I built my first LinkedIn profile (my own) approximately 10 years ago. At that point, LinkedIn had been around about five years and the site was well on its way to becoming a solid career management resource. Still, I don’t think we knew exactly how significant it was going to become. These days, companies use LinkedIn not just to evaluate an applicant before or after an interview, but also as a head-hunting resource to source candidates for open positions. With a well-written LinkedIn profile, your next job might find you instead of the other way around.
What I find when reviewing a client’s LinkedIn profile is that it either contains very little information or that it contains poorly written summaries that don’t really convey the individual’s value to a potential employer. The best-case scenario might be that it is a cut and paste of their resume. Your goal for LinkedIn should be that it is different than your resume while still highlighting the same capabilities and achievements. That way, the reader isn’t processing the exact same information in the exact same way. Furthermore, you want to optimize your use of keywords, which means using the space available to you in each section. For tips on achieving these two distinct goals, read on:
Your Professional Headline allows for 120-character limit with spaces. This section is basically designed for you to communicate a title to your readers, such as Sales Manager or Accountant. However, with 120 characters, you can do a little more than just list your most recent job title. You can use that space to try to optimize keywords or tell the reader a little bit about yourself. Consider:
An Award-Winning Sales Manager with Experience Overseeing a 20-State US Region and International Sales
Sales Manager: Team Building, Client Relations, Presentations, Contract Negotiations, Revenue Growth
On the other hand, if you aren’t firmly committed to a single job title, this space allows you room to communicate more than one job objective. Examples:
Quality Assurance Engineer, End-to-End Testing Manager, Process Improvement Specialist
Operations Manager: Manufacturing and Production, Shipping and Receiving, Automation, Project Management
While it might seem wordy to put so much into your headline, try to remember that this is an ideal way to differentiate yourself from your competition on LinkedIn. Furthermore, by using keywords in your headline, you increase your chances of registering in search algorithms.
Your Summary section on LinkedIn allows for 2,000 characters with spaces. This is probably the section of LinkedIn that I see underused the most. You should adopt one of two strategies for your Summary on LinkedIn: the bio or the cover letter approach. Generally speaking, I recommend that you write your LinkedIn write up in a more conversational tone than your resume, using first person pronouns and writing as if you were conversing directly with the reader. While a bio can be written in first-person, it is typically written in third-person. So even if you choose to structure your summary as a bio, I still recommend writing in first-person rather than third.
With that said, if you want to treat your summary as a mini-biography, I would recommend that you begin with writing about your current (or most recent work) and detailing a few elements from the early parts of your career as you progress through the write up. Conclude the summary with a few notes on your education, community involvement, interests, and/or hobbies.
You do not have to use all 2,000 characters, but make sure you have included enough information in this section to give the reader a good idea of who you are. Consider the following example:
Presently employed as an Area Manager for XYZ Restaurant Chain, I am engaged in the goal of opening 20 new locations over the course of this year. This involves an intense amount of travel across a three-state region, working to source sites, gain all necessary paperwork, and drive the hiring of staff in preparation of grand openings.
Prior to taking on this role, I served as a Restaurant Manager for XYZ, having opened and grown their most successful (and profitable) locations in the state of Florida. Other professional experience includes working as a Restaurant Manager for ABC Food Company and as a Bar Manager at Q Corporation. In those roles, I managed dozens of employees, handling high-volume in the tourist town of Orlando.
I earned my Bachelor in Business Administration from University of State and worked as a Business Analyst at Company Z before realizing my true passion was in the restaurant business. Wine became a hobby and I spent some time studying in France and Italy to earn my certification as a Sommelier. I considered leveraging my business background to open a restaurant of my own, but decided to gain some experience with a corporate chain first. While the dream of owning my own restaurant is still a dream, I am very much enjoying the work I do at XYZ.
When I am not travelling for work or pursuing my passion for wine, I enjoy reading, hiking, sports (playing and cheering), and spending time with my friends and family.
