The vast majority of us want our LinkedIn profile to be found in searches. Our best way to do this is to create a profile that LinkedIn considers “complete.”
A “complete” profile, by LinkedIn standards, is more likely to appear in search results. So make sure you have these items in your LinkedIn profile:
- Your industry and location,
- An up-to-date current position,
- At least two past positions,
- Your education,
- A minimum of three skills,
- Your profile photo, and
- At least 50 connections.
As always, “your results may vary.” Many factors influence whether or not you will be selected for interviews and then receive job offers.
Your industry and location are important.
Include both the industry and physical location where you want to work. Accountants, for example, need different expertise to work in real-estate, or for hospitals. And your physical location is important even if you work remotely because some employers will only hire local employees for a variety of legal and economic reasons. So there are good reasons to specify your geographic location and industry target on your profile and your resume.
LinkedIn once tried to shoehorn all of us into a short list of industries, but this has changed. The site now uses a much longer industry list so you will probably find a match.
A current position should be on your profile.
The LinkedIn platform will “penalize” you when you do not include a current job. We know that the “real world” also penalizes those with employment gaps, too. Research shows that jobseekers who have not worked for six months or more are less likely to be selected for interviews. As a result it is important to fill your employment gap, if any.
This is not difficult to do in most cases. Often, we are devoting some or all of our time to freelance work, volunteer work, or projects for friends and family. Any of these can be considered work and then entered on your profile.
Employers search for people that are currently employed, so you won’t be displayed in their results without a “current job.”
Also, Employers search by geographic area. Set your location to the metropolitan area where you want to work. Use the broadest area where you are willing to accept jobs to avoid falling out of searches. For example, select “New York City Area” instead of “Brooklyn, NY” for the best results.
LinkedIn will require you to enter your Zip Code, too, but your Zip Code will not be visible on your profile.
Include two past positions.
It’s a good idea to break up your experience into more than one position even if you have been with one employer for a long time. For example, an engineer I worked with has been with one company for 30 years doing what he said has been “the same job.” This would look like “one year times 30” on his resume and profile, so we looked deeper. It turns out that he started as an individual contributor, and progressed to supervising up to 300 other engineers around the world. While this is an extreme example, it illustrates how your work in one job function can demonstrate increasing responsibility, acquisition of new skills, and advancement.
Use LinkedIn’s preference for “two past jobs” to your advantage. Figure out how you have progressed if you performed the same function for many years.
Your education entry is essential.
Include your education on both your LinkedIn profile and resume so you will be considered for the best opportunities. It is traditional to include the year we graduated from school on your resume only when you finished school recently to avoid age bias. LinkedIn poses a challenge for this strategy when we use the same approach for our profile. The reason is that the site connects us with alumni when we include our graduation year on our page. That’s a powerful addition for your network.
You will need to be creative, then, to benefit from the full power of LinkedIn without disclosing that you graduated college in 1980 or 1990. The solution may be to include the date you received a more recent professional certificate or advanced degree from an accredited school in LinkedIn’ s database, while continuing to omit your undergraduate degree date. (Hint: Move the certificate from the certifications section to the education section) For example, a client received her undergraduate and law degrees in the 1980s, but earned a prestigious certification from Yale in 2018. We put only the date of her Yale certification on her resume and on her LinkedIn profile.
As a result, your strategy for crafting the education section of your profile will require some judgement. For example, you may need to balance the importance of your alumni network for the year you graduated against the risk of disclosing your age.
Skills are also crucial.
LinkedIn highlights your top three skills on your profile so this is the minimum number that should be listed on the profile. But the platform allows you to enter as many as 50 skills on your profile, and will suggest skills from its database as you type. Employers search for candidates with the skills they need, so it behooves you to enter as many industry-specific, “hard” skills as you can. Make certain you can demonstrate these skills because employers will test you.
Additionally, LinkedIn allows your connections to endorse your expertise in specific skills, further boosting your visibility.
Don’t do the bare minimum on this section for best results.
Include a profile headshot.
We do not include photos on resumes for the US job market, but it is essential to place a profile photo on LinkedIn. A profile photo can increase your chances of being found 25 times or more according to some experts.
Recruiters initially get search results that show profile photos, background images, and LinkedIn headlines, so your profile photo may be the first thing that grabs their attention.
Have someone take a headshot for you with a cellphone camera. You don’t need to invest in professional headshots unless you are in a creative business where you are expected to have professional headshots anyway. But do not use a selfie.
LinkedIn is a social media platform, so, as in all social media, images matter.
Make at least 50 LinkedIn connections.
Social media is about connecting with people—not just imagery—so the number of connections you have is important. Your profile will not be prioritized in recruiters’ LinkedIn searches unless you have 50 or more connections, so start connecting when you build your profile. You won’t unlock the full power of LinkedIn if you randomly connect with people. Start by looking for former co-workers, schoolmates, professors, and others that know and like your work. You’ll be surprised at how many people you will find even when you feel that “I don’t know anyone.” And you may be even more surprised when someone sends an opportunity your way. But you’ll have to reach out and have conversations in most cases before good things happen because people hire people. Use the power of LinkedIn to “make your own luck!”