Last week, I called a friend that was downsized during the Pandemic to find out how he was doing. While we chatted, I opened his LinkedIn profile and noticed it was largely empty, and that he had only seven LinkedIn contacts. My friend did not realize LinkedIn could be valuable.
Here are some of the suggestions I gave him:
- Add all the relevant information you have to your narrative,
- Fill your skills section with “hard” skills,
- Add relevant online course and test results,
- Make many useful LinkedIn contacts.
A key point to remember is that filling your page is not sufficient for results. It is not simply an online resume, and creative portfolio. You should have a full profile and be active on the site.
We’ll first talk about narrative content, and then some other features of the platform.
Add all the relevant information you have available.
The majority of LinkedIn profiles I browse include little more than the same content on the job seeker’s resume. A quick way to create your LinkedIn profile narrative is to rewrite your resume content in a first person, conversational, social media style. Then, take advantage of the space on LinkedIn to do more!
For example, here are the sizes of some LinkedIn fields:
- Professional Headline – 220 characters,
- About section – 2600 characters,
- Job titles – 100 characters each,
- Job descriptions – 2000 characters each, and
- Skills – 80 characters per skill.
There are many other fields in your profile, but we’ll use these to illustrate ways you can exploit the power of LinkedIn for improved results. Remember, LinkedIn makes frequent changes, and some features work differently on desktop and mobile apps. For example, some websites still say only 120 characters may be used for your Headline and 2000 characters may be used in the About section, but LinkedIn has increased both limits.
Your Headline can be powerful.
The most frequent headline I see under members’ names on LinkedIn reads something like “Registered Nurse at City Hospital.” That’s the headline LinkedIn gives a member when they don’t enter anything of their own in the field. LinkedIn enters your job title and current or most recent employer as default values.
A recruiter seeking registered nurses will find this nurse in their search results. Also, a recruiter that likes to hire nurses from City Hospital would immediate find this member.
But suppose the recruiter is looking for a COVID-19 nurse or cardiac care nurse? The list a recruiter gets when they search includes only names and headlines, so they would not see the nurse’s specialty, even when it is included in the search results because the specialty is elsewhere on the profile.
Put simply, your headline should include specialties or other keywords related to your profession.
Fill your About section.
The LinkedIn Summary, now called the About section, is arguably the most important narrative field on your profile. It also has the most space at 2600 characters. An entire 2-page MS-Word resume, using a 10 pt. type size is less than 7,000 characters, so more than one-third of the information on a resume will fit into a LinkedIn About section! The About section, along with your headline, could be the only narrative your audience reads, so make it count.
Remember that the main way hiring teams will find you on LinkedIn is through automated searches, so make certain your pitch is filled with keywords related to professional expertise, such as GAAP accounting, financial statement analysis, or perhaps JAVA programming.
Elaborate on job titles.
The job title fields in your profile offer a unique opportunity to explain your role succinctly in a space that LinkedIn’s search algorithm gives high visibility. Start with your company job title, and then add keywords that describe what you “really” do.
A recent client, for example, was hired as the Director of Policy and Legislative Relations for her organization, but spent much of her time leading a project that located and purchased $1 million of PPE for member organizations when no PPE was thought to be available. As a result, we added PPE Purchasing Team Leader to her job title line. Recruiters may still be searching for her expertise since the Pandemic still rages in certain populations so this adds value onto a highly searched field.
Complete your job description fields.
Job seekers often overlook the Job Description fields on LinkedIn. They don’t take the time to fill the space in their Experience section because they feel much of the information is already in their About section, and also on their resume. You have 2000 characters available for each job’s narrative. LinkedIn’s search engine will read the information, even if hiring managers do not look at it, so take the time to include information about the company, your role, and most importantly, your achievements.
Use the Skills section.
Another section that job seekers seem to overlook frequently is the Skills section. Strictly speaking, this is not a narrative section, but it is highly visible in LinkedIn searches.
The LinkedIn Skills section allows you to enter 50 skills, and each skill can fill 80 characters. You do not want to list 50 skills on your resume because applicant tracking systems won’t give much weight to many keywords that are used with no context.
LinkedIn is different. Fill all 50 field with “hard skills”—things like specific accounting and finance skills, not “great communications”—so LinkedIn’s search algorithms will pick them up.
Your top 3 skills will be highlighted in your profile, so make certain these are skills hiring teams should see first. So, if you are an expert on a certain financial accounting standard, and you feel companies will search for this expertise, list it as one of your top skills.
Use LinkedIn training and skills test opportunities.
Another way to add relevant keywords onto your profile is to include test results and LinkedIn Learning classes on your page. Short classes and 15-minute skills tests certainly do not carry the same weight as, say, 10 years of experience in a field but they add valid keywords to your profile.
Recently, for example, I wanted to learn best practices for writing this blog. My search revealed a short LinkedIn Learning class on blog writing that I completed in under an hour. LinkedIn added the class to my profile upon completion. A recruiter searching for a freelance blog writer should see my profile on their list because the keyword is there.
Skills tests available on LinkedIn can be valuable, too. A recruiter I recently spoke with said he requires candidates for jobs specifically requiring certain Word and Excel skills to pass the LinkedIn skills tests on those subjects. Your profile will not display test results when you don’t pass, and you can retake tests frequently, so there is no harm if you take tests just to see how well you do.
Expand your network of LinkedIn connections.
Last, but not least, remember that LinkedIn is a business social media platform, and not just a database. The first thing I check when a client or prospective client says their profile is generating no interest is the number of contacts they have on their page. Often, I find they have few or no contacts. LinkedIn has powerful search features that will let you find people you know, and also find people in jobs and industries that will interest you.
LinkedIn’s search technology is proprietary, so we don’t know exactly how it works. We know that activity increases visibility on social media platforms so this is your starting point.