Some of these elements will still be present when writing your profile using a “cover letter” approach, but the main focus of that strategy is to highlight achievements. Consider the following:
As a Software Development Executive, I offer a proven track record of achievement in driving innovative solutions for seamless operations to meet diverse business needs. Furthermore, I drive performance turnarounds and enhance efficiency by improving processes, architecture, and tools.
From a leadership perspective, I build and manage on/off-shore teams while directing multiple projects simultaneously. Examples of my work include:
* Led efforts to build out single sign-on system at Company X, ensuring compliance with timelines/budgets while delivering system with more required feature sets.
* Directed three teams of developers and architects in BI Development at Company Y, serving as the primary data modeler to handle data cleansing issues and project management.
* Re-architected primary pricing engine for Company ABC to reduce processing by more than 55% for a multimillion-dollar e-Commerce operation.
I completed my Software Management degree at University of X and am completely trained in the Agile and Waterfall SDLC. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, sailing, and spending time with my two German Shepherds.
If you are engaged in an active job search, you can add phasing to your profile summary that indicates you are interested in being contacted for potential job openings. Just include something like this with your last paragraph:
Eager to take on my next professional challenge, I would be interested in jobs that align well with my skills and capabilities. If you know of any such openings, please feel free to contact me on LinkedIn. Thank you for your consideration.
Each position description under your experience section allows for 2,000 characters with limits. You may or may not need to fill up each of these sections, but you should include achievements with each role you list on LinkedIn. Unlike your resume, you can write this section in first-person, so you should start each description by explaining what your job was in that role (you can include team size you led, budgets you managed, number of clients you worked with, etc…). By describing your job in first-person like this, you should avoid the perception that your LinkedIn write up is just a “cut and paste” from your resume.
After you explain your job to the reader, you should include several achievements and/or awards that you earned in each position. LinkedIn allows for limited use of symbols, so you can even create a “bulleted” list.
Even though LinkedIn might allow you to include more work history than you would have room for on a two-page resume, you should still think carefully about how far back you want to take your career history. It takes some effort, but you can by-pass including your year of graduation on your education listings. Once you remove the data from that section, you are free to only go back as far on LinkedIn as you want, which can be 10 to 15 years like your resume or back into the mid-90s. Just make sure you aren’t allowing your LinkedIn profile to “age” you or make it seem as if you are a “job hopper” by listing too many positions.
Ask for Recommendations
Aside from having well-written content, the best way to optimize your LinkedIn profile is to have solid recommendations from colleagues, managers, professors, and other professionals, providing you with a quick write-up about your interactions in different positions included on your profile. You can seek recommendations from people you interacted with through your education or different job listings.
To do so, select the contact you want to request a recommendation from and click on their name. You should see a button you can select to “message” that person or “more”. Click on the “more” button and look for the “request a recommendation” option near the bottom of that drop-down list. Once you do so, you will be asked to select your relationship and the position you held at the time. After you select those options, you can send the person a message requesting a recommendation.
I suggest you tailor that message rather than send the standard pre-set one. Try something like:
Good day. I am writing to you to ask for a recommendation on LinkedIn. If you could talk about the work we did together on the Chancey project, that would be very helpful. I want to thank you in advance if you can, but please don’t feel bad if you are too busy.
Of course, if they do provide you a recommendation, it is considered polite to give them one in return. Also note that you can review the recommendations you receive before you publish them, so you do not have to accept one that you don’t feel does you justice or that is poorly written.
You are permitted up to 1,000 characters with spaces in the Interests section, but I would recommend minimizing content there. Anything you have done that might represent you well to an employer can be filled out in other sections on LinkedIn, including volunteer work, organizations, projects, courses, honours and awards, etc. Therefore, limit the content listed here.
Additional Info / Advice for Contacting is now a required section on your LinkedIn profile. You can simply say, “Please contact me on LinkedIn” or you can provide an email and telephone contact if you like.
If you have publications you want to include on LinkedIn, you will be permitted 250 characters with spaces for the title (which is enough to include publisher information as well) and 2,000 characters to describe your work. You probably won’t need all of that space to describe your publication, but it does allow you to give more details on the work than only the title would provide.