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Think of the position you want. Now imagine a hiring manager. She helps run a successful, profitable company, and she’s searching LinkedIn for an impressive candidate to fill that very position you’ve been dreaming of. You pop up in her search results, and she clicks on your picture to learn more about you. Now think of your LinkedIn profile; think of what she’ll be seeing.

If imagining this recruiter viewing your profile in its current state makes you feel like the weakest link on LinkedIn, then it’s time to make some career-boosting changes to it. Without guidance, this is a daunting task. But you have found guidance, my friend, broken down bit by bit. Let’s look at some general, overarching principles to keep in mind, and then we’ll dive into how to best approach each particular section of the LinkedIn profile.

The Gist

Overall, your LinkedIn profile should communicate that you are a sharp, valuable professional. It’s helpful to compare your LinkedIn profile to an interview. Think of the work we put into interviews, before and during them, to impress recruiters.

We dedicate ample time to researching the position, company, and what we’ll say; we strategize the perfect outfit and obsessively iron out every wrinkle; we make sure not a hair is out of place. This is our one chance to impress this person, so there’s no way we’ll present ourselves as anything less than professional and impressive.

The same principle applies to your LinkedIn profile. Dot every “i”; cross every “t”. Your LinkedIn profile is a free viewing for recruiters of the way you represent yourself and the quality of the effort and attention-to-detail you put into your work.

Take Advantage of Space!

As someone who has helped with many a resume in my day, I cannot tell you how many people stress over not being able to fit everything they want an employer to see onto a one-page resume, only to take for granted one of the best things LinkedIn has to offer its users: MORE SPACE!

The beauty of an online resume is the scrollbar: it’s all one continuous page where you can include every job experience, educational accomplishment, relevant skill, and recommendation you deem worthy of advertising your professional value.

Also, make sure to upload your resume (PDF format!!!) to your profile. LinkedIn offers so many different sections through which you can showcase your value. Why would you not take full advantage of this opportunity to display every accomplishment and experience you want to? If the space is there, why squander it?

Language

The language you use will have a bigger impact than any other element in your profile. By language, I mean several different things:

1. Writing Mechanics – Your spelling, grammar, and punctuation should be flawless. If English wasn’t your thing in school, have a couple people check it over for you. Mechanical errors make you appear unpolished and sloppy, and yet they’re so easy to avoid! Don’t let some ill-placed commas cost you that next rung on the career ladder.

2. Appearance – Make sure your formatting looks nice. Great content is crucial, but so is the way you present it. Besides just being pleasant to look at, it should not appear daunting to read. Employers are busy, and they look through tons of resumes and LinkedIn profiles.

If the content on your profile appears like a Victor Hugo novel, they’re probably going to move on or at least not read it with the focus and attention you want them to. So make sure there’s a good amount of white space. Don’t be afraid to separate information into several different paragraphs. This will add to your white space, and each paragraph won’t be so dense. Lists or bullet points are handy as well.

3. Word Choice – Take all those overused, tired, haggard clichés, put them in a bag, tie it up real tight, walk it far, far away…keep walking…farther…now throw it in the trash.

Use fresh language that hasn’t lost its meaning from overuse. You have a passion for photography? No, no, no. Photography brings you profound personal fulfillment. You’re a motivated person? Absolutely not. You possess innate energy and enthusiasm that drives you and those around you.

Additionally, be specific. You contributed and executed several valuable ideas while working for Spotify? Awesome – what were they and how did they improve the company? What were your results?

Lastly, your writing should reflect your personality, not that of a robot. Speak professionally, but naturally. First-person point-of-view is best; third-person can come across as insincere or pompous. Remember that not only do recruiters want someone who’s qualified, but they want someone everyone will enjoy working with.

4. Branding – The last component of the kind of language you’ll want to employ is branding. LinkedIn will do you little good if your profile doesn’t accurately advertise your professional identity.

This means you’ll need to use verbiage specific to your industry, branding words and phrases that say to the recruiter “I am one of you.” One way to do this is to be specific in every section of your profile. Rather than vague descriptions of your skills and job descriptions, provide nuanced examples of that validate your claims and that show readers you know the nitty-gritty ins-and-outs of the business.

Secondly, if your content is too broad, you won’t come across as a focused pro who’s well-versed in your field. Try to infuse a focused theme into your profile. This might mean excluding an irrelevant job or tailoring your job descriptions to fit this theme.

Keywords

Not only is it important to make your profile look amazing, you also need to know how to actually get people to it. LinkedIn earns most of its revenue from recruiters looking for possible candidates to hire. They use LinkedIn’s search engine to find these candidates.

