Some people say that a LinkedIn profile is no more than an online resume.
I disagree. It is so much more than that, and its value to candidates is undeniable.
Over the years I have used LinkedIn as a candidate, recruiter and entrepreneur, amassing 42,000 followers along the way. The world’s leading professional network offers so much to those who invest their time on the platform, but it continues to offer the most value to candidates who wish to showcase their career experiences to potential employers.
In this blog, I’ll share 20 tips that can allow any job seeker to make the most of their LinkedIn profile, including:
- Ways to personalize your header and URL
- The secrets of LinkedIn keywords
- Why LinkedIn endorsements matter
- The most worthwhile LinkedIn profile sections
Let’s take a deep dive. In no particular order:
1. Personalize the LinkedIn URL (you will use it a lot)
Which of these two URLs would look more impressive on your resume or email signature?
No contest, right? LinkedIn offers members the opportunity to personalize their LinkedIn URL to create the equivalent of their own mini website. In a job search when your profile will be at the center of your online career branding, a personalized profile is vital.
Many of the most common names are taken already – it is perfectly acceptable to include a middle initial or put a number at the end. Try not to make it too long and resist the temptation to put your desired job title in there. Keep it simple.
2. Optimize your LinkedIn profile headline
Optimizing your LinkedIn headline is the first step in creating the ideal job search profile.
“Job Title at Employer” is the default option, but you can do so much better.
Search strings are weighted towards the keywords in your headline, the first part of the headline is visible on any LinkedIn comments, and it may be the only part of your profile that a recruiter might read (if they are scanning a list of candidates on a search).
While the headline will vary depending on experience and the role that you are looking to secure, here are a few tips for a job seeker to make the most of this vital profile real estate:
Look at the most relevant 10-15 job descriptions and make sure that the most common 3-4 keywords feature in your LinkedIn headline somewhere. You don’t have to write in full sentences. Splitting the headline up with symbols is a common tactic. Your chosen keywords will help you to be found by the search algorithm.
The character limit for a LinkedIn headline (on desktop and mobile) is 220 characters. Only the first 60-65 characters (with spaces) will show up at the top of any LinkedIn comments or updates, so pack that first section of the headline with your most important messages. Short is not sweet in this case. Make the most of every character.
Highlight your value
The most important job of your LinkedIn headline is to highlight the value that you will bring to your future employer. Include you job title, showcase your skill set, include certifications , and maybe add an impressive achievement:
Digital Marketer in Professional Services | Content Marketing, Lead Generation & SEM | Google Ads certified | 8.5m organic social impressions for Kolton in 2019
“Looking for opportunities”
Avoid any variation of this phrase in your LinkedIn headline. While the “open to work” functionality is incredibly useful, any additional indication that you are an active job seeker may come across as desperate (especially if this is on your headline for a while). Create an impression that you won’t settle for second best.
3. Use a high-quality LinkedIn profile picture
When your LinkedIn profile picture pops up on their screen, first impressions will be cemented, but in the run up to an interview, your profile will likely be viewed 10-20 times.
Hiring managers may well have done a deep dive onto Facebook and Twitter, but more often than not this profile picture is their only image of who you are. How this picture is interpreted will color their attitudes more than you think.
You might opt for the simple option of a headshot on a plain background, but pictures of you at industry conferences or in a work setting are also common. Ensure that you are the focal point of the picture – after all, it will be small in many LinkedIn situations. The use of color is also a consideration – many people opt for a professional greyscale look.
The profile picture size is 400 x 400 pixels. With a size limit of 8mb, there is no excuse for a poor-quality picture. How you market yourself reflects what you think of yourself.
4. Make the most of the header image (cover photo)
On LinkedIn desktop and mobile profiles there is a horizontal image that lies across the top of the page and sits behind the profile photo, which is located on the left. This cover photo (ideal dimensions 1586 x 396 pixels) allows a candidate to give their profile a more personalized feel. As much of the LinkedIn branding is standardized, this header image can convey that all-important visual impact.
If you want to play it safe, an inspirational scene or professional image from your industry will be fine. Anything too bland and you risk betraying a lack of imagination. Resist the temptation to fill this area with text – some of this may be lost on mobile screens and it will end up looking messy.
5. How do job seekers write the “about” section?
The “about” section is the most important part of any LinkedIn job seeker’s profile. It should detail who you are, what you have achieved and what sets you apart. With a maximum 2,000 characters, you have plenty of space to create a compelling job search sales pitch. It should combine the factual punch of a resume with the personality of a cover letter.
Use the first paragraph of the about section to talk about the job that you do – your (desired) job title, the sectors in which you work and the value that you add.
The main part of the about section should include a bullet-pointed list of your career achievements alongside a few sentences around who you are and what it is like to work with you. Add context and quantify wherever possible – bullets can be more than one line, if required. As your work experience section is likely to be long, employers will expect your key accomplishments to all be here. They may not read any further.
You may choose to add some personality to the LinkedIn about section if you have any relevant extra-curricular activities to share. Many people are active in their industries in various ways outside of work, so this is a great way of showcasing your passion.
