LinkedIn for Career Development

Cite this article as:"LinkedIn for Career Development," in The Business Professor, updated October 17, 2019, last accessed July 9, 2020,


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LinkedIn is the single most important and powerful career tool today. And it is more (much, much more) than simply a professional Facebook. It is a comprehensive career platform. If you’re not using it to its fullest extent – you’re missing out. Here’s why.

Job recruiting can be broken down into three categories, Fortune 1000, Mid-sized firms, and small employers. The hiring in these organizations can be broken down into the following groups:

  • Hiring from Company Internship Programs
  • Hiring through Referral (from company employees or connections)
  • Hiring through Job Posting*. (Primarily with recruiters)

This third group, “Hiring through Job Posting” is the most interesting. Many if not most of the companies no longer publicly post jobs. In fact, 80% of new jobs in the US are never publicly posted. This is particularly true for new graduates. They only post jobs for individuals with 2+ years of experience. Notice that I wrote, “publicly post”. Now, companies are posting the jobs with recruiters instead. For more information on how this employer hiring function works, see our article, Hiring in Big and Small Firms.

How Can LinkedIn Help?

LinkedIn has the following primary functions for the job candidate:

  • Identify and network with professionals;
  • Find and apply for jobs/internships; and
  • Attract recruiters actively searching for candidates for positions.

Some other functions include:

  • Company pages, to learn about companies and identify their employees.
  • A newsfeed for professional happenings.
  • Internal messaging to communicate with others.
  • Request function for references and recommendations.
  • Scheduling function for meetings.
  • Interview preparation and practice material.

In this article, we are going to focus on how to use LinkedIn to for the primary functions.

Identify and Network with Professionals

Why Should you Network? It’s simple. These individuals can create all sorts of opportunities for you. Most of your connections will not be able to hire you or directly offer you a job. These individuals may, however, be able to inform you of opportunities in the future. These opportunities could be with their company or other companies.

Also, never underestimate the power of a professional referral. Still, the major of jobs hired in the country each year (over 2/3) are through referral. This isn’t surprising when you learn that nearly 80% of new jobs are never publicly listed. As such, referrals from professionals can be golden ticket to get you an interview (or even secure the job for you).

LinkedIn allows you to search for people, companies, and content by keyword. It also allows you multiple search filters, such as “1st, 2nd, or 3rd connections”, location, industry, company, school, title, name, etc. Here is how to proceed:

  • Connections – Start by identifying professionals with some level of connection to you. Type in keywords, limited by positions and titles, that may have a connection with you. If you the individual is a 2nd or 3rd degree connection, start planning a method to be introduced to or connected with them. Generally, this requires you to work through your existing connections. Just reaching out cold (without some level of connection) is not a good strategy.
  • Companies – Look for individuals within a specific company your are considering as an employer. If you go to the company LinkedIn page, you can see a directory of all employees with LinkedIn accounts. You can also see how, if at all, they are connected with you. If you have a mutual connection, work through that person to secure an introduction. From there, you can do normal networking things like take them to coffee or lunch to ask their career advice.
  • Alumni – If you graduated or attended a specific academic institution, you can use this to find industry or company professionals. Go to your school’s LinkedIn page. You can search through alumni by using the specific search filters. Alumni tend to be more willing than otherwise unconnected individuals to strike up a conversation or assist you in your carer endeavors. Once again, from here, you can undertake normal networking activity with this individual outside of the LinkedIn platform.

If these methods do not produce results, you can attempt other methods of connecting with individuals without simply reaching out to them cold. Here are a couple of methods:

  • Groups – Join LinkedIn groups with professionals from a particular industry or company. You will be able to see the profiles of other group members. You can then reach out to them through the group message function. This is an opportunity to break the ice and introduce yourself. Remember, all of the same networking etiquette rules apply in these situations.
  • “Viewed Your Profile” – As you may know, you receive an alert when someone views your profile. You may be able to use this to your advantage. If you identify industry professionals with whom you would like to connect, you should visit their profiles. Often, these individuals will be curious as to who is viewing their profile and then view that individual’s profile. This mutual viewing can provide you enough of a connection to reach out to the other party and introduce yourself. You should lead with something similar to, “I saw that we viewed each other’s profile, so I wanted to reach out and connect.”
  • Non-LinkedIn, LinkedIn Method – Many of you may be thinking that you would rather be able to send these individuals messages outside of LinkedIn. There are a couple of good reasons for this. First, some people rarely check their LinkedIn messages. Sending an email could be the only reliable way to reach them. Second, many people are more comfortable ignoring a LinkedIn message (or any social media message) than they are an email. For that reason, I want to encourage you to use LinkedIn as the first step in identifying the target individual. You can view their profile and find out specific information that will allow you to identify their email addresses through a Google search. Also, there are programs out there (like that specialize in finding email addresses from individual names and company information. Once you have found the email address, you can now send the individual a direct email. In fact, you can use LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator plugin to verify that you found the correct address. I will caution you that send an unsolicited email can be poorly received. Professionals receive many emails each day. Without some context for the email, it’s highly likely that the recipient will disregard an unsolicited request for career help. If used in combination with a thorough networking routine, however, sending email messages can be fruitful.