For example, a recruiter at a marketing agency might search for “social media marketing” to find people with experience in this area. Now here’s the key part (sorry, bad pun): LinkedIn is going to order the search results list, in part, according to who has those words mentioned most on their profile. Case in point: fill your page with words associated with the position you’re looking to fill.

Sounds simple, but there’s a catch. It matters where you put the keywords. For instance, you could appear higher on that search results list if you have a smattering of keywords in your headline rather than in your summary. LinkedIn changes its search engine logarithms every so often, so you’ll have to research and keep up with these changes if you want optimal results. From your keywords.

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Forward Thinking

Your LinkedIn should not be just a bio of your past and present educational and professional life. You want to also communicate where you want to go. Most people don’t want to stay at their current level forever; most have an ultimate career goal in mind they’re working toward.

Share your career aspirations. The tone of your profile should be one of excitement to grow, eagerness to learn, and enthusiasm to set and achieve goals. This will not only let employers know what kind of job you’re looking for, but they will also be impressed with your drive and sense of direction.

 

Now that we’ve addressed general principles to keep in mind, let’s focus on specific sections of the Linkedin profile. 

Pictures

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As much as we’d all love to live in a world free of bias, the reality is that appearance plays into many of our decisions, often unconsciously. It’s why we look behind the dented can of Dr. Pepper to get to the dent-free one. So do what you need to do to capture a professional photo of yourself.

No selfies. One more time for the people in the back. NO SELFIES. No cropped wedding or group event photos. No hiking or vacation shots. Would you walk into an interview in your cargo shorts and Aloha shirt? No? Then don’t showcase them on your LinkedIn either. A couple great options are a nice headshot or a polished picture of you doing your job. For example, this is a great “in-action” profile picture for a videographer.

Your cover photo should be professional as well and relevant to what you’re doing currently or your ultimate career aspirations. If you’re in sales, for instance, a picture of a sales trajectory graph would be appropriate.

Job Title and Headline

Many don’t realize that the headline section is prime marketing real estate and shrug it off as inconsequential. The truth is that when someone finds you on LinkedIn, your photo and headline are the two first things they will see before clicking on your picture and heading over to your profile page. In a search results list full of many qualified candidates, these two things need to compel recruiters to go to your page instead of someone else’s.

Your headline shouldn’t just say what you do for a living. It needs to catch attention. One option is to approach it like a “so what?” You’re a videographer – so what? Why should someone hire you over another videographer? Here’s an example for this particular approach: instead of “Videographer for Maxed Out Media,” a stronger option would be “Unique ability to capture your special vision and translate it authentically to the screen”.

Another approach is to communicate not just what you’re currently doing, but what you’re looking to do. Instead of “Videographer for Maxed out Media,” something more effective would be “Experienced Videographer Seeking to Capture Innovative Footage at Professional Sporting Events”.

This will weed out recruiters looking to hire for a job you’re not interested in. lastly, your headline should be specific rather than vague, making it very easy for recruiters to figure out your professional identity and what kind of job you’re looking for. It should use branding language that easily clues others into the industry you’re part of.

Summary

The summary section is open to interpretation; there are many different ways to go about it. There is a wide array of sites with formulas, templates, and examples to help you get started, and I highly suggest checking those out.

To create my own LinkedIn summary, I viewed a slew of different examples and combined what I liked from each one. There are, however, some important guidelines to remember when writing your summary.

First, LinkedIn is currently set up to only reveal the first couple lines of the summary. If a visitor to your page wants to read the rest, he has to click “See More”. In reality, the vast majority of employers are going to scan over those first couple lines very quickly and if they aren’t interesting, they’re not going to care to see the rest of the summary.

For this reason, your first couple sentences need to be awesome. In fact, the summary overall needs to be intriguing. Some possible ways to achieve this are through humor (when/where appropriate), an anecdote, or a quote. Of course, these are just a few ideas. Remember that the summary is the first big section on your page, so it needs to convince the reader that your profile is worth spending some more time on.

Another good rule of thumb is to leave plenty of white space. In other words, don’t make recruiters wade through 4 dense paragraphs. They don’t have the time and, unless you’re as interesting as the Dos Equis guy, they don’t have the patience.

When writing your summary, remember to apply the principles mentioned earlier: your language should be specific, free of mechanical errors, fresh (no clichés), it should focus on your accomplishments rather than duties, it should reflect your genuine personality, and it should have industry-specific verbiage.

