I have 15 suggestions for a robust LinkedIn profile that creates a great first impression, drives traffic and bolsters your credibility in a job search or client pitch.
- Have a great photo. Profiles with photos generate more search matches and views, and better photos lead to better outcomes. Present yourself as you would for your best client, board of directors and/or CEO. Soft lighting, neutral backgrounds and keen attention to hair, jewelry and wardrobe are often the best choices. Avoid shiny foreheads, and choose clothing and background colors that match your personality and target roles. Above all, make viewers want to meet you (virtually or otherwise).
- Help people contact you. Include a personal email address, even if you create a new one for LinkedIn due to privacy concerns.
- Use your headline well. Your headline is prime real estate. People need to understand who you are and what you do. “Partner at ABC Inc.” shares very little. You could be a lawyer, architect or data scientist. Compound headlines can work well, such as “Product Manager | Technology | VP @ ABC.” Buzzwords like “Experienced” waste space without adding value. The best headline is unique to you, so play around until you get it right.
- Don’t sound desperate. Even if you are unemployed and desperate, don’t use “Actively seeking opportunities” as your headline. As on the dating front, desperate is not a good look for a job seeker. People want to date (and hire) someone who is in demand (i.e., someone other people also want), so look and speak the part in your LinkedIn presentation. Yes, it’s often a game, but it’s a game to win. Indicate your value, not your needs.
- Sound approachable.First-person is often recommended as more interactive and inviting, although some professionals prefer a third-person summary. While retaining your professionalism, sound like someone recruiters, hiring managers, clients and other potential connections would like to meet. Avoid jargon, unless you are only seeking roles for which such jargon is expected (i.e., only outsiders use the long form of a phrase).
- Write how people read.People read differently on screens and devices. Short paragraphs with easily digestible words are always a better choice. If your role is highly complex, don’t dumb it down, but strive to make it readable.
- Include keywords artfully. Job descriptions can help you define the keywords and concepts that are relevant to your audience. Don’t stuff your profile with keywords, but make sure to include them so you are found in a keyword search based on your target roles.
- Reflect accomplishments. If information is or can be made public, include anything that constitutes “bragging rights” for your career. Don’t show off, but don’t undersell yourself either. In general, try to quantify your accomplishments in a meaningful way that demonstrates you bring results.
- Avoid the “resume dump.”While algorithms improve every day, and LinkedIn is a recruiting tool that threatens to obviate the traditional resume, the style of LinkedIn is different. Strive to reveal information that places you as a competitive candidate without sounding like your profile is simply a job search marketing tool (even if it is). If this is unclear, refer back to No. 5 above.
- Expect your employer to read your profile. Be on alert that your current or prior employer will likely view your profile. If there are compliance policies, follow them. If information is proprietary, don’t reveal it. Write a profile that promotes (or at least is not in conflict with) your present role, unless you are willing to risk a current job for the sake of the next one. In all areas, use your best judgment.
- Proofread vigilantly. I have seen profiles of high-level executives with typos in their headlines. Need I say more? Yes, I will say more. Put descriptions of prior roles in past tense. Make sure dates match your resume. Keep capitalization and punctuation consistent. If you have multiple entries, have them match (e.g., Master of Science and Bachelor of Arts, not M.S. and Bachelor of Arts). Print out your profile, and keep proofing until you can’t stand it anymore. Start at the bottom and read up if it eases the burden.
- Delete irrelevant information.As you are completing your proofreading, delete the Twitter account you never use and website from two jobs ago. Remove your high school, unless it’s a highly recognizable one that will help you make connections. Consider streamlining earlier employment entries, unless they contain valuable keywords or experience that explains your current career narrative.
- Get recommendations. It is human nature to be swayed by good referrals. Even a hardened cynic (who preaches that recommendations are hogwash because they are edited and selective) will hold you in greater esteem based on public praise. Seek recommendations from highly-placed individuals, former colleagues, direct reports and/or others who know you well in a professional context. You can shore up recommendations offline and then place a formal request on LinkedIn.
- Be active.Activity on LinkedIn raises your score in algorithmic search results (user engagement is good for the platform and an essential element of LinkedIn’s business model). Post relevant information or comment and “like” others’ contributions, either publicly or within relevant groups. LinkedIn is not Facebook; business-oriented posts set the right tone. If you have a flair for writing, consider adding an article on LinkedIn Pulse. A relevant article or well-placed comment that garners respect from the right audience could be the start or growth of a great business relationship.
- Customize your URL.Your LinkedIn URL should resemble this: linkedin.com/in/yourname. If your name is taken, try a combination with initials or otherwise. For instructions, search LinkedIn Help or type “LinkedIn customize URL” into a search engine. Once your link is customized, you can include it on your resume and/or email signature.
While your profile can be further tweaked to promote your experience, personal value proposition and other variables, these universal tips set the foundation for increased credibility and discoverability on LinkedIn.