LinkedInI’ve been interviewing recruiters and HR people for a book project. One of the stand-out things I’ve learned is that LinkedIn is one of the first places hiring managers and others go to learn about you and to help them decide whether to call you in for an interview. Especially if LinkedIn is your primary web presence, you need to give it your full attention to make it as effective as possible. Your LinkedIn profile page needs to be stellar.

There are seven areas to concentrate on: your photo, summary, experience, recommendations, adding contacts, your contact information, and making your profile accessible. I’ll talk about each of these below.

 

Your LinkedIn photo

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Your LinkedIn profile page is like a brochure about you: it needs a photo. The photo should be simple, friendly, approachable — but above all, professional. If you are in the entertainment industry or a comedy writer, it can be a silly picture. But for the rest of us, be serious.

Some rules:

THINGS TO DO

  • The background should be uncluttered, or at least blurred back
  • A professional or outdoor setting is best, not your living room, kitchen, or bedroom
  • It’s best to go for a professional-looking headshot, not an action-photo of you engaging in your favorite hobby.
  • Smile!

THINGS TO NOT DO

  • No selfies — we don’t want to see you in your bathroom mirror
  • Don’t use a baby picture or old yearbook photo from school. That will amuse your family but turn off a potential employer.
  • Don’t use a caricature or illustration (unless you seek a job as an illustrator and you did the work yourself).
  • Don’t use a photo of your pet or another critter. No!

If you can’t afford a professional photographer, have a friend come over and do a photo shoot. Try several different outfits and settings. Try some indoors and some outside, but remember you want a simple background. Think green leafy bushes as a uniform green background,  not the rose bushes. Think a plain wall, not in front of your busy mantle. The beauty of digital photography is that you can have your friend take 100 pictures for you to sort through and pick the best one.

When you have a good candidate, it needs to be edited a bit. If you are a wiz with Photoshop (or have a friend who is), de-clutter or blur the background. Crop the photo so that you are the main focus. The best size for the photo is a square anywhere from 200 x 200 to 500 x 500- pixels. If you have a window or other straight lines in the frame, make sure the lines are perfectly horizontal or vertical.

 

Your summary: Messaging 101

linkedInSummary

After a glance at your photo, the next most important thing a hiring manager or recruiter will look at is your summary, so this needs to be as shiny as it can be. This is your elevator pitch: win them with the summary and they will read on. Lose them here, and they will click away and toss your resume.

Is your summary concise yet complete? What are the most important things that a hiring manager in your field would look for in an employee (or consultant)? Do you highlight those things in your summary? Is there anything else about you that would be of interest and show you off as a well-rounded person? Sure, you may have a PhD in chemistry and experience in heading major research teams, but if you are also a certified kayak instructor, that might be a fun tidbit to toss in at the end. You want to be professional, yet show that you are an approachable person who would be interesting to work with.

Remember to think of this as a brochure: Use complete sentences and an engaging, conversational tone. A great way to improve content that is dry is to read it aloud to yourself with a smile on your face as if you are the voice-over on a promotional video. I’m serious: keep a smile on your face as you read it. See how this sort of changes how you sound? Dull content sounds ridiculous from a smiling face. Edit until you don’t feel silly reading it aloud with a smile.

By way of example, here’s the text I have in my profile for my summary, showing how I say what I need to say as concisely as possible:

My primary expertise is communication whether for technical, marketing, or general business purposes. I’ve been around the block and worn many hats in the communications business for the last 20+ years, working in big companies, small companies, and on my own. I can work with your agencies, with your internal team, or just with you one-on-one.

Specialties: Communication planning, project management, writing and editing, “extreme editing”

Your experience

linkedInExperience

For each job you list in the Experience section, make sure the summary fits in with the guidelines I gave above about your summary. Write in complete sentences in a conversational yet professional tone. However in these descriptions for your experience, each one needs to highlight the value you added. For example, rather just “Managed 16 tradeshows over a two year period.” you could say “I managed 16 tradeshows over 2 years, and set processes in place that increased the company’s average event ROI by 12% and increased lead collection by 30%.” As you write descriptions for each position, remember: write in full sentences to answer the questions what did you do, what was special about it, and what value did you add.

 

Recommendations

Next, each relevant position should have at least one recommendation: the more recent or relevant, the more recommendations you want. Here’s how to do this:

  • Step 1: For each of your positions, think of someone with whom you did great work. Search for that person on LinkedIn. If this person is already in your contacts, go to step 2. If not already in your contacts, get him or her in your contacts! See “Adding contacts” below.
  • Step 2: To request a recommendation,  hover your cursor over the little black arrow to the right of the edit button in the top section of your profile, and select “Ask to be recommended.”
    linkedInEdit
    linkedInMenu
    The rest of the steps are self-explanatory. When it gets to the point of sending the message, completely delete their boilerplate text and replace it with a personal message that is appropriate for the kind of relationship you have with that person. As an example, below these steps is the text of a request that I just sent out recently (but I changed the name to protect the innocent!)
  • Step 3: Repeat Step 2 until you have at least 1-2 recommendations for each of your recent and relevant positions. The older or less-relevant the position, the less it matters if you have a recommendation.

Hi Sandy-

I’ve been coaching a few people on how to beef-up their LinkedIn profiles to help them find work, and I realized I’m being a total hypocrite: I’m telling them to do stuff I haven’t done enough in my own profile! Can you give me a recommendation on the writing work I recently did for you? Getting the whole “self-directed” angle in there would be peachy, but I don’t want to put words in your mouth.

Hope this is okay.
Thanks!

Kathleen

Adding contacts

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It’s not really a numbers game, however if you have too few contacts, your profile will stand out as one for a person who doesn’t have a large network. Is this because you don’t have a mature career? Is it because you lack professionalism? Is it just because you’re not really into social media and would rather not be bothered? Whatever your reason for a low number of contacts, that has no bearing on the reason a recruiter or hiring manager may infer. Play it safe: Every now and then go through the people on LinkedIn and see if there are contacts to add.

Always edit the standard contact invitation to add something personal to the existing text, like “It’s been ages!” or “I know I’m a voice from the past, but…” – whatever is appropriate but professional. I prefer being very upfront with why I am contacting the person. Say something like “I’ve been looking for work and so am beefing up my LinkedIn profile and reaching out to folks I’ve worked with in the past. I’d like to add you to my contact list.” That way when you ask for the recommendation, it won’t seem too I-just-contacted-you-because-I-need-your-recommendation… or rather, it will be completely understandable.

 

Update your contact information

linkedInContact

Make sure you have an email address and phone number listed here. Regarding that email address, people expect that if you have provided an email address, this is an address that you actually check every day. Check it! Also, consider how much more professional you will seem if you have an email address from your own domain instead of something like a hotmail address.

 

Putting it out there

After you’ve made these changes, then make sure your profile is set to be as accessible as possible. Hover your cursor over the little black arrow to the right of the edit button in the top section of your profile, and select “Manage public profile settings.”

linkedInEdit

linkedInProfile

On the next screen, make sure 0n the right side of the screen that “Make my public profile visible to everyone” is selected, then below that check all the things that you are comfortable sharing… I have almost everything checked on mine.

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