Most job seekers know it’s important to add a recent, professional-looking photo to their LinkedIn profile. But did you know that not posting a photo may prevent recruiters from finding your LinkedIn profile in a job search?
LinkedIn is unquestionably the social network for job-seeking professionals—or even if you’re not looking right now. Ninety-two percent of recruiters use social media in their work today, and LinkedIn is the social network they use most, according to Jobvite.
And yet, many job seekers don’t maximize LinkedIn to help them find jobs. Instead, they copy and paste their resume and hope the right employer finds them. Compounding the problem: Some professionals in their mid 40s and up may not be as social-media savvy as younger colleagues and don’t know how to leverage LinkedIn, says Sue Gresham, a Milwaukee-based LinkedIn consultant.
Here are 10 LinkedIn strategies, tools and tips you might not have known about, each of which can put you one step closer to a new job—or new career.
1. Make yourself memorable with great stories.
Recruiters and hiring managers are like anyone else—they respond to story-telling rather than mind-numbing lists of facts. Plus, research shows that stories can aid memory. So telling a good story or two in your LinkedIn profile could make you more memorable to recruiters.
Example: For each job you post on your profile, don’t simply state your responsibilities. Weave an interesting tale about your successes in the job, Gresham recommends. Most important, explain the problems and how you solved them, especially if you came up with creative solutions to important challenges. Keep your narrative succinct; a lengthy yarn could be a turnoff to busy recruiters.
2. Focus on where you’re going versus where you’ve been.
Professionals at mid-career are often looking to reinvent themselves after years of working in a specific type of job or industry, Gresham says. But too often, their LinkedIn profiles only reflect where they’ve been. Instead, focus your profile on where you want to go.
Find your ideal jobs, then build your profile around those, Gresham advises. For example, while it’s tempting to list tons of skills from all your years of experience, keep your focus on what’s relevant to the job you’re seeking. And by all means, remove skills you no longer want to use in a job. Gresham says she once listed Facebook consultant among her skills on LinkedIn but deleted it when she decided she no longer wanted to do Facebook consulting.
3. Keep it fresh.
A LinkedIn profile should be a “living, breathing document” that clearly represents what makes you “unique and worth hiring,” Gresham says, not a static set-and-forget online resume. One way to keep your profile alive: regularly share updates on topics related to your field, just as you share updates on Facebook.
Posting long-form content, such as LinkedIn blog posts, is “another great way to catch a recruiter’s eye,” says LinkedIn’s Career Expert Catherine Fisher. You can “share thought leadership advice, insights on the day’s top stories or industry trends to reinforce your experience,” which helps position you as an expert in your chosen field.
4. Get visual.
In the Instagram age, many people respond well to visual content, so whenever possible, make your LinkedIn profile more visual, Gresham advises.
Have you won awards, or do you have impressive degrees or certifications? Great—post photos of them on your profile, rather than simply listing them in text. If you’ve given a well-received presentation, post it on SlideShare (which LinkedIn owns) and add it to your LinkedIn profile. (Here’s how.) If you’ve appeared in or produced an interesting video, post that to your LinkedIn profile, too.
5. Make yourself accessible.
One common mistake on LinkedIn is not making it clear how others can reach you via email or phone, Gresham says. LinkedIn limits the number of InMails its paid users can send, and doesn’t allow members of its free service to send InMails at all. That’s why it’s important to list your email address and phone number prominently in your profile, such as in your summary.
6. Directly contact hiring managers and recruiters.
Thanks to caller ID and overflowing email inboxes, contacting important businesspeople is getting increasingly difficult, notes Bob Bentz, president of Purplegator, a mobile marketing agency and a LinkedIn power user. “LinkedIn is a job seeker’s best friend because it avoids gatekeepers—the guard dogs of important executives,” he says. “In fact, LinkedIn is probably the only place where you can get a message directly to the person doing the hiring,” via InMail.