I do have one recommendation when you are using a mutual connection to connect you with a target individual. You should pre-draft a short introductory statement to include with your request for introduction. This will allow your connection to easily connect you with the target individual by simply forwarding your message. In addition to making it easier, it will also make certain that your connector provides the type of information about you that you want the target individual to know.

Find and Apply for Jobs/Internships

Your first step should be to identify industries are career fields that interest you. This is primarily done before you begin using LinkedIn to apply for jobs. LinkedIn can, however, help you in learning about companies, viewing the work history and qualifications of industry professionals. In any event, you should spend a significant amount of time learning what a career looks like in a particular industry. What are the job titles and what does an employee at each stage of the career path do on a daily basis.

I work with and mentor hundreds of students each year. What I frequently find is that students barely understand what motivates or engages them when it comes to employment. They fixate on industries or job roles without fully understanding whether the job or career path they are following can meet their specific internal needs (which leads to long-term engagement, enjoyment, and good performance). Take a look at our article, Importance of Understanding Jobs and Careers for more on this subject.

Search Job Listings

Once you are comfortable that you understand what you are looking for, it’s time to check LinkedIn for job listings. This a a tab at the top of your profile page. You use the variety of search filters (title, company, location, etc.) to narrow your search considerably. One helpful aspect is that you can cross-browse to see similar jobs. This will appear on the right-hand side of the screen when you perform a job search. There are lots of companies out there with which you may not be familiar. This is your opportunity to expand your job search target.

  • Note. We discussed early the role of LinkedIn in networking. You can see connections at these companies you are searching. These individuals can now be the targets of your networking efforts. Also, if you can see the job poster (often recruiter), connect with them. We will talk about the role of recruiters later. I’m just providing advance notice that it can help you tremendously when applying and in the future to connect with recruiters.

You should also set up a job alert based upon your search criteria. You will receive a message any time that a new job is posted that meets your criteria. The alerts can be daily.

Find Those Who are Telling the World that they are Hiring

One important trick is to not simply search for job listings. You should also search for individuals who are hiring. Many employers do not wish to list a job with LinkedIn or a third-party recruiter. Instead, they use their LinkedIn profile to alert their connections that they are hiring. Basically, they are asking for their LinkedIn connections to refer candidates for the position.

Often, these individuals write the word, “I’m hiring” in their titles or headlines on LinkedIn. Simply search these words under “People”, will reveal these individuals. Of course, you should still filter this search by job, industry, company, or other keywords. You will see the results based upon the individual’s connection to you. If they are not a 1st connection, you can use the previously discussed technique of asking any shared connections for an introduction to these folks.

You can also attempt this same process of searching “I’m hiring” within “Content”. This will filter content that individuals have posted in their feeds containing these words.

Finally, create a Saved search. Just click “Search Alert” and you will updated with new material in the search parameter.

Attracting the Attention of Recruiters

No longer do companies post jobs and wait for individuals to apply. That is now a minor part of their strategy to find employees. Employers used to focus extensively on career fairs and on-campus recruiting. The on-campus interviewing is the primary selling point for prestigious MBA programs. Students attend these elite programs simply for the networking and access to employment opportunities generated through school networking and recruiting. All of this, however, is beginning to change. Over 50% of MBA students now find employment through recruiters.

Even when companies do directly post jobs to job boards, they are receiving too many resumes to review. And, most of the applicants do not meet the minimum qualifications for the position. When the hiring manager does review resumes, they spend on average 5-7 seconds reviewing each resume.

These facts are pushing change on how employers recruit new hires. Now, they employ recruiters (either internal employees or outside firms) to find potential applicants for the position.