Finish with details on how to get in touch with you – your email, mobile number, and any social profiles. There is a separate contacts part of the profile but duplicate them here.
6. What role do keywords play in the LinkedIn profile?
Consider the job descriptions of some of your ideal roles. The hiring managers have likely had considerable input in their wording and thought carefully about specifying what they are looking for. If you are applying for the same kinds of roles at different companies, there will likely be several similarities in terms of the vocabulary and phrases that are used.
These keywords are essential to be included in your job search content, and your LinkedIn profile is no exception. Hiring managers and recruiters will be searching using these words.
While the LinkedIn “Recruiter” search engine is incredibly powerful, enabling a search with a dizzying array of useful metrics, it remains the case that someone searching for a “warehouse manager” will key those exact words into the box. The difficulty now arises when you do a warehouse manager role but are called an operations manager. You won’t come up on their search unless you include the most common keywords.
While you shouldn’t game the system too much (i.e. including 5-6 alternative job titles in your profile), try to cover as many bases as possible – in your headline, your summary, work experience, and skills section. Use the keywords that will matter to your future employer
7. Include multimedia in the “featured” section
The “featured” section is a relatively new addition to the LinkedIn profile. It is visible at the top of every profile and can add a multimedia dimension to your online candidature.
While your LinkedIn profile is text-based, the featured section allows you to include links to posts (feed updates), articles (blogs), links to web content and various media that you may choose to upload. A video resume or introduction would be an ideal addition.
It offers an opportunity for a job seeker to showcase a work portfolio, highlight a popular blog, link to your personal website, or simply include your resume and cover letter. Each link has its own featured image, and you can amend the text to suit.
If an employer is interested in your application, these links will be read with interest.
8. Why do LinkedIn skills/endorsements matter?
There is a separate section in a LinkedIn profile where you can add skills that you feel you have mastered. However, unlike the skills section on a resume, your LinkedIn connections are able to endorse you for these skills. How many people endorse you for each skill will then provide a complex picture of your value at work. You can add up to 50 skills.
Obviously, we would ideally know each of our LinkedIn connections personally, but as this is categorically not the case it is not uncommon to ask casual acquaintances to “endorse” you for those skills that you feel are most important. You can do the same for them in return. This might be seen as gaming the system, but as these are not written recommendations it is understood to be acceptable.
Having a particularly high rating for certain skills can help to bump you up the search results as well as looking visually impressive on your profile. Don’t list too many skills to start with and try to get at least 10 “votes” for each skill. Including a skill list with no endorsements is not an option – in that case it is best to leave it out.
9. Showcase your personal brand via recent updates
Up to six recent updates will appear at the top of your LinkedIn profile. While you might not put too much thought into what you are liking, sharing and commenting upon, you never quite know when a potential employer will pop by your profile and what your last six updates might be.
You should therefore be strategic and mindful of how you engage on LinkedIn during your job search. While it is unlikely that hiring managers will see every piece of activity in their feed, the fact that recent updates are on your profile means that your activity will be noted. As they will likely visit your profile several times over a longer period, this recent activity will be viewed as part of your brand.
10. Include the industry of your future role
Potential employers will search for people within their industry sector. While your previous role may not have been in the same industry, it is acceptable to change this to the industry in which you aim to work. Seize every opportunity to seem like “one of the team.”
It is a minor consideration, but you never know what may make a difference. The hiring manager will understand that your LinkedIn profile is oriented towards your future activity, so there will be no concerns in terms of honesty.
11. Be an industry insider with LinkedIn groups
The list of LinkedIn groups on your profile can offer a window into your industry interests.
If a hiring manager pops onto your recent activity section and sees that you are an active member, their interest will spike. The added benefit of adding value in an industry group is that the members will feel more inclined to help you find that new job. The law of reciprocation can be a powerful ally – and you never quite know who they know
If you are about to embark on a job search, limit your group membership to those specific to your industry. Your LinkedIn profile should come across as being 100% professional. You can always rejoin the “Cheese Lovers” group when you have got the job. It is healthy that the boundaries of work and life can blur on a social network as it allows people to feel closer to one another, but there is no place for cheese in a job search.
12. How similar should your profile be to your resume?
There should not be any information in your resume that isn’t in your LinkedIn profile. In actual fact, the LinkedIn profile offers far greater scope and variety for telling your career story. Tradition dictates that the resume is still the go-to career document, but I can guarantee that every hiring manager will be checking out your LinkedIn in the minutes before they walk into that interview room. Make the most of it.
13. What to include in each work experience section
While there is the space in each LinkedIn work experience section to be more expansive than your resume, we would advise against going into too much detail. The hiring manager or recruiter will want to scan each position as they read your profile, so stick to the key accomplishments and core skills that you deployed in each role.
Bullet points are again a useful stylistic device but be sure to mix them up with a line or two of free-flowing text to share your value in your own words. It goes without saying that most of what you put in your LinkedIn profile should be relevant to the jobs that you are applying for. This is not always easy as you may be applying for a wide range of roles, so make sure that your work experience section is broad enough to cover the bases.
