The LinkedIn social media platform has been around for more than 15 years and has millions of users. It seems reasonable to feel most jobseekers would appreciate its value. But I speak with a surprising number of jobseekers that do not take full advantage of the site. Here are just a few errors that, in my opinion, lead to suboptimal results for LinkedIn members:
- No images on their intro card,
- A default or meaningless headline,
- Ineffective “About” sections,
- Work experience narrative that exactly duplicates the resume, and
- Education section issues.
This is not an all-inclusive list. There are many more issues that could be reducing your return on investment for the time spent on LinkedIn. This is a starting point.
No images are on your intro card.
The top of your LinkedIn profile—referred to as the intro card—is one of your most important sections. Parts of the card get a high value in LinkedIn searches. The intro section is also the information that appears in recruiters’ search results. It’s what recruiters view to decide whether or not they should look at your profile.
We have been taught not to put photos on resumes for use in the US job market, yet LinkedIn places a high value on headshots. You may be found in 25 times as many searches when you have a headshot on your intro card according to some experts, so it’s worth including one on your profile.
Also, add a background image to your profile intro card. Background images do not impact search results but they can grab attention. For example, a client has a background image under his headshot that reads “scanning with 99.9% accuracy.” That got my attention!
Look at the profiles of people in your network. Don’t the profiles with images on them draw you in more than those that do not include images? Profiles with no images look bland.
While most of us want to be considered for work based on what we know instead of what we look like, the advantages of including a headshot and background image on our LinkedIn profile seem clear.
Avoid a default, or meaningless profile headline.
When you don’t write your own LinkedIn headline, LinkedIn will create a headline for you—and it will probably not help you. Typically, LinkedIn will create a headline that includes your current job title and current employer.
LinkedIn allows you to write a headline of up to 240 characters so there is room for personal branding, including a tagline and keyword-rich text. Keywords are important because the headline is one of the fields that drive search results. A tagline can grab attention when recruiters see the top of your profile in their search results. So take the time to write your own headline.
Make your LinkedIn “About” section count.
Originally, LinkedIn called the “About” section a summary section. As a result, many of us pasted in our resume summary.
Today, the “About” section allows us to write 3,000 characters about ourselves and our careers. Our traditional resume may be shorter than that.
Make this online “real-estate” count. In addition to summarizing your skills and achievements, there will probably be space to include your professional philosophy, as well as a call to action and contact information. Your professional philosophy could include an explanation of “why I never sell on price,” or a testimonial about your leadership style.
Also, the section scores highly in LinkedIn searches. That means you will benefit from including keywords for automated screening, in addition to a pitch and call to action.
Take full advantage of your work experience section.
Many of us do not use our LinkedIn work experience section to gain a competitive edge. While the entries should mirror entries on our resumes to send readers a consistent message, we have space to do more. There is enough room in the job title dialogue box, for example, to enter information about the work we do in addition to your official job title. For example, another organization may refer to your sales manager role as an account manager role. Their HR recruiter may not find you when searching for account managers on LinkedIn unless you wrote your job title as “Sales Manager | Account Manager.”
And you will find that job description dialogue boxes allow much more space than you have on your resume for entering accomplishments. Use it to include some of the great achievements you did not have room for on your one-page or two-page business resume.
The education section seems straightforward, but like many aspects of LinkedIn, it has important nuances that may impact your career.
First, don’t skip the education section. Employers may search for people that graduated from schools that they hired from successfully in the past. Also, LinkedIn will try to connect you with others that attended your school. School connections are typically quite strong, so these LinkedIn members will be valuable additions for your network.
LinkedIn will connect you with people in your class when you include your year of graduation. This is problematic if, for example, you earned a computer science degree in 1980. An employer might unfairly assume your software skills are obsolete.
The solution to this quandary, according to one expert, is to move a recent and relevant certification into the education section with the year of completion. Your 2020 cybersecurity certification will look better than showing the year with that computer science degree. Most importantly, regardless of what section you are working on, remember that LinkedIn is a social media platform. It is not merely a job board, online portfolio, or resume repository. As a result, use it as social media. Be active on the site. Write your profile in a conversational, social media, style, and include images. Like the lottery, you need to be in it to win it!