LinkedIn stands alone as the most prolific and important professional networking platform. It is extremely important to put the same amount of effort into setting up your profile as you would in developing a resume for your dream job. With that being said, let’s look at the various parts of the profile and how you set them up.
The main parts of a LinkedIn profile include:
- Custom URL
- Photos – Profile and Background
- Endorsements and Referrals
Let’s talk briefly about each.
LinkedIn allows you to develop a custom URL for your page. This can be great for networking and fitting the URL on a business care. For example, my URL is www.LinkedIn.com/in/TheBusinessProfessor/. There is a button on the right side that allows you to edit the URL. It is immediately above the button that allows you to add additional sections to the profile (such as About, Headline, Publications, etc.)
There are two LinkedIn photos – Profile and Background. The profile is your face. The background is an optional photo that can be used to add o your profile. Here are some tips to follow for the Profile:
- Head & Shoulders – The profile should be a closely-cropped, professional-looking image of your head and shoulders. No full body shots.
- Free is Fine – You don’t have to pay for a professional photo. Just make certain you are in front of a solid background (grey or white is best). Add an indirect backlight to bounce of the wall behind you to eliminate the shadow. Make certain your face is well lit (preferably on both sides by an overhead light at a 120-degree angle from your face) with a 5600 K natural-light bulb. Even in a smartphone pick, with this setup, you will look great. Do some minor editing in photoshop to clear up light balance and you’re golden.
- Smile – Research shows that people gravitate toward individuals who smile genuinely (no fake smiles – our subconscious can recognize them). Research also shows that people who smile a lot are seen as less intelligent; but, it doesn’t matter. It turns out that hiring managers gravitate to general competency and cultural fit (including likability), above raw intelligence or ability. That’s why individuals who move up in organizations have higher EQ (Emotional Intelligence) than IQ (how quickly you pick up on things).
- Formality – Dress to the level of job to which you aspire. You are trying to professionalism – not pretty/handsome. If you want to work at IBM, then wear a dark suit and white shirt/blouse, only subtle accessories (ties, jewelry, etc). If you want to work at T-Mobile or Facebook, you can go less formal (but never a t-shirt or hoodie). If you have a nose ring – take it out. If you have a visible facial tattoo, see a plastic surgeon and start examining your life decisions.
Here are some tips for the background photo:
- Do you need it? Generally, no. This is simply an opportunity to add an interesting element to your profile.
- What should the photo be? While it should be professional in nature, you can use it to accentuate your interests/skills. For example, a data analyst may put a diagram of a statistical method. A public relations specialist may put a shot of a public meeting with an important person.
- Quality – Make it look just as professional as your headshot. Just doing some simple editing in photoshop (crop, brighten colors, add a border, perhaps add a caption, etc.) can make all of the difference.
Your Headline is more than just your current position or status as a student (“ex. Marketing Student”). It should speak beyond your role (or desired role) to your aspirations and interests. For example, “Relationship Specialist – Focusing on Content Development & Engagement”. You have If you are looking for a position you can simply add the word “Aspiring”. If you wear multiple hats with diverse responsibilities, separate them like this, “Project Lead | Business Development”. Even here, you have room to expand on your focus or passion. You have 120 Characters – use them. Make it compelling.
About or Summary
This is your place to tell you about you. Don’t repeat what is below in your experience, skill, etc. This is your opportunity to expand and explain. Ask yourself these questions, and answer them in this section:
- What do I want (in terms of career goals)?
- Why do I want it? This is a personal statement of what makes you tick. You can get into your inspirations and motivations.
- Why have I done the things listed below? Hopefully, this will be an explanation of how what you have done adds up to the career goals you wish to achieve.
You have 2000 characters. It sounds like a lot, but it’s not really. Also, people don’t really want to read that much. You should focus on making your summary as succinct, yet thorough, as possible. This is a difficult task. In the immortal words of Mark Twain, “If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter”.
Next, make certain to pack in the keywords. Remember, recruiters are searching for candidates by keywords. Try to use them in your summary section.
If you have a personal/professional website, you can link to it from here. This is particularly important for creatives who have a portfolio of past work.
