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What Matters More: Your Résumé or LinkedIn?

Understanding the differences can help your job-hunting

person holds a resume in front of a laptop


En español | When it comes to landing a job, what is the most effective way to make a first impression: your résumé or your profile on a career-focused social-networking website, such as LinkedIn?

That’s a trick question. The correct answer is both. The best way to get as much attention as possible from recruiters is to keep both your résumé and your profile on professional social networks up to date. There are, however, significant differences in how employers use each of these options when it comes to finding job candidates. Keeping these differences in mind can help you make sure that you’re getting the most benefit out of each of them when you’re looking for a new position.

The most important thing to keep in mind for both your résumé and your profiles is that both should emphasize your abilities more than your experience. Recruiters want to hear more about what you can do rather than how long you have been doing it. That means that instead of just listing job titles and duties, briefly describe what you accomplished — using data where possible — and how you achieved those goals.

“It’s not so much experience as it is energy,” says Tamara Jacobs, a certified professional coach who helps executives manage their careers. “You’re not hiring age, and you’re not really hiring experience. What you’re hiring is attitude and energy.”

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Résumés continue to be an invaluable tool. Because they can be printed out, they offer employers a quick summary of your career in a couple of pages they can take notes on or keep on their desks as they’re considering candidates. But gone are the days when you could use the same résumé for every job that you apply for. To help get your résumé noticed, you should revise it to make sure it highlights how your skills match the abilities described in the job posting, even using some of the same keywords when possible.

“It’s not one-size-fits-all,” says Jacobs.

A tailored résumé can work well for applications because it is mostly a private document. Each company only gets the version you submit for their opening. Job-focused social networking websites essentially work the opposite way. Your profile on the site is public, enabling recruiters to find candidates who have the skills and experience that fit their job openings. LinkedIn is the most prominent of these sites, with more than 150 million members. According to a recent report from Jobvite, a company that helps businesses find talent, 77 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to find candidates. But other job-focused sites such as Indeed and Monster also give you the opportunity to let employers know what you can do.

In addition to making it easier for recruiters to find you, these sites also enable you to show who you are in different ways, says Megan Golden, the group manager for global content marketing for LinkedIn. You can post videos that describe how you’ve solved problems on the job or share presentations you have given at conferences or other events. And because LinkedIn lets co-workers endorse your skills, employers can get a more complete picture of what you can do and how you’re regarded by peers and others in your field. 

The link to your profile on these networking sites is often easy to share in your email signature or other places, which can help you build your network (which can lead to more job opportunities).

One other thing to keep in mind about your résumé and your online profiles: Inconsistencies matter. When you make major updates or revisions to either one, make sure that you also change the other document so it matches. Big differences in the basic descriptions of your work history — job titles, in particular — can cause employers to question which biography they should believe, raising doubts that can cost you a job interview.