LinkedIn is the first place an employer will go to evaluate you. When someone Googles your full name, the top result is generally your LinkedIn profile. (One exception is if you’re a celebrity, or have a common name.) Because of this, if you’re not on LinkedIn, you don’t “exist” in the eyes of a hiring manager or recruiter.
There are four main reasons why you need to be on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn verifies your professional identity. Recruiters use LinkedIn to source potential candidates while employers use it to research applicants and see if they'd be a good fit. Having a completed LinkedIn profile can help build trust. And in some cases, it can even allow you to be discovered for a job opening.
LinkedIn is a tool for building a professional network. It allows you to find like-minded people in your area as well as beyond. LinkedIn even shows you what employees work at the companies you want to work for, as well as how you’re connected to them. This is a great way to get an introduction from a mutual connection.
LinkedIn also serves as an effective research tool. With LinkedIn you can research both companies you want to work for and contacts. Because of this, you can use LinkedIn to gather information for a coffee meeting or as a way to research a company before an interview.
Unlike any other social media network, LinkedIn has a whole component on the platform where companies can post job openings. And you can apply to them—without having to leave LinkedIn. LinkedIn can even email notifications letting you know when openings are posted in your area where you have a skill-match.
A person with a complete LinkedIn profile (scoring 100%, or an “all-star”) is 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through the platform. This is because LinkedIn will rank complete profiles higher in their internal search than incomplete. Meaning if a recruiter is looking for a candidate with your qualifications, you’ll show up higher in the results than your peers if your profile is complete, but theirs is not. Even if your skills and experience are comparable.
So, having a complete profile is important. And here is what you need to do to achieve a completed profile:
Your Profile Photo: Do not underestimate the importance of your photo. One the biggest mistakes you can make is not having one. Did you know that having a LinkedIn photo makes you 14 times more likely to be found?
Here are a few things you want to avoid in your LinkedIn photo.
Courtesy of Sandy Jones-Kaminski
The idea is to keep your LinkedIn photo identifiable and professional. Also, to come across as friendly and easy-to-work with. (No scowling!)
You don’t have to invest hundreds in a professional photographer to get a polished photo. (However, if you do have the funds, it’s certainly a worthwhile investment.) Many have a friend (or two) with a photography hobby - and they’re the perfect people to ask. If you’re unable to find a friend with a nice camera, you can always use your smartphone. Learn some smartphone portrait pro-tips here. Basically, you want to be aware of lighting and the background.
Professional Headline: By default, LinkedIn will use your first job title from your Experience section as your professional headline which appears right under your name at the top. Since this is likely totally unrelated to your new career pursuit, we suggest you go into “Edit Profile” mode and change your Headline to something that not only entices people to read your profile, but that also optimizes the visibility and findability of your profile by recruiters who are searching for candidates with particular keywords in their profile, such as Full Stack Web Developer or UX Designer or Data Scientist, etc. While you’re still in school, you can put your headline as “Student in..." or "Studying... (your field of study)” @ Flatiron School”. Be mindful that once your headline says ou are already working in your new vocation, you’re more likely to get pinged by recruiters, and you want to wait until you’re really ready before you make that your headline. Once you graduate you will want to update your Headline accordingly.
A Custom Profile URL: LinkedIn allows you to make a custom URL for your profile. Usually it will look something like this: https://www.linkedin.com/in/yourname You can customize yours in the “Edit profile” section. A custom URL looks more professional and adds legitimacy.
Privacy Settings: If your privacy settings are too tight, hiring managers won’t be able to find you on LinkedIn. If you’re actively looking for a job, you want to make sure all of your information can be viewed by the “public”. (The only exception would be for someone who cannot be searchable online for their own safety—like a survivor of domestic violence.) You can adjust what is shown to the public under the “Privacy & Settings” section. Also, make sure to include your email address in your summary, contact information, and advice for contacting sections. This way, it makes it easier for people to get in touch with you.
