Everyone has their own opinion on social media; however, it is hard to argue against the power that LinkedIn has to connect professionals all across the world. Like it or not, people in your industry are searching for you. They want to check out your background to see what it took to get where you are so they can follow in your footsteps. They want to hear about your ideas and opinions on topics that are hot in your industry. They want to offer you job opportunities that can utilize your skill sets and add strength to their organizations.
It is relatively easy to enjoy all of the positives from LinkedIn while minimizing the aggravation of unwanted content and messages. By following these best practices, it is possible to turn a potential spam-fest into an exciting network in which you look forward to participating. Whether the goals is to utilize LinkedIn to keep a passive eye on the job market, keep updated on industry news and trends, or have access to pick the brains of over 500 million members across the globe, having a great profile is the skeleton key that unlocks all doors to a positive experience. Even with 18,000+ connections, I am rarely bogged down with content that I don’t find interesting. Here’s how:
1. Keep it professional. LinkedIn is not Facebook, LinkedIn is not Facebook, LinkedIn is not Facebook! One hot-headed or inappropriate comment, picture, or post can damage your reputation. Consider who will be viewing your profile, including current connections and other industry professionals who may have an interest in networking. Before you update your profile, post an article, comment/like a post, or share content, take a couple of seconds to ask yourself if your actions are representing your brand. It is best to keep your activity positive and uplifting. LinkedIn is not a place to vent your frustrations or promote controversial content.
2. Keep your profile up to date and complete. A poor profile can lead to a poor experience on LinkedIn. Make sure all fields are completed. Most importantly, keep your current position up to date. When networking, most users search by “current title” and a couple of keywords. Reviewing and updating your profile once per quarter is a general rule of thumb. It is also recommended to update your profile during each job change, the same way you would update your resume or CV. Provide content that your target audience will find useful. If you utilize LinkedIn to network for job opportunities, be sure to update your recent and most impressive achievements.
3. Match your profile to your resume or CV. Discrepancies between your resume and LinkedIn profile can result in the early termination of the interview process, or even worse, a rescinded offer. Remember, your profile is public and represents your professional brand. A poor or misleading profile is a turnoff to employers and other networkers. If in doubt, if you wouldn’t put it on your resume, don’t put it on LinkedIn.
4. Make sure you have an appropriate profile picture. LinkedIn members who have a profile picture are much more likely to receive messages, connection requests, and profile views. Have a clear idea of what you want your billboard to look like before posting your picture. A professional headshot is best. If you are not being targeted by recruiters or other industry professionals, your picture may be the turnoff.
5. Make sure you spell check and grammar check your profile. What would you think if you drove by a billboard with a misspelled message?
6. Add more connections. Your LinkedIn profile network grows exponentially based your number of connections. Once you are 1st connected with someone you have access to view their connections (called 2nd-degree connections). These 2nd-degree connections are added to your extended network, who are more likely to connect with you. As your network grows, you will have access to a greater number of LinkedIn members and, in turn, they will have access to you. You can send messages and follow each other’s updates, likes, and shares.
7. If you are connected with the “wrong” people, disconnect from them. If you find that certain connections are posting irrelevant content or are sending you too many messages, simply remove them from your network. To take it one step further, you can even block specific members from viewing your profile. Don’t let a couple of bad apples spoil your LinkedIn experience.
8. Ask for recommendations (and recommend others). We are in the digital age of making decisions based on user reviews. The success of a product on Amazon is largely based on its star rating. Angie’s List, Yelp, Trip Advisor, and countless other companies have thrived on the psychology behind social proof. If other people like something, maybe we should too. Recommendations give your profile added flair (any Office Space fans here?) validating your work performance, skills, and achievements. Giving and receiving recommendations is a win/win activity that helps both parties. The person being reviewed gets a thumbs up on their profile while the reviewer is recognized for their compliments and are likely to receive a recommendation in return.
9. Keep an eye on your Skills. The Skill section on LinkedIn is another area where other members can endorse your knowledge. These endorsements serve as a digital thumbs up for your experience and also play into LinkedIn’s search algorithms. However, many profiles include skills that the user doesn’t actually have. These “fake” skills come up in searches, usually by keyword. This means your profile will be included in irrelevant searches based on non-accurate data. If you are receiving messages that don’t match your background, check your Skills to make sure they are accurate.
