9 LinkedIn Changes Every Job Hunter Should Make

If you are looking for a new job, your social media presence, especially your LinkedIn profile, can play a major role in your success. (See also: 10 Outdated Job Search Techniques to Avoid)

According to a recent report from Career Thought Leaders Consortium [PDF], employers check LinkedIn profiles of candidates between receiving an application and conducting an interview, indicating that the site provides insights to hiring decision-makers. A video by job search specialist J.T. O’Donnell of CAREEREALISM and CareerHMO emphasizes that recruiters use LinkedIn to find candidates who meet or exceed qualifications for openings, often locating qualified job hunters through keyword searches.

Even if you aren’t in the pipeline for a pending interview and don’t anticipate being wooed by recruiters, LinkedIn can be a great resource for networking, researching target companies, and connecting with leaders in your industry.

You may have the perfect LinkedIn profile that’s garnering loads of attention. But most people can make a few changes that will boost visibility and desirability in the eyes of your network, HR folks, recruiters, and hiring managers.

1. Upload a Professional Headshot

Your LinkedIn profile is often the focal point of your online professional presence, in addition to Google+ and Twitter. So, your photo should depict your professional image not a casual, inappropriate, or blank one.

Hire a professional photographer for digital headshots or capture images of yourself using a high-resolution camera. Choose the best one and upload to your profile.

2. Use Keywords in Your Headline

Your headline should contain keywords that sync your capabilities with your desired future position. So, a header that indicates you are "unemployed" or "in transition" or similar verbiage may not attract interest from hiring organizations.

The headline defaults to your current position, so if your present status doesn’t match your hoped-for future, create a distinct statement for this section. An article in Forbes on LinkedIn headlines gives tips on crafting this content. Advice includes showcasing your specialty or value proposition and keeping in mind the needs of your target audience (e.g., hiring managers in your field and geographic region).

3. Tell a Few Interesting Career-Related Stories

Stories describing accomplishments using the CAR (Challenge-Action-Result) or STAR (Situation-Task-Action-Result) framework are becoming more essential for a successful job search, according to the Career Thought Leaders Consortium. Reflect on the actions you took and the outcomes achieved from major challenges or day-to-day situations to reveal your unique leadership style, decision-making processes, knowledge, and skills.

These stories can be told in interviews and conveyed through the summary or experience sections of your LinkedIn profile. For examples of the STAR method, see this video by Curtin University and article from Recent Grad.

4. Secure Personalized Recommendations

Recommendations can give readers an understanding of the types of problems you solve and how you get things done.

Ask for write-ups from people who know your work and are credible sources. To make this process easy, select a project to be highlighted by your colleague, customer, or boss writing the recommendation along with skills that could be mentioned.

Social media strategist and leadership coach Laura Rubinstein suggests this format for a LinkedIn recommendation:

  • The state [clients, bosses, or colleagues] were in or the problem they had before using your service
  • The positive experience they had while working with you
  • The results they produced
  • A statement "I would highly recommend ___ to anyone who wants ____."

5. Make Regular Updates

Being active on LinkedIn can keep your name in front of those who participate in sourcing, recommending, and hiring new people. Make new connections, post status updates, revise your profile based on current activities, and more.

Your actions should be consistent with your brand and relevant to your job search and career development needs. Status updates could include links to articles beneficial to your network and mentions of continuing education classes as well as volunteer work and networking activities.

6. Be Active in Groups

Career-services professionals associated with Career Thought Leaders Consortium have found that joining and participating in LinkedIn groups is beneficial to the job search. They recommend finding relevant groups that are manageable in terms of establishing and maintaining relationships. Start by listening and observing activity. Next, engage with colleagues by commenting on posts and starting discussions. Eventually, demonstrate thought leadership, which may involve offering insights on industry and discipline-specific topics.

By being active in groups, you'll stay on top of trends in your field plus deepen your network and possibly become sought after for consulting and permanent opportunities.

7. Add Skills Consistent With Your Capabilities and Goals

List skills in the summary or skills section of your LinkedIn profile that are relevant to your audience. Note that most skills can be elaborated on or described in more than one way. For example, if you are a great sales person, you may have excellent selling skills plus great capabilities at networking, relationship management, presentations, negotiations, and deal closing.

Identify skills among keywords most often associated with your career goals by researching positions on online job boards and career sections of your targeted employers.

8. Make Sure Your Profile Is Consistent With Your Resume

Your LinkedIn profile doesn't have to be the online version of your resume. But the information on the site should not conflict with details contained in your portfolio and job-search materials. Check employer names, position titles, dates of employment, and other key information to make sure your communication pieces are consistent.

9. Update Your Privacy Settings

Set your privacy levels based on your employment status as a job seeker.

If you are still employed (and want to keep your job), turn off your broadcasts so that your boss won't question an increase in activity. Those who are unemployed or working on a contract basis will most likely want to increase visibility; for example, make key aspects of your profile public so that you can be found on Google searches.

Employed or not, consider whether you want your connections to be seen by prospective employers, who may be just as interested in your contacts as your capabilities. Don't be afraid to be discreet about proprietary information.

You don't have to spend hours every day polishing your LinkedIn profile and pushing out content to your network. But periodic updates can show that you have a professional demeanor, skills that are in demand, and an approach to problem solving that can benefit a future employer.

What have you done to improve your LinkedIn profile? Have you noticed results after making changes?

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Guest's picture

Great tips! In particular, telling career-related stories can really help employers see what kind of candidate you are. In addition, when you can link your past experiences with what an organization is looking for, they’ll be able to see your value head-on.

Guest's picture

One more - If you volunteer - and especially if you are also looking for a job in the nonprofit sector make sure you add the Volunteer and Causes section to your LinkedIn profile.


Julie Rains's picture

Thanks for the addition. I noticed the Volunteer section recently and added a key position of mine. Such items can help position you as a candidate plus help people identify who you are based on community affiliations.

Guest's picture

Seems very useful. The one that I will always need a reminder about, since I'm currently employed, is to keep it updated. So much of finding the next job happens during the current job.

An aside: The button below says, "Post as Guest." How do I post as someone other than a guest?

Guest's picture

Soon, this social network will replace all the traditional ways to find workers.

Guest's picture

To me the professional headshot earned it's place at number one on your list with good reason. I don't know how many linked in profile's I've viewed without a decent photo or even worse, no photo at all. Nothing shows I'm only half hearted in networking or job searching like doing a half hearted job on your profile!