Again, there is a variety of templates, formulas, and examples of the summary section to be found online, but here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing: starting the summary with a quote about you from people you’ve worked with or for, starting with a quote that reflects your approach to your work, rich media relevant to your career (for instance, if you’re a graphic designer, you can upload one of your designs), a funny or inspiring anecdote, or simply a well-written description of what you do and the accomplishments you’ve achieved.

Experience

This section, of course, should consist of your applicable past work experience. If a company you previously worked for had a somewhat obscure title for your position or a title that wouldn’t be widely recognized by the public, change it to something more standard.

Also, don’t beef up any of your titles to something misleading. This goes for this whole section and your whole profile. Most people will see right through it and, if they don’t, they’re going to a little frustrated when the truth comes out in your interview.

Use your best judgment when deciding which previous jobs to include. I, personally, have opted not to include the position I held as a crepe maker in my college’s cafeteria in between more relevant jobs. Besides this position’s irrelevancy to my career trajectory, it also didn’t last very long. This is something you want to keep in mind.

It doesn’t look great to an employer to have 3 different jobs in a row that you spent 6 months at. Exercise your best judgment here.
Another place to exercise judgment is how far to go back in your job history. While your earliest jobs are more than likely irrelevant and so old that they don’t seem worth mentioning, they actually might be. I include mine because I think it says something good about me that I worked a steady job as a high school student. Now once I’m older and far enough into my career that it really is just silly to mention these early jobs, I’ll remove them.

As far as formatting, I strongly recommend bullet points rather than paragraph style. They’re quick and easy to read and cut out a lot of unnecessary words. The writing of great bullet points in your experience section is a subject in itself, so check out this article on that: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140929001534-24454816-my-personal-formula-for-a-better-resume/

Education

This section is really pretty straight-forward. No, you definitely do not need to include your high school in your education section. I’ll just get that out of the way since I’m asked it quite a bit. Other than that, list your educational pursuits. Even list ones that aren’t “relevant” – getting more education is never a bad thing, and it will show potential employers you work ethic, interest in learning, and diversity.

Volunteer Experience

Who doesn’t want a good person working for them? This is why it’s a great idea to include your volunteer experience, even if it doesn’t seem relevant. Volunteering is about caring and giving, so of course, most or all of it probably won’t be “relevant” to your career.

Plus, your volunteer experience allows the recruiters to see that you’re not just a corporate robot – you’re a well-rounded, relatable human being. This is always a good thing. You can list your volunteer experiences and add descriptions to them. Make sure to apply the principles found in the “Language” section above.

Skills, Endorsements, and Recommendations

List as many skills as you have – again, even “irrelevant” ones. You never know what odd extra duty a job might include that requires one of your “unrelated” skills, and it never looks bad to have diverse abilities. Get as many endorsements for each skill as you can, especially the most relevant ones.

A great way to do this is to endorse others; they’ll usually endorse you back. Other than that, there’s nothing wrong with tactfully asking someone who’s seen you exercise a particular to endorse you for it.

I’m a big fan of recommendations. For the most part, your LinkedIn profile consists of you making positive claims about yourself, but a recommendation from someone else gives those claims validity. You can add them to your actual recommendations section, but you can also put them in other sections that they apply to.

For example, I have a letter of recommendation from one of my college professors in my education section. If you feel comfortable, tell the person writing you the recommendation if there’s anything specific you’ll like them to say about you in it.

This doesn’t mean, “make sure to mention that I get along really well with coworkers.” If you know the company you want to be hired by cares a great deal about co-workers getting along, have a past coworker who’s seen how well you interact with your colleagues write the letter.

Say something like, “It would be awesome if you could talk a little about my interactions with coworkers.” This way you’re steering them in the right direction, but not tooting your own horn or acting entitled.

Accomplishments

I’ve gotta hand it to LinkedIn: they’ve thought of just about everything a person could want to add to their profile. In the Accomplishments section are the following subsections: Publications, Certifications, Patents, Courses, Projects, Honors & Awards, Test Scores, Languages, and Organizations.

Use as many of these as you can! Take advantage of the basically unlimited space to list your achievements. Of course, only include things that are noteworthy and at least somewhat impressive. Don’t add the test score you got a B- in. Your senior project from high school probably shouldn’t make the cut. These subsections are pretty straightforward; you mainly need to fill out some fields, such as dates, title, license #, course #, etc. Some of them provide a “Description” space. If you opt to use this, follow the principles detailed in the “Language” section above.

Well, that about covers it. It’s go time: dedicate some time and effort into making that profile page sparkle. Then once you’re done, reimagine that recruiter scanning over your beautiful page and think of what she’ll be seeing, and enjoy that warm and fuzzy feeling.