10. Be active on LinkedIn. LinkedIn rewards active members on their platform. Their search algorithms give preference to those who create, like, and share content with their network. If you haven’t signed on in a while, have a lot of outstanding messages, haven’t posted an update in forever, or have an incomplete profile, your lack of influence can push your profile to the darkest depths in the network. For job seekers, the more active you are on LinkedIn, the more connections you have, and the more complete and accurate your profile, the more often you will come up in recruiter searches and the earlier your profile will be presented in the search result. LinkedIn provides 1,000 search results per search. Don’t be the 1000th (or even worse, the 1001st) profile. The further back you are in a given search, the more time your peers have to respond to job opportunities.
LinkedIn has grown to become the most powerful professional social network ever created. Chances are, you are one of the 450+ million users on LinkedIn and may even be one of the 100+ million users who are active on LinkedIn at least once per month. Unlike Facebook, whose platform focuses on connecting friends and family, LinkedIn is has built a network to connect professionals across the globe with one another. Just like Facebook, their database of user profiles, companies, and jobs are user-generated and updated. This user-monitored approach allows their 400+ million users worldwide to update their profiles at any time and for any reason. Due to its instantly updatable global network, LinkedIn’s networking capabilities has become the largest, most up to date “encyclopedia” for who’s who across every industry on a global scale. What makes this even more exciting is that anyone can sign up and take advantage of the network free of charge.
Who is viewing your profile?
Even if you are not an avid user of LinkedIn, you are still a part of the LinkedIn community. Your profile is public to the world and can be searched for by other members. Although this is similar to most other social media networks, LinkedIn is unique due to the type of audience that is attracted to your profile. On Facebook, most of your friend requests and profile views come from friends, colleagues, family members, and acquaintances. On LinkedIn, complete strangers are clicking on your profile to learn more about your professional achievements. Of course, you may be connected with people that you personally know, including current and past colleagues, but the large majority of profile views come from people you have never met.
What is the benefit of connecting with other members?
Members connect with one another to share information. If you think LinkedIn is only used for job searching, you are missing out on all of the great things your network can offer. There is no denying that LinkedIn has gained popularity in the job hunting world, replacing the outdated practice of posting a CV on Monster and CareerBuilder in favor of a more actively connecting with hiring managers and companies directly. Recruiters also have direct access to message any of LinkedIn’s members whom they feel would be an asset to their company. But this is only a drop in the bucket of what professional networking is all about. Junior professionals can ask for advice from the experts in their industry while seasoned professionals are able to bounce ideas off of other thought leaders, which they can then follow to stay on top up industry news and trends. For example, since I am in the staffing business let’s say I am interested in investing in a new Applicant Tracking System where I can manage my candidate pool. The investment is going to be substantial in time and money. Before committing on a program I can reach out to other recruiters to learn about their Applicant Tracking Systems to find out which one(s) they like the best and why. Without LinkedIn, not only would I lack access to these recruiters, but I may not even know they exist.
But what about the downside?
On the flip side, there is a dark side to LinkedIn, including heavy amounts of spam, irrelevant content on your feed, recruiters that borderline stalk you, and an excessive number of messages in your inbox that you don’t have the time nor motivation to return. One option is to completely remove yourself from LinkedIn, but the benefits of being a member far outweigh the negatives. That said, is there a way to minimize the downside to create a better LinkedIn experience?
Why Does Your Profile Matter?
All of the content you receive on LinkedIn revolves around your profile. Your profile is your public billboard. It provides free advertisement, highlights your education, job history, achievements, and professional recommendations. The more impressive your profile, the more thought leadership power you will have and the easier your profile will be found by the type of people you want to network with. As we will discuss later, each part of your profile matters. Your profile also determines the content of your “feed” thanks to LinkedIn’s algorithms. A poor profile can do more harm than good. You will be poorly branded, your profile will not be found by relevant searches (meaning you will not be found by people you want to be found by), and in most cases, attract more irrelevant content on your feed and untargeted messages.
Your Profile and Career Opportunities
LinkedIn estimates that around 70% of their users are passively open to better opportunities. To some extent, it is shocking this number isn’t higher. It is always a good idea to have your finger on the pulse of what is going on in your industry including who’s hiring, what skills are in demand, and what your competitors are paying. The best time to find a job is when everything is going well in your current position. Your judgment isn’t clouded by the need for change. The opportunities that pique your interest are those that offer some form of advancement, whether for financial gain or developing additional skills. The better your profile, the better, and more relevant, job opportunities will come your way.
