company recommends) or whether you should be what is called an ‘open networker’ and connect with anyone who asks.

To some extent, it probably depends on your goals for LinkedIn and your own personal philosophy, but if you want to be found in the maximum number of searches, there’s no debate. Open networking is the way to go.

If you decide that open networking is not for you, and that you really do want to limit your connections to people you know, then at least make sure to add as many of them as possible using the various features LinkedIn makes available.

6. Create a Personal URL

When you create a profile, LinkedIn will automatically assign you a profile URL that can be used to access your profile directly. It will usually contain numbers and letters. But you can change this URL so that it contains your name (mine is www.linkedin.com/in/louisefletcher).

This is important not so much for internal LinkedIn results, but for external Internet searches. When a recruiter or potential client researches you, you want them to find compelling and positive information. LinkedIn has enormous weight with the search engines, and your profile is one of the best ways to ensure you make page one of Google for your name.

7. Make Your Profile Public

LinkedIn allows you to control how much of your information is visible to people who are not connected to you. There is no reason not to open this up when you are looking for a new position. Remember that not all recruiters or clients will be viewing your profile after logging in to LinkedIn. Many will come to it via a Google search. If you set most of your profile to private, it won’t be very impressive.

Tip: To change this, click on the ‘edit profile’ tab and look for ‘Public Profile.’  Click the small ‘edit’ next to the URL and you will arrive at the page where you can choose what to make public. Unless you have a strong reason not to do this, I recommend sharing everything.

8. Get Recommended

LinkedIn allows people to write recommendations for each other and many recruiters place great store by these recommendations. Therefore you should ask your contacts to write them for you or, if you’re not comfortable just coming out and asking, write recommendations for other people without being asked. Many of them will reciprocate.

9. Stay Active

Once you have set up a great profile, stay active on the site. Post regular status updates (this will keep your name in front of your contacts who will see your updates on their page), continue to make new contacts, and use the site to research potential employers or network with people who can help in your search.

In Summary

LinkedIn is increasingly becoming an essential tool for professional and executive-level job seekers. Not only do they advertise vacancies and provide the opportunity to research and network with people in your target companies, but they are increasingly marketing their database to recruiters and this gives you an excellent opportunity to raise your profile and get in front of the right people.

It’s completely free to join, although there is an option to upgrade to a paid version (not necessary for most people) and it’s the largest professional social networking site on the Internet. 

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, LinkedIn profiles rank extremely high on search engines. This means that you when recruiters or potential clients search for your name on the web, your LinkedIn profile is one of the first things they are likely to find.

So if you do not have a profile, go set one up right now! And if you have one already, check that you’ve followed every one of my nine steps and make any changes necessary.

Happy social networking!

PS: If you are ready to really get the most out of LinkedIn, check out The Blue Sky Guide to LinkedIn. This downloadable e-book takes you step-by-step through the site, with detailed instructions and screenshots on everything from setting up an effective profile through making connections all the way to understanding the many additional benefits the site has to offer. Once you learn how to use LinkedIn properly, you’ll never leave.

Author, Louise Fletcher

Louise Fletcher

Louise co-founded Blue Sky in 2002 after a career as an HR executive in industries such as music, video games, fashion and advertising. Louise is a word nerd at heart and loves to write. She developed the Blue Sky resume approach, has written three books, and has been a featured expert for Oprah Winfrey Magazine, The Washington Post and The Ladders among many others. In her spare time she paints and cooks. She also gardens, with results that can best be described as mixed.

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