I highly recommend making a personal statement video and uploading it to YouTube or Vimeo. You can place this link below the summary. You can also hyperlink text (up to 30 characters) in the summary, but having a full Website URL is better. The system automatically propagates an image for the URL. This grabs the attention of those visiting the profile. People loving seeing videos of individuals speaking to their interests and aspirations. It’s far more personal than simply a photo and writing. Though, you still need the writeup to show up in search results.
You treat this section very similarly to the experience section of your resume. Start with the title. You should lead with your position title. However, if you had an area of focus or exposure, you could include this in the title. Think about it the same way that you do the Headline. You are trying to talk to the reader. The title is limited to 100 characters.
Below the title is where you describe the job, job function, and exposure. The experience section can be larger than on the resume, so you have some room to really dig into:
- What you do/did in a position.
- What professional exposure you received.
- Metrics for each of these.
The metrics information is often the most important aspect that people unwittingly leave off of their resumes (and thus off of LinkedIn). Peoples eyes track to numbers (512.36), Symbols ($$, &, #, %). Use this to your advantage. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate your business acumen. Every business is the delivery of a value proposition. Make certain to show that you understand the metrics that make the business run. I mean, you are a business professional – right?
This is one of those optional sections. If you have some level of volunteer experience, it can look very good to prospective employers. It can also help in the recruiter search efforts if you are somehow able to introduce industry-related keywords. This is easy if you volunteered in your professional capacity.
Do be careful about listing volunteer work for organizations that can be poorly received. For example, listing that you volunteered for a particular politician or political party is a big risk – unless of course, your only target employers are closely involved with such a candidate.
If you have special skills or technical knowledge or ability that you wish to highlight, here is where you can do it. Sometimes, such as for technology professionals, this section is far more important than your title, experience, etc. Also, many business professions require a level of proficiency in a given software. Here is where you can list that proficiency.
- Note: If job descriptions for positions in your intended career field indicate that specific skill or ability is required, then work to develop that skill or ability. You can do this through formal or self-study. Formal programs generally offer certificates. The downside is that they are not flexible and cost money. Self-study is the easiest route, but you have to be self-motivated. Believe me, you can learn to do anything through YouTube videos. Also, LinkedIn learning is a paid subscription service – but, it offers the ability to learn any number of skills at a very low cost.
The education section should contain all of your prior schools (high school and after). If you only spent a short period of time at any school (without receiving any awards or recognition) you may be able to leave it off the resume/profile.
Under the education category, you have the opportunity to elaborate on your degree, classes taken, project completed, etc. If you did receive some awards, were a member of a club, had a solid GPA, etc., then you want to include those elements as bullets. You can also link to proof of work directly within the description. For example, if you took a class on statistical methods and completed a multivariate regression analysis as a class project, you should showcase this work. This is a very valuable business skill for individuals involved in any form of analysis.
Remember, you are still playing the keyword game to maximize your chances of showing up in a recruiter’s search. Make certain you include relevant keywords when possible.
This is an optional section. If you have any form of publication, you can highlight it here. It doesn’t have to be an academic journal publication. It can be something as simple as a guest blog on someone else’s website. Of course, if you do have more formal publications, you certainly want to add them.
Endorsements and References
LinkedIn allows other people to endorse you for specific skills and accomplishments. These endorsements can be very impressive to third parties who visit your profile. Unfortunately, an endorsement does not help much for showing up in recruiter searches.
You also have the ability to receive written endorsements (references) from others. The text of these endorsements is searchable by recruiters. So, you want quality references who mention the relevant keywords. In our article, LinkedIn – Job Search and Recruiting, you can learn more about how to get useful endorsements from others.
This is an optional section, but I find it highly valuable. First, you need to understand that hiring managers are hiring people – not resumes. When searching for a candidate, whether the candidate will fit within the organization is equally important as the individual’s qualifications. Many employers assume that a reasonably intelligent person can learn to do anything relatively quickly. The question becomes then, is this the type of person with whom the hiring manager would like to work.
Finally, you can follow interest groups and companies that interest you. Following interest groups can give you a forum and access to interesting people and conversations. It also says something to third parties about your interests.
Meanwhile, following specific companies can entail lots of benefits. For example, a company post major announcements that are relevant for networking. It may post open job opportunities. Also, it gives you access to a directory of professionals on LinkedIn who work within the company.