Social media has challenged or even changed many rules in business and society. LinkedIn is no exception in my view.
Our ability to push back on the new rules is limited. We have to accommodate the new order and then turn a problem into an opportunity.
Here is a small sample of the LinkedIn features that are changing the game:
- Headshots are essential on LinkedIn,
- LinkedIn profiles are much longer than resumes, and
- Dates of education create challenges.
We have discussed these issues before. LinkedIn continues to increase in importance so it’s worth looking at LinkedIn again from a different perspective.
Headshots are essential on LinkedIn.
A major conflict between resumes and LinkedIn profiles is that resumes for the US job market should not include photos while LinkedIn seems to require a headshot to be effective. Photos are not used on American resumes, I’ve been told, because they can result in illegal hiring bias. This is probably one reason applicant tracking systems (ATS), do not pass images to hiring managers.
As a result, LinkedIn presents an interesting challenge. A photo, LinkedIn says, will improve the chance your profile will be found in searches as much as 25 times! So, it will benefit you, as a jobseeker, to include a headshot on your LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn profiles are much longer than resumes.
While we commonly limit resumes to one or two pages, your LinkedIn profile may be significantly longer. In fact, it should be longer. When you use the “save as PDF” feature to retain a profile, you will usually find that the profile is several pages in length.
Busy hiring team members are unlikely to read hundreds of lengthy LinkedIn profiles, but their ATS systems and search engines do scan every word. This creates a new situation for the jobseeker—you will gain an advantage by writing a great deal of material that people are not going to read.
The process of making your LinkedIn profile appealing to computer systems, as well as people, is known as search engine optimization, or SEO. Search engines and AI systems built into LinkedIn and ATS systems look for keywords, among other things. The extra space on a LinkedIn profile gives you an opportunity to include more specific information about what you have accomplished. This means you will have room to incorporate many more keywords than you can fit on your traditional one-page or two-page business resume.
Why not write a very long resume? Networking contacts and job interviewers are not going to scan long resumes and profiles during your meetings with them. In other words, your brief, to the point, traditional business resume will continue to be important for your job search.
LinkedIn does offer the ability to generate a resume from your profile. The problem is that, as of now, LinkedIn does not edit your profile text down to a one-page or two-page format. You must do that yourself. Your profile and resume also should be written in different styles. A resume is a formal business document, while a profile is a social media page that should be written in a conversational style.
In fact, some fields in your LinkedIn profile allow more space than is available on an entire conventional resume. The number of characters allowed in some important LinkedIn profile fields, according to Andrea T. Edwards and other sources include:
- Professional Headline (Desktop): 220
- Professional Headline (Mobile): 240
- About section, 2,600
- Interests: 1,000
- Skills: 50 skills with 80 characters per skill
- Position Title: 100
- Position Description: 2,000 characters
- Publication Title: 255
- Publication Description: 2,000
- Recommendation: 3,000
- Additional Info/Advice for Contacting: 2,000.
LinkedIn makes frequent changes, so you may find different field sizes when you update your profile.
As with many forms of writing, the number of words and characters in the document is not the most important feature. LinkedIn also provides specific sections for information including relevant publications, patents, volunteer projects, and awards. These could increase keyword density, and in some cases, grab a savvy hiring manager’s attention. Also, frequently there is not enough space for this information on a one-page or two-page business resume.
You will also have the opportunity to add links to many profile sections for relevant media. This is especially handy when you create websites, videos, or other multimedia for your job.
Dates of education pose a challenge.
Some recruiters see an advantage to including graduation dates on LinkedIn profiles even though resume writers discourage this practice. The reason for this conflict is that LinkedIn recruiting tools allow hiring team members to include a range of education dates in their search criteria. Profiles without graduation dates will not be found in these searches.
While I have not yet found out how frequently your profile will be missed when you do not include dates of education, it seems unlikely this will be nearly as detrimental as failing to include a profile photo. In fact, I asked five coaches about this issue during the last few days and all recommended that jobseekers do not include graduation dates on their LinkedIn profiles even though this may impact search results. Don’t include graduation dates on your profile unless you are a recent graduate. As with resume writing, there are few hard-and-fast rules that job seekers must follow. It is a matter of professional judgement. You will have to make the final determination on issues such as including a headshot, writing extensive narrative, and including graduation dates.