9 Ways To Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is a critical resource for professionals and job seekers. Yet, many people neglect their profiles or treat LinkedIn as an afterthought. While the platform ranks high in consumer trust, it consistently ranks low in engagement behind Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media platforms, according to Business Insider Intelligence.
“Most job seekers will be able to use LinkedIn as a fast resource to build a personal brand and get hired,” said Lucy Samuels, a communication coach and career brand strategist. “I recommend using it at least 10 minutes a day.”
Samuels told Career Tool Belt that while LinkedIn isn’t the only important platform, job-seekers ought to take it seriously and utilize its many features in order to land a job.
Top Tips for Optimizing LinkedIn
Samuels is unaffiliated with LinkedIn, but she has spent years coaching clients on best practices on the LinkedIn platform and beyond. Here are some of her top tips.
1. Your “headline” and “about” sections are extremely important.
When writing your LinkedIn profile, pay close attention to your “headline” and “about” sections. These sections are critical for searchability when a recruiter looks for employees via LinkedIn.
The “headline” defaults to your job title, but Samuels recommended beefing it up. She pointed to her own LinkedIn, which lists her headline as a “communication confidence coach, certified resume writer, learning and development facilitator.” It even includes the note “Helping you tell your professional stories + get hired.”
“You have 220 characters there,” Samuels said. “If your title is vague like ‘account executive,’ remember that other companies may be calling it something different. Things like ‘associate,’ ‘analyst’ – that’s your corporate title. It’s not functional. That headline might be bypassed.”
The “about” section is often neglected as well, said Samuels, but it allows for 2,600 characters and is a great place to include your personal messaging.
“You have them there at the top of your page. Give them a reason to keep going,” said Samuels. “Use a call to action, like ‘I’d love to connect!’ ‘Check out some of the projects I’ve built.’ ‘I’d love to connect if you’re looking to maximize your social media efforts.’ Tell people exactly what they should be doing next.”
2. Optimize your URL for sharing.
Did you know that you can change your LinkedIn URL? Many people still use their default URL, which is often a jumble of numbers. By optimizing your URL, you can use your LinkedIn much like a Twitter handle or a portfolio website that you put on your business card. Samuels recommends sharing your LinkedIn profile often.
“Have your LinkedIn profile link at the ready whenever you’re networking,” Samuels said. “Customize your URL so that it’s easy to remember.”
LinkedIn provides a tutorial on changing your URL here.
3. Use a professional photo and change the background.
Use a professional headshot if you have one, Samuels recommended. If not, try to get a good photo of yourself from your chest up.
“Employers should be able to recognize you. If they see you at a conference, they need to see your face later on LinkedIn,” said Samuels. “Use something professional and on-brand. It may not mean a three piece suit for everyone. It just has to reflect you.”
Samuels also recommended changing the background, which, if not changed, is a generic graphic with dots and lines.
“Create graphics that are on-brand for you, or select free stock photos,” Samuels said. “A data analyst might want sheets or data-oriented graphic. Some people are very well-rooted in their geographical location and will include a city skyline.”
4. Tell stories.
When outlining your work experience, Samuels recommended telling stories about your career successes.
“Don’t just say ‘I’m good at managing projects.’ Tell us about a challenge that you had. It doesn’t have to be a problem, it just needs to be something that had to be handled,” said Samuels. “Talk about the problem you solved, the action you took to solve it and what happened.”
Samuels also recommended quantifying your successes wherever possible to add legitimacy to your claims.
“Clients want numbers. Don’t just say you managed people, say how many people. Don’t say you cut the budget. By what percentage?” said Samuels.
5. Don’t be afraid of strangers.
Samuels recommended hitting up strangers through LinkedIn’s messaging service. When you request a connection, LinkedIn also gives you a 300-character introduction space, which job-seekers should maximize.
“It is perfectly acceptable to talk to strangers, but not acceptable to send someone a connection request with no introduction,” said Samuels. “Find some sort of a link between you. Maybe it’s ‘I went to NYU and studied public affairs too, and I love how you were able to use your degree.’ It’s not always ‘connect so you can hire me.’ That’s not usually the first step. Usually you have a conversation with someone, and often they don’t have hiring power.”
Samuels recommended following not only people, but also companies that interest you.
6. Update often, but use caution.
Make sure that your profile information is up-to-date. However, Samuels recommended exercising some caution. For example, you may want to wait before updating your profile after getting a new job, just in case it doesn’t work out.
“There’s no hard rule here. It’s a personal preference,” said Samuels. “You can decide whether you want to update right away, or say ‘after two weeks I’m good,’ or ‘I have to be on the job for a month before I advertise it on LinkedIn.”
Also, you may want to head to your LinkedIn Privacy settings and manage who sees your updates. You don’t want to inundate your connections with every update, like your profile pictures and work anniversaries.
7. Yes, endorsements and recommendations matter.
Endorsements on LinkedIn are ways for members to co-sign for one another. You can list 50 skills on your profile, and other members will “endorse” those skills. It’s more than just a little validation – the more endorsements you have, the higher you rank in a recruiter’s search. Recommendations, which are full-on testimonials, are worth even more in the LinkedIn search universe.
If you’re looking to beef up your recommendations and endorsements, Samuels recommended giving them to others.
8. Understand every feature.
Many features on LinkedIn are overlooked, even though they can be valuable networking tools, according to Samuels. Here are some functions you may not know about.
Job alerts: You can set up job alerts on LinkedIn. Simply input what you’re looking for and your notification preferences, and LinkedIn will do a lot of job-seeking groundwork for you. You can also note in your profile that you’re looking for a job, and the classification will only be seen by job recruiters.
Open to work: LinkedIn makes it easy for job seekers to let their network know about their job search. To post your update, start by updating your LinkedIn profile to enable the “Open To Work” feature.
Hashtag follow: You can follow hashtags almost like you follow people on LinkedIn. This will enable you to keep track of trends and opportunities that aren’t necessarily in your network.
News feed: Just like Facebook, LinkedIn has a news feed. Samuels recommended reading your feed, liking, sharing and commenting as a means of networking. “When you engage, people say ‘oh, who is that person?’ They see your name, photo and headline.”
Featured: Featured is a new category in every LinkedIn profile where individuals can display particular work that they[re proud of, such as an article or web project. It’s somewhat like a portfolio function, in addition to LinkedIn’s signature job experience listing.
Video: If video is part of your brand strategy, you can upload native videos to LinkedIn. The videos auto-play in peoples’ feeds, making it easy to grab peoples’ attention.
Tip: Avoid these 10 LinkedIn mistakes to be sure you’re doing all the right things to get noticed and build your brand.
9. Make sure your voice is genuine.
Samuels strongly recommended editing your profile thoroughly, not only for typos and poor grammar (which is a given), but also for authenticity.
“Proofread your LinkedIn profile yourself and read it aloud,” Samuels said. “Make sure it sounds like you. Your ‘about’ section should have a more conversational tone. Then have someone else read it and tell you what they think. Sometimes we can’t proofread our own work.”