You’ve heard it by now: You need a rock-solid LinkedIn profile. If you don’t think that recruiters and hiring managers are looking at your web presence, you’re sadly mistaken my friend. (Be honest, everyone creeps online.)
A good resume might get you through the company’s electronic hiring system and into a hiring manager’s inbox, but a solid LinkedIn presence will help them see you as a real person.
Robin Reshwan, founder and president of CS Advising and Collegial Services, says more than 90% of medium to large-sized companies vet applicants through LinkedIn. “I’m going to look you up on LinkedIn because it gives me the insurance of, ‘Ok, you’ve got this all together,’” she says.
Yes—You do have this together! But just in case, here are a few pointers on how to update your profile so it goes from looking basic to stellar and, best of all, works for you.
Understand how recruiters search for candidates
Before you start looking for a new job, chances are you’ve done some dreaming about the bigger role you hope to nail. You know, the job that you’re absolutely sure you’re ready for now that you’ve done your share of grunt work filing paperwork or dealing with rude customers. But unless you have relevant job titles in your work history section, hiring managers might immediately rule you out. If you’re more senior, vague job titles might make it so that you fly under the radar of recruiters altogether.
Reshwan says the first thing she looks for is whether you’re already doing a similar job to the one you’re applying to. “From a risk standpoint, if you’re currently doing the job in a company similar to mine, there’s a good chance that you’re probably good at it and there’s a good chance that you want to do it since you understand what the job’s about,” she says.
Put on your detective cap and learn from the job posting board
If you’re looking to include some SEO tricks in your LinkedIn profile so it comes up in search results, keywords can increase your searchability. The best place to figure out exactly what keywords you should include is from LinkedIn’s job posting board. “Take a look at several job descriptions with the same title and then take a close look at where it says ‘qualifications,’” says Donna Shannon, the president and CEO of Personal Touch Career Services. “That’s where a lot of the high-value keywords are.” Think about words that relate to what you’re actually doing, versus low-value keywords that are more generic, like “leadership.”
Research other people on LinkedIn who have the role you desire
Let’s call them “aspirational profiles.” After you’ve gathered intel on the job board, gleam some more insights from other stellar accounts of people who already have the job you want, Reshwan says. Look at the phrasing and terminology that they include in their profile and mirror the same as it applies to your work history.
Sprinkle your newfound keywords throughout your profile
Pro tip: Don’t do a keyword dump at the end of your profile summary. If you’ve ever seen a paragraph that’s essentially a laundry list of keywords strung together by commas, you know what we’re talking about. “Does it work? Yes,” Shannon says. “Do we all know it’s a trick? Yeah, we do.” Besides, Shannon says, “It doesn’t make for the best, exciting writing and it doesn’t really sell who you are as a person.” The trick is to include variations of your keywords throughout the profile, from the summary all the way down to the actual “skills” section.
The number of connections you have matters — to a degree
LinkedIn doesn’t carry an exact tally for the number of connections you possess since once you reach 500, the site stops displaying your count. Don’t freak out, though, if you’ve yet to hit that golden threshold of 500 connections. It’s true that the more meaningful connections you have on the platform, the likelier you are to show up in LinkedIn’s search function. Still, hiring managers won’t hold a low count against you. Consider it a goal to work toward, not a necessity.
Still, keywords alone won’t save you
Remember, this isn’t Google we’re talking about here. Keywords are just one part of LinkedIn’s algorithm and the platform is designed as a connectivity platform, says Patricia Romboletti, a master coach for Execunet, a career site for executives. People often think if they have more keywords than the next person, then they will show up more but that’s not the case, Romboletti explains. That’s because the number of connections you have carries greater weight than a simple keyword dump. “LinkedIn is looking to create a platform of connectivity and a bunch of keywords is the antithesis of that,” she says.
Make your activity feed work for you
Since LinkedIn is all about having professional networks connect with and share information, you’ll also help increase your searchability on the site by making your activity feed work for you. While Facebook is great for posting wedding photos and Twitter has all the trending hashtags, LinkedIn is the place for sharing content that’s relevant to your followers (it’s all about them, not you). Think of it this way: What’s a topic that could come up at work and it would be perfectly fine for you to discuss with anyone from your boss to your intern? Sharing that content will help create a curated feed of professional interests that shows up at the top of your profile.
Bulk out your profile with special projects and volunteer work
If you’re just starting out your career, remember this: Experience always counts, whether you were paid for it or not. So, go ahead and list any internships you might have held during school. Or if your side hustle means you have a slew of projects that showcase the kind of work you want to go into, list those as well. Employers are more concerned whether you have the right skills than whether you were paid for cultivating them, Reshwan says.
Above all else, make sure you have a compelling narrative
From the first three lines of your summary to the end, it’s key to have a story about who you are and why you do what you do. SEO might be great for a website, but if there’s no compelling or interesting story about who you are as a candidate, then you’re not utilizing the platform in the best way. That’s why Romboletti says she cautiously warns against using too many SEO tricks in a LinkedIn profile. “When I see profiles that have done that, there’s no brand,” she says. “There’s no story there.”
And nobody wants to work with a robot. Being human: always a winning strategy.