Like anything actually worth doing in life, whipping your LinkedIn page into shape takes time, effort, and brainpower. And because we only have two of these three things, we enlisted the help of Ceren Nomer—a pro recruiter who is constantly prowling LinkedIn for quality candidates—to detail what's going wrong with the common LinkedIn profile, and more importantly, how we can fix it.
LinkedIn can quite literally change your life. It's time to take it seriously.
You have a crappy photo
Unfortunately, you are going to be judged by your photo. While this doesn't mean you need to head to your local mall for glamour shots, make sure the pic doesn't look like you took it with a Motorola Razr... and you should probably leave the nunchucks and Jäger out of the frame. "I would recommend having a picture that suits the type of companies that you are looking for. For example, for finance you would want a suit, but for startups you would want something more laid back. Ideally, no pictures with alcohol."
A standard rule for these pictures is to wear what you would wear on a first interview in your industry. Over the past year, LinkedIn has introduced a cover photo option. While this isn't necessarily imperative to use, it adds to the overall, full-package—and can be used for shameless self-promotion, if you're into that kind of thing.
Your headline makes no sense
Aside from your name and photo, the first thing people are going to see is your professional headline. "Entrepreneur at Large Who Does Social Media Jiu Jitsu" is not an accurate career description. No one is coming to LinkedIn to bask in your wit. Being vague won't get you anywhere either—embrace your speciality! Instead of just putting "Marketing," put "Feline Marketer and Social Media Cat Expert," if that's what you are bringing to the table.
You haven't made a custom URL
This accomplishes a few things: first off, having your profile link as "LinkedIn.com/KurtCobain," instead of "LinkedIn.com/dsfjbcd-94321132qweg" looks more professional. It will also make it all the easier for people to find you, which on LinkedIn is what you should be going for. Lastly, it will give you the opportunity to give others your profile address out loud while networking in real life. People still do that, right?
Your summary sucks
What's the biggest turn-off Ceren sees on LinkedIn pages? "Having a really weird summary. For example, when an individual talks about themselves in the third person and says how awesome they are and how lucky any company would be to get them, that to me says they might not get along with people and could posses a diva personality."
Your summary is your elevator pitch. Once you have someone's attention, you have a few seconds to convince someone you are valuable. Think of it as a succinct, applicable cover letter. Be conversational, but keep the focus on your career.
You copied and pasted your resume
For all intents and purposes, LinkedIn should be your resume on steroids. You have an opportunity to hyperlink to your work, references, and previous employers. You can highlight big projects you've worked on, and shed some light on what you've achieved. Include certifications, references, all of your education, and anything else that can make your profile more robust.
Bonus: LinkedIn has a built-in Resume Maker that can help adapt your skillfully-made profile into a streamlined resume.
You didn't check your grammar Having a few typos won't necessarily lose you a gig doing software analysis or operating a crane, but the mark of a professional is attention to detail. At the very least, a lack of errors shows you are trying. "Like a resume, this is for professional use and you want to put your best foot forward," according to Ceren.
You're leaving out contact info
This should go without saying, but like any resume, you should be including your detailed contact information at the bottom of your page. Even though interested parties can reach out to you via LinkedIn messages, it's always good to give alternative avenues (phone numbers, personal emails, etc.). If you have a personal website, link it.
You're not going incognito
Hopefully, if you're using LinkedIn, you know that the default privacy settings will alert someone whenever you view their profile. But it's easy enough to set your profile to "anonymous." Just click on your "Account and Settings," then into "Privacy and Settings," to find the option that will make yourself disappear, metaphorically speaking. This can be especially useful if you are cruising profiles while checking out a company you might want to potentially work for, or vetting someone you know will be interviewing you.
You're not using buzzwords
One thing Ceren stressed was the importance of keywords in a profile. Recruiters and employers are trained to quickly scan through multiple resumes/profiles to efficiently pick out candidates who have the right stuff. Obviously, these keywords will vary greatly from industry to industry, but you can use the resumes/profiles of proven professionals in your desired career field as a guiding light.
Using buzzwords and SEO is also key in the area of automated scanning, where companies use computers to file through resumes and profiles, picking up the ones that include the aforementioned keywords.
You're being too modest
As referenced previously, LinkedIn gives you the freedom to expand and detail your accomplishments beyond the constraints of a traditional resume—for example, including seemingly menial info like volunteer work, athletic endeavors, and more on your page can add another dimension to your overall professional presentation, according to Ceren. "Sports, volunteer work, and other organizations an individual participated in can say a lot about an individual. That being said, it's best to keep it short and sweet."
You think endorsements don't matter
"Endorsements matter, to a degree. When I notice a software engineer with 1-5 recommendations and none are in actual coding, that's a bit of a yellow flag," Ceren remarked. It's good to have endorsements on your page that come from trusted sources, like former bosses/colleagues, just to add a shred of credibility to your claims.
You're connecting with the wrong people
"Does having a large number of connections matter? Not at all," Ceren said. "For a recruiter, like me, yes. But not to job hunters." Bottom line: connect with the people who matter in your industry. Don't worry about collecting connections like Facebook likes. LinkedIn is not a popularity contest.
When you do connect, you're doing it the hard way
One of the most annoying parts about connecting with people on LinkedIn is having to answer a quick questionnaire proving that you actually know them from school, work, or mutual friends. There is a way around this. Instead of requesting a connection with someone on their profile page, request a connection on the search page. For whatever reason, this bypasses the interrogation process. You can also source your connections from your email address book, by going to the "Connections" tab and selecting "Add Connections." Also, disable notifications (it's all in your privacy tab) for your unimportant activity, so your connections aren't getting an email every time you add a minor update.
You're not joining any groups
There are thousands of professional groups on the site that make it easy to meet similarly motivated individuals. The groups themselves vary. There's college alumni support, specific corporations, geographical relevance, or just industries in general. The pages all have open forums, as well as job postings. Recruiters and employers can use these boards to vet potential hires, too. On top of these benefits, a solid collection of groups on your page can display extra motivation and interest to potential recruiters skimming your page.
You're searching all wrong
You actually don't need a premium subscription to LinkedIn in order to optimize your searches. The "advanced search" option gives you a handful of filters to help you find a specific person, company, or job that you may be looking for.
Perhaps even more useful, especially to job-hunters, is the "save-search" option. Whenever you search a keyword, an option ("Save Search" in the upper right-hand corner) gives you the ability to log your search and refer to it later. You can quickly circle back on old applications and job opportunities you stumbled upon, and you can even set-up alerts that will notify you when a specific company is hiring or when a certain job is posted.
You're treating LinkedIn like Facebook
Connecting with people you don't personally know is "against the rules" of LinkedIn, and for the most part, social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the platforms for humble-bragging, posting pictures of you partying, maintaining friendships, and bi-weekly political tirades. Not LinkedIn. Overall, it's important to understand your LinkedIn profile is more of a career tool than a social outlet. Treat it as an extension of your job.
Ceren and most employers/recruiters agree: LinkedIn is rapidly becoming one of the easiest ways to link (!) a potential employer with a potential employee, and it's only getting bigger.
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