Contact Info: You want people to be able to easily get in touch with you. Fill out the Contact Information (it’s at the bottom of your main information box where you will see “Contact Info”) Populate these fields with your email, phone and link to your other online professional profiles, such as a personal website/portfolio, and/or blog, GitHub, etc. (depending on your field of study).
Summary: This is a 2,000 character advertisement you can write for yourself! Describe how you can benefit a company here and, again, be sure to add all your contact information (email, phone, etc.) to make it easy to get a hold of you. This can be the same language as the “bio” that you create for the top of your resume (which you’ll work with your coach on!). NOTE: Only the first 250 characters will automatically display at first; the rest will be truncated until the user clicks on “Show more”...so plan the first 250 characters accordingly to capture and hold visitors’ attention.
Keywords: Be searchable on LinkedIn. Decide what employers will be searching for to find candidates like you, and then make sure you fill up your profile with those keywords. Your keyword is your job title, core function, or core skill. To come up high in LinkedIn searches for your keyword, add your keyword throughout your profile, but especially in these sections: Headline, Summary, Current Job title, Past job title. To get ideas on all the places to put your keywords, search and look at profiles of other professionals with skills like yours or who are in the types of roles you desire.
LinkedIn Groups: LinkedIn also has a forum-like feature on the platform: LinkedIn groups. These groups allow you to connect with likeminded people around a certain career field/interest. Groups are great for people who don’t live in big cities, but still want to network. Remember, always provide value to the group you’re in - don’t just promote yourself!
Messaging Functions: On LinkedIn you can send direct messages to your 1st-degree connections. There is also a messaging feature called InMail. InMail allows you to message LinkedIn members you’re not connected to. However, only premium accounts have InMail capabilities.
Be Active/Post Content: To truly leverage LinkedIn for all it can offer, make a concerted effort to be active on LinkedIn regularly; this includes things such as posting status updates (are you at a fascinating seminar, conference or meetup?), commenting on or sharing an interesting article that appeared in your News Feed, or re-posting your blog articles. After all, there’s no better place to have your blog articles seen than in the world’s largest and most influential professional networking platform, where potential employers and recruiters abound! PLUS, being regularly active will make you stand out as a serious, genuine, knowledgeable professional who is on their A-game.
When connecting with people on LinkedIn, you want to keep it personal. Think of your LinkedIn network like your real-life network, meaning you want to primarily connect with people you know in real life.
Be careful about how many invitations you send out and to whom. If enough people ignore your invitation or mark that they don’t know you, LinkedIn may prevent you from sending out invitations. Yikes!
Another tip to follow, especially when connecting with people you just met, is to add a custom message to the invitation. Never use the default message that pops up when you're connecting with someone. Something like this below is a good custom message.
It was great to meet you at the (Event Name) meetup! Hope to stay in touch.
However, if you'd like to make a cold outreach or connect with someone you never “met”, here are a few ways to go about it:
Pay them a compliment. Maybe you read their blog and love it. If that’s the case, let them know this in your invitation message. Say something like, “Hey! I follow your blog and love what you share. Wanted to stay up to date with you on LinkedIn as well.”
Identify a mutual connection. And use that shared connection as your "in."
Note a common interest. Perhaps you’re both members of a certain LinkedIn group, or you both volunteer with the same nonprofit.
The point is: whenever connecting with someone on LinkedIn, make sure you give them a reason why they should accept your invitation. If they are unsure who you are, and your invitation message is blank, the chances of them connecting with you is slim to none. Especially for influencers who are bombarded with invites everyday, you want to make sure yours stands out from the rest.
LinkedIn is the social media network for professionals. It’s paramount that you have a profile on the platform. Otherwise, you’ll look like a recluse in the eyes of hiring managers.
LinkedIn has many features like the ability to apply for jobs, join groups, message others, and more. While you don’t have to take advantage of all LinkedIn has to offer, at least have a profile that is filled out and up-to-date. A polished LinkedIn presence can take you a long way.