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7 Ways to Age-Proof Your LinkedIn Profile

Advice on whether to include a photo and how to show off your experience

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Age discrimination in employment can happen many different ways. Sometimes it starts at the very beginning of the hiring process, when employers review information such as social media profiles to screen candidates.

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According to a CareerBuilder survey, 70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process, while 43 percent of employers use social media to check on current employees. This means that if you aren't using social media to your best advantage, it may hurt your chances during the hiring process.

LinkedIn is one of the biggest networking sites for professionals. If you don't have a profile there, you should create one. It's worth the time and effort for older workers to join LinkedIn as this in itself shows you're up to date and can help you avoid some age bias. It's also a great place to connect with people in your industry, look for jobs, and let select people know you're looking for your next opportunity.

Here are some tips about how you can age-proof your LinkedIn profile, section-by-section:

1. Create a catchy headline

Just as a good newspaper headline makes you want to read the story, a good LinkedIn headline will entice people to review your profile. Make sure the headline quickly shows what you have to offer and includes relevant keywords that both human and automated recruiters will search for. (You can find those keywords in the language used in job postings you are interested in.) Also, don't include your years of work experience in the headline — unless you want to tip someone off about your age from the beginning.

2. Show passion in your summary

One of the best ways to convey that you've still got what it takes is to show that you're still passionate about your work and industry and that you're up to date on current trends. Showing this knowledge will make a recruiter or hiring manager take notice.

The summary is also the place to provide additional details about your experience, your achievements, and what you hope to do in the next phase of your career. Leave off the dates, and keep the information fresh and relevant to what you've done recently, not what you did 15 years ago.

3. Focus on the scope of your experience

In the experience section of your profile, think breadth, not length. You definitely don't want to include job history from more than 15 years ago. However, you do want to showcase the industries you have worked with, the skills you've acquired, and the achievements you've earned over the years. Just do so without the dates. A bulleted list works well.

Adding this information opens up your potential to recruiters who might have a variety of opportunities that suit you. Qualify and quantify your successes so a potential employer clearly sees that you have much to offer them beyond the number of years you've been around.

4. Include a recent photo.

Yes, a photo might show your age, but there's hard data that your profile is seven times more likely to be reviewed if it has a picture.

Use an honest and up-to-date photo while also making the image work for you, not against you. A black-and-white shot can hide gray hair and prevent a washed-out look. Dress as you would for an interview, smiling with your whole face to project energy, and use a pose that says you have the confidence and experience a younger person might not be able to provide.

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Do not use a younger photo of yourself. When the “older you” arrives for the interview, you could be seen as dishonest and hurt your chance to get hired.

5. Highlight your skills.

When you add items to the skills section of your LinkedIn profile, it allows other LinkedIn members to endorse you for those skills, shows recruiters what valuable traits you would bring to a position, and provides an opportunity to directly target the jobs that you want.

When adding to the skills section, don't include basic technology, like email, that most employers will assume you already know. If you're having trouble thinking of the right skills to include, ask a friend, mentor or former colleague to help brainstorm a list with you. In addition, take a look at the job listings that are of interest and make a list of the hard and soft skills that are repeatedly mentioned as “required” or “desirable.”

6. Consider a Premium membership.

Upgrading to LinkedIn Premium ($29.99 per month) has perks that can help your job search, including InMail. InMail allows you to message anyone (not just your connections) on LinkedIn. You can reach out to recruiters and other professionals before connecting with them on the platform. A Premium membership suggests that you are serious about using the platform to build connections.

When you're in your new job, you can choose to go back to the free account or keep paying for the advantages of the paid level.

7. Take the initiative.

Once your LinkedIn profile is complete, there's still work to be done. Start making connections with people in your current industry or even a related area. As you build your network and people get to know you, ask them to add endorsements to your profile for your areas of expertise (and do the same for them). The more endorsements you have, the more qualified you look to a potential employer.

There are enormous benefits to joining LinkedIn, especially for older job seekers who know how to use it. It's quite possible that someone in your network may point you to (and recommend you for) an opening at their company or one that's available with someone else in their network.

When this happens, your achievements and experiences are what sell you as a qualified candidate, while your age will become just a number on your hiring documents.

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