A well crafted LinkedIn profile has the ability to say more about you than a conventional CV, but if not done properly can do more harm than good. Find out how to create the perfect profile and be seen by recruiters.
Why it’s important
Having a profile on the professional networking site LinkedIn is equally as important as having a CV for job seekers today. It has become one of the first ports of call for recruiters trawling for - and checking out - potential new talent and as such is often your first chance to make a good impression with a prospective employer. Its reach is growing all the time: the site has more than 100 million users globally and more than six million in the UK. The global membership includes 11 million people who have graduated in the past five years so you can’t afford not to be there. A crafted LinkedIn profile has the power to say more about you than a conventional CV but if it isn’t done properly can do more harm than good. A LinkedIn profile must do two things: it must help you to stand out as well as ensure you can be found by prospective employers.
Before you do anything
One of the benefits of LinkedIn for graduates lacking real work experience is that it provides a host of other ways to mark yourself out and allows far greater scope than a two-dimensional CV. You can be seen to be active in industry discussion groups, if you write a blog you can link to it, if you’ve been involved in research, you can also direct people to where it resides online and share all sorts of information with your connections that demonstrate your commitment to your sector.
Some of the applications that help perform these functions are discussed later but the first step is to write your profile. Mark Williams, managing director and founder of ETN Training and who is a renowned LinkedIn expert, underlines the golden rule when creating the perfect LinkedIn profile: “authenticity”.
“The most important thing is that it explains clearly who you are and what you do professionally,” he says. “It must have impact but it must also be authentic; no outrageous statements or claims but sensible, credible and genuine information. It is critical that when someone views your profile they can feel a connection with you.”
Creating the content
Having decided what you want to say, write your profile in Microsoft Word initially so you can thoroughly check for spelling, grammar and accuracy before posting it on the site. Although it can be edited once it’s been posted, bear in mind that any errors will be there for the world to see the moment your profile goes live. Enlist the help of someone else to proof read it. Alternatively, import your CV to form the basis for your profile. LinkedIn will also indicate how complete your profile is percentage-wise. An incomplete profile doesn’t send out a good message so take notice of the suggestions regarding what you need to do to complete it.
According to Williams a mistake frequently made is to not put enough information into a profile. For those lacking work experience, include internships, work placements or detail projects on which you’ve worked. Another basic error is overlooking the importance of including a suitable headshot. “This is critical as other users are less likely to connect or interact with you if you do not have a profile picture,” he says.
Make sure they will find you
Recruiters have become expert at searching out talent using all sorts of clever search strings. When writing your profile, include some of the key words and phrases that a recruiter would typically key into search engines like Google or Bing when looking for someone with your skills and qualifications. Avoid compromising the quality of the writing and content by flooding it with keywords but equally give yourself every chance to be found.
Optimise your profile
Having created a basic profile, the next step is to use some of the more advanced applications LinkedIn offers to optimise your presence (located on the edit profile page under applications).
These include WordPress which allows you to sync your WordPress blog posts to your profile, Slideshare, which lets you share a presentation you might have done and Reading List by Amazon, which shows others what you are reading and where you can check out what your connections are reading.
Williams recommends Box.net which allows users to embed links to PDFs and Word documents into their profiles. There is also a link to Twitter but he warns against sending every Tweet to your LinkedIn status update.
“LinkedIn users are interested in less activity and more relevance,” says Williams. “Tweets will often be chit chat comments and they do not want to see this on their LinkedIn home page.”
Manage your presence
Once your profile is complete and fully optimised, continue to build your presence by joining relevant groups and discussions, as well as routinely adding to your connections. Also seek recommendations from those who can endorse your work and/or abilities.
Remember that every time you add to your details, make a posting, or connect to someone, an update will be sent to your community so it provides a perfect opportunity to get your name under the nose of your connections on a daily basis if you are really proactive.
Finally, there are other networks worth investigating including XING.com and Viadeo.com and the job board Monster has introduced BeKnown, which is a professional networking app for Facebook.