Job seekers especially should have a complete and well-constructed LinkedIn profile to build their professional online presence. This article, written to assist military members transitioning to the civilian workplace, offers suggestions to polish your profile into a professional and effective job search tool.
1. Create a descriptive Headline that reflects your goals and experience. Your Headline is the important first glance at what you are about. Why should a recruiter take a closer look at your profile? Don’t just use the Headline that LinkedIn will default to – which is your current job title and employer. Use the 120 character limit wisely to make your Headline count.
2. Include keywords that describe you in terms that your target audience is looking for. Use keywords throughout your profile to describe your skills, experience, goals, and achievements. This will increase the likelihood of your profile coming up in the search results of recruiters and hiring managers. And it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that your profile should be checked and double-checked for proper spelling and grammar, just as you would for your resume.
3. Include a photo to add credibility and give others a deeper sense of connection to your online presence. Keep your profile image consistent across all your social media networks to make you recognizable to recruiters.
Your photo should be a good quality headshot with a clean background that shows your professional side. Keep in mind that your photo will not only be seen when someone views your profile, but in many other places on LinkedIn, such as next to your endorsements and recommendations, your posted discussions, comments, and more.
4. Edit your public profile URL, which is the web address that points to your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn assigns this URL when you create your account, but it contains random characters after your name that you should clean up and simplify.
While in edit profile mode, click the Edit link next to your LinkedIn URL found below your photo. To the right you will see options for customizing your public profile. Below those options is a link to “Customize your public profile URL.” Click it to remove the random characters so it ends with your name. This makes the URL cleaner and more recognizable when sharing the link, whether it’s on your resume, in your email signature, or on your transitioning business cards.
5. Use the Summary to highlight your strengths. This section is your 30-second elevator pitch. Describe your accomplishments and what you bring to the table. Use keywords important in your career field that recruiters would likely be searching for.
Include transferable skills you acquired from your military service (e.g. leadership, team work, strong work ethic, decision making in adverse conditions) that transfer across disciplines, especially if you are starting on a new career path.
6. List all of your current and past employers and education. It’s helpful to have your resume handy to complete the Experience and Education sections. Include your top keywords in the job titles, and load the work descriptions with your skills and accomplishments.
If a past job has nothing to do with your current career field, list it with a short description, using those transferable skills to describe your duties and responsibilities. Listing all your past employers and education will help you find connections and build your LinkedIn network.
7. Add words and phrases in the Skills & Expertise section that are relevant to your career field. The skills listed in your profile work like tags, increasing your search potential within LinkedIn. List the skills that are your strengths because other users will be endorsing the skills you list here. You can add up to 50 skills, but I recommend keeping it to 10-20 (at most) of your most relevant skills, so they don’t become noise in a list too long.
8. Add sections to your profile by clicking the list of recommended sections that appear to the right when in edit profile mode. Select sections that will help round out your profile based on your background.
For example, you should add the Organizations section if you are a member of professional organizations, and add the Certifications section if you’ve earned special training. If you’ve performed volunteer work, be sure to add the Volunteering & Causes section to your profile and describe skills and achievements from this work.
9. Ask for recommendations from people in your LinkedIn network. Hover over the triangle next to the Edit button and click Ask-to-be-recommended in the drop-down box.
A good rule of thumb is to have two to three recommendations from managers, supervisors, and colleagues from each job listed in the Employment section of your profile. Also get recommendations from those you’ve done volunteer work for.
Also give recommendations to colleagues or classmates who you’ve worked with and respect. Giving and reciprocating recommendations goes a long way toward building relationships.
10. Add links or upload files to enrich the sections of your profile. Do this by using the square-and-plus-sign icon in edit profile mode. Click the icon in the relevant section and choose either Add Link or Upload File from the drop-down box.
Add links to videos or visual resumes (described in a later chapter) or files that you keep on applications such as Box.com, Google Presentations, or SlideShare.net. Upload files such as your resumes, presentations you’ve created, or papers you’ve written. If you upload multiple versions of your resume, name the documents clearly so a recruiter will know which one they are interested in downloading.
11. Change the order of the sections as appropriate to feature the most relevant parts of your profile. You don’t have to keep the default order in which the sections appear on your profile. The up-down arrow icon in each section lets you change the order. Click and drag the arrow icon of the section you want rearranged to move it up or down the list. This allows you to place your most relevant sections at the top of your profile where they are more likely to be noticed.
12. List your interests in the Additional Info section. Listing your hobbies, sports, and activities will show a personal side and help others see what you might have in common outside of business.
This is a good section to check on others’ profiles, especially when doing research before a job interview. Finding a common interest with the interviewer helps to break the ice and may help you stand out.
Related Article: It’s Easy to Get Connected on LinkedIn