Bentz offers additional advice on composing your InMail: “I recommend sending a LinkedIn message on Sunday. C-level executives usually spend Sunday night preparing for the week ahead, and one thing they do is check their LinkedIn page. They’ll be impressed by the fact you’re working on a Sunday. It’s important that your initial message simply introduce you and not be overly pushy. You want the executive to see your credentials on LinkedIn and remember who you are. Try to find some common ground in your message. Mention the people you’ve already met in the interview or screening process and compliment their personality and professionalism. This isn’t the time to pitch for the job. That will come later.”
7. Think of LinkedIn as a search engine.
LinkedIn is as much a search engine as Google, one focused on finding professionals, recruiters, companies and jobs, says Lori Bumgarner, a career and passion coach. Use it to search for recruiters in your industry. Example: If you’re in advertising, you might do a search on advertising recruiters.
You can browse for jobs using Linkedin's "Jobs you may be interested in" page, too
On the flip side: Recruiters search for candidates using keywords, so it’s important to build out your Skills & Endorsements section with relevant keywords for which you want to be found.
“Most people think this section of their profile doesn’t matter,” says Donna Svei, a retained search consultant and executive resume writer. But hiring managers and recruiters use LinkedIn Recruiter, a premium plan designed for recruiters, to search for possible job candidates. And LinkedIn users who “build out their Skills & Endorsements section with the keywords that internal and external recruiters use to find people like them are much more likely to be featured in recruiters’ search results,” Svei explains. “That increases relevant profile views and the chance you’ll get the nod for a first interview.”
Bumgarner suggests putting a short keyword phrase in your profile’s name field too. Though unconventional, this tactic can help recruiters immediately understand what you do and will help your profile rank higher for that phrase in keyword searches. You can see how Bumgarner incorporated keywords in her name in her LinkedIn profile.
8. Never say you’re seeking new opportunities.
Most experts agree that you should not mention your job search in your LinkedIn profile—especially if you’re employed. Recruiters don’t use terms like job seeker in their searches, notes Sonja Hastings, a software and tech sales recruiter for Optimal Sales Search. In fact, they may actually avoid profiles with the word seeking in them, adds Bumgarner. Another reason: putting job seeker or in transition in your profile “makes you look a little desperate,” notes Gresham.
The website Job Hunt offers tips on how to position yourself on LinkedIn when you’re unemployed.
9. Clean up your other social media profiles.
While LinkedIn is by far the most important social network job recruiters use, it’s by no means the only one. According to the Jobvite survey, Facebook is the second most visited social network among recruiters (55 percent, versus 87 percent for LinkedIn). If recruiters don’t like what they find out about you on another social network, it can kill your chances at getting hired.
Gresham says a client of hers, a woman in her 50s, was in the final stages of negotiating a job offer to be CFO of a major corporation. A C-level executive at the company found the woman’s Facebook profile, which contained some provocative, “politically incorrect” posts. The job offer was rescinded.
10. Post a professional photo—so recruiters can find you.
A lack of a LinkedIn profile photo is the kiss of death, experts agree. It makes your profile look suspicious. It also makes your LinkedIn profile incomplete, and LinkedIn favors completed profiles in the search results that recruiters and others see, says Gresham.
In fact, LinkedIn members who include a profile photo receive up to 21 times more profile views, notes Fisher. “Your photo is your virtual handshake, so upload a photo that aligns with your role as a professional, but that makes you approachable,” she adds. “And remember to keep it professional! Unless you’re a veterinarian, a photo with your cat is probably not the best choice.”
As tempting as it may be for someone in mid- or late-career to post a photo of themselves taken 10 or more years ago, don’t do it, Gresham warns. If you’re called in for an interview, the age difference will immediately be apparent. And your interviewer may wonder what else you’re hiding.
If nothing else, an out-of-date photo is inauthentic. And being authentic is always a good strategy on social media—as well as in job interviews.