Include your responsibilities and achievements, with as much context as possible. Use action words to outline your accomplishments and sprinkle in some soft skills to illustrate how you made things happen. Let the hiring manager imagine what it is like to work with you.
Lastly, you can also add media that is relevant to each job role. Don’t go overboard – only include links where they genuinely add to your application.
14. Recommendations are critical in a job search
LinkedIn recommendations are the fuel of your job search. When you set out on your journey towards a new job, hit up everyone who would be ready to say a good word for you and ask them to write a personal recommendation for your LinkedIn profile. Pick a variety of colleagues, partners, and senior managers.
You will have the opportunity to edit / accept their recommendation before you post, and it is also a good idea to let them know the sorts of things you might want them to say. It is not unheard of for candidates to write the recommendations themselves and simply ask their connections to post from their accounts. That is a good tip if people don’t have time.
The most important consideration with LinkedIn profile recommendations is that they are from people that you have worked with previously. Unlike skills endorsements, random recommendations from total strangers will seem suspicious. This is another aspect of LinkedIn that can be reciprocated – they will be happy to give you one if you do the same for them. Curate them carefully – they will all add to your online image.
15. Make the most of the LinkedIn character limits
In terms of planning your LinkedIn profile, it is useful to be aware of the latest character limits. These change every now and again, so keep track of what is permitted.
First Name: 20 characters
Last Name: 40 characters
Headline: 220 character limit
Summary: 2,000 character limit
Recommendation: 3,000 character limit
Website Anchor Text: 30 maximum characters
Vanity URL: 5-30 characters after ‘www.linkedin.com/in/’
Position Title: 100 maximum characters
Position Description: 200 character minimum (2,000 maximum characters).
Interests: 1,000 character limit
Skills: 80 characters per Skill
16. Put “open to work” on your profile picture
Some job seekers might not want to seem desperate in their job search, but if you view the job hunt as the marketing activity that it is, you need to use every available level to increase your visibility.
Setting your profile to “open to work” puts a visible surround onto your LinkedIn profile picture. This will bump you to the top of the LinkedIn search results and your profile will stand out when recruiters, hiring managers and HR professionals are scrolling through long lists of search results.
Your amazing LinkedIn profile is worthless unless someone clicks on it. In the numbers game of the LinkedIn job search marketing funnel, prompting people to do that should be your first concern. The “open to work” sticker is a must for any job seeker who is happy to be public about their intentions.
When you are an “open” candidate, you can leave recruiters a note to say what sort of role you are looking for, let them know the sorts of roles you are considering, say how active or passive you are currently, and even state your location preferences. It is an essential tool.
17. Keep your profile updates private
It is likely that you will be tweaking your LinkedIn profile constantly – both in the lead up to your job search and during it. If you wish to hide this from your current employers (or avoid annoying your network), it is essential that you create the minimum amount of “noise” on your notifications feed.
While anyone might notice the changes, you can at least stop your connections and followers of being notified when you make any amends. There is a stealth mode option.
go to: Settings & Privacy > Visibility > Visibility of your LinkedIn activity > Share profile updates with your network > No
18. Connect your other socials with your profile
It is a simple step to include your Twitter and Facebook accounts with your LinkedIn profile.
If you feel that an employer is likely to check out your broader social profile, why not include links to Twitter and Facebook at the end of your LinkedIn profile summary? Many people include a kind of “signature” section at the bottom of their profile with their email and mobile, so this is the natural place for any other social profiles. Employers want to get to know you, so make it easier for them.
19. Proofread your LinkedIn profile
Your LinkedIn profile is like any other piece of job search content in that any grammatical or spelling errors will reflect poorly on you as a candidate.
Run each section of the profile through an online grammar checker such as Grammarly, and ask a friend or ex-colleague to read through the profile to check that it sounds like you. You should do this every time you make the smallest amendment. You never know when those typos might creep in. Oh, and grammar check anything that you share on LinkedIn as well.
20. Which additional profile sections are worthwhile?
While these three sections of a LinkedIn profile are optional, you may have valuable experiences that are worth sharing with a prospective employer.
Volunteering. If you are in the early stages of your career, the volunteering section is a great way of beefing up your profile. Show how you have used your volunteering opportunities to accumulate the experience you will need for your future career.
Languages. Attaining fluency in a language is an impressive skill, something that requires many of the traits that will make you successful in the workplace. With increasingly global workplaces, you never know when your language skills may prove useful.
Honors and awards. While employers will only want to read about awards that are relevant to them, it is no bad thing to include a couple of awards if they are worthwhile. Employers want to hire someone who strives for excellence.
- A strong LinkedIn profile is an invaluable tool for job seekers so it’s worth taking some time to make sure yours is up-to-date.
- Make sure to customize options like URL and your header photo. It’s also a good idea to make your headline as powerful as possible.
- Don’t overlook the use of keywords throughout your profile which will allow recruiters to find you more easily.
- a LinkedIn profile can enhance your personal brand and share your career story more than an online resume , so use it wisely.