Let’s get back to how LinkedIn allows you be at the front of the line when recruiters are searching for candidates for professional positions. First, let me give you some interesting facts (and statistics) to convince you that LinkedIn is a legitimate tool for recruiters.

  • 94% of Employers have used LinkedIn to find job candidates.
  • 89% have hired
  • 92% of Fortune 1000 Recruiters Use
  • Tens of Thousands of Recruiters
  • Millions of Job Postings
  • Now you Have Access

So, individuals with LinkedIn profiles can now put themselves in positions where some of the largest employers in the world (and sometimes smaller employers) come looking for them.

It seems a bit surreal, but you can have recruiters presenting you with incredible job opportunities on a regular basis? That is, they are asking for permission to put you forward as a candidate for the position.

So, what should you do? Well, you have be found by recruiters who are looking for potential candidates. Basically, the recruiters pay for access to a high-powered search engine within LinkedIn. They find candidate based upon a Boolean search. Basically, they will use key words to search for individuals with specific characteristics that meet the requirements of the job. So, you need to optimize your whole LinkedIn world to make certain that you will be found. Here is a step-by-step on how to do just that.

  • “Open to Opportunities” – Go to your privacy and settings tab. Scroll down nearly to the bottom. You will find a button that reads, “let recruiters know that you are open to new opportunities”. Slide the tab to “on”. This is like raising your hand and telling recruiters to start looking for you when searching for candidates.
  • KEYWORDS ARE EVERYTHING! – You must complete your LinkedIn profile thoroughly. This means integrating keywords for the job field or industry in which you wish to work into your Headline, Summary, Experience, Skills/Interests, Endorsements (Ask for Them). So, first, you need to get some sample job descriptions for the type of job for which you are searching. Then, identify the key terms that are job or industry specific. Figure out how to work these keywords into your profile. Be creative; but, be profession. If you want to see how well you did; you can us to compare your profile to the sample job description. It will analyze both and give you a rating on the comparison.
  • Connections Matter (1st and 2nd) – After performing a keyword search, the results that the recruiter sees will be prioritized first by connection with the recruiter. That is, if you are a 1st connection of the recruiter that satisfies the Keyword search, you are going to show in the search results before a 2nd- party connection will appear. This means one thing, you should connect with recruiters. If you see a specific job posting, you will be able to identify the recruiter. Reach out to them and connect. If you cannot identify a specific recruiter for a job (or you want to come up generally in all recruiter searches), it will help you tremendously to connect with as many recruiters (and individuals connected with recruiters) as possible. This way you will be a 2nd-party connection in the recruiter’s search results. You may not be on the first page of results, but you won’t be too far down the pages.
  • Follow Companies – Even after prioritizing the results based upon level of connection, recruiters now have to pair down those results further to find some good candidates. One of the primary grouping that recruiters automatically see are the profiles of qualified candidates who have followed the company for which they are recruiting. So, if a recruiter is looking fill a position at Google, their search results will automatically segment out the potential candidates who have followed he Company’s page. You want to be in this group. So, if you have a target company – follow it.

I want to conclude this section by giving you a few final points on gaining a recruiter’s attention. Here you go:

  • Endorsements & Recommendation – Endorsements from LinkedIn connections don’t mean much – but they certainly don’t hurt. Meanwhile, Recommendations are very useful. The words in the recommendations appear in the recruiter search results. So, you should use LinkedIn’s “Ask for Recommendation” button to seek recommendations from those who can attest to your relevant characteristics. You should use the technique of pre-drafting a model recommendation for them to use. This will make it easier on them and improve the quality of the recommendation.
  • Picture – Make certain your profile picture is inviting. It should be closely cropped to your face. You have have a genuine smile (no fake faces). You should be dressed at the level of formality of the job you are seeking.
  • Web Presence – 93% of recruiters look up a candidate’s social profile. They Google you. Make certain what comes up projects what you want recruiters to see. This means show professionalism. If your social media profiles are not made private, then make certain they too demonstrate the professional side of you.


I could write a lot more about how amazing LinkedIn is as a recruitment tool. There are so many other things that it does that could be useful in building your brand, learning new skills, or preparing for an interview. In fact, it is without compare in the market.

You now have a quick and easy guide to using LinkedIn to create opportunities for yourself. You can read our article, Opportunity Generation, Recognition, and Exploitation for more along those lines.

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