If you are engaged in a job search, realize that potential employers use LinkedIn as an added tool to vet their candidates. They can see if you share any mutual connections, have posted interesting and meaningful content and can read recommendations left by past and present colleagues.
If you are a hiring manager, be prepared for candidates to research your profile before an interview. You can see who has done their homework based on their familiarity with your experience, leading to better Q&A sessions and overall better interviews.
How Does LinkedIn Determine Your Feed?
Not only does LinkedIn allow professionals to communicate, but they also have algorithms to determine what content they seem meets your interests. Your newsfeed is based on trending topics and popular posts. Basically, the more an article or update is liked and shared, the more likely it is to make it on your newsfeed.
These updates can include articles that are trending in your industry, geographic region or other demographic that matches your profile. They can also include updates from companies you are currently following, including your own company. You will see updates from your connections including their posts, articles, job changes, and work anniversaries. One thing that many people don’t realize is you can also follow thought leaders without them following you back. For example, you can follow influencers such as Bill Gates or Richard Branson to have access to their posts.
Your feed also includes paid advertisements. LinkedIn offers multiple marketing products that allow companies to target specific audiences. In fact, LinkedIn has continued to add advertisement services. There are multiple pay per click/impression banners, “sponsored updates”, and even “sponsored inMails.” Sponsored updates appear on your LinkedIn feed, usually the second or third update. You can tell when content is sponsored as there will be a note saying “sponsored” or “promoted.” Basically, the company paid for the update to target you. Sponsored InMails are similar but appear as messages in your inbox. Just like sponsored updates they target members using specific search criteria. Sponsored content allows companies to target specific users that fit a given search criteria.
The better your profile and more active you are on LinkedIn, the more relevant the content you will receive from all sources.
Did you know: You are able to change the type of content you receive through “Settings” which will help cut down on content? Unfortunately, any paid advertisements, update, or InMails cannot be blocked.
How Do Recruiters Find You?
All of LinkedIn’s users have access to basic search parameters, allowing to search for people, jobs, and content. You can take that one step further by conducting an advanced search which gives access to additional features such as current companies, industries, and schools just to name a few. What you may not know is that LinkedIn has a paid service for recruiters that allows access to a much more detailed set of search criteria. An exhaustive list includes: Job Title (Current or Past), Location/Postal Code (inclusion and exclusion), Skills, Companies (Current or Past), Employment Type (Contract or Perm), School, Year of Graduation, Fields of Study, Degrees, Industries, Keywords, Spoken Languages, Profile Languages, First Name, Last Name, Network Relationship (1St Connection, 2nd, 3rd and everyone else, Group Members), When the user joined LinkedIn, Years of Experience, Years in Current Company, Years in Current Position, Seniority, Military Veterans, Company Type, Company Size, Company Followers, Job Functions, People with Past Messages (either with or without messages in a given timeframe), and Past Applicants (who applied to previous postings). There is also access to add notes to profiles, add profiles to projects, and set reminders for follow up.
The more detailed the search, the more accurate the results. The more complete and updated your profile, the more you will come upon the right searches.
In addition, LinkedIn has added a function to lets recruiters know you are open to opportunities. What makes this special is that none of your colleagues or any affiliates of your company will have access to this notification. In other words, only outside recruiters who utilize LinkedIn’s premium Recruiter platform have access to this information. Members who are open to opportunities are much more likely to receive recruiter outreach.
How Can You Determine if Your LinkedIn Profile Is Working Against You?
If you find that you are receiving too many irrelevant updates or unwanted messages from recruiters, your profile is most likely the cause. The same is true if you are not being targeted by industry leaders or competitors. A lack of messages can be just as harmful as being exposed to a plethora of content that you are not interested in. No one strives to be the most uninteresting person on social media.
In either circumstance, 90% of the times, it means that your profile is either outdated or incomplete. You may be receiving too many irrelevant messages from recruiters (or you may not be targeting all) because your profile is showing up in search results based on outdated or incomplete fields and LinkedIn may be pointing content based on minimal or outdated algorithm data.
Small changes can make great impacts. Follow LinkedIn’s best practices and make sure that your profile is up to date, complete, and try to be active at least once a month to ensure you are networking.
Stay tuned next week for 10 LinkedIn Profile Best Practices to create an impactful profile.
The Headhunter Guide is RECRUITER WRITTEN'S way to provide insider's knowledge to candidates and employers alike. Enjoy!