Earning

5 tips for optimizing your LinkedIn profile from a director of recruiting

Twenty/20

If the novelty of baking bread has grown stale and you've binge-watched every TV show and movie of interest, add this activity to your stay-at-home list: Update your LinkedIn profile.

Whether you're still working full time, you've been laid off or furloughed, or your job seems like it could be at risk, it's a good idea to be prepared for a potential job search. That's because the job market is likely to become more competitive in the months ahead.

More than 22 million Americans have filed for jobless benefits in recent weeks, and the unemployment rate — previously at a 50-year low of 3.5% — could rise to as high as 32%, according to projections by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Many experts are forecasting that a global recession is all but inevitable.

So now is a good time to update your LinkedIn profile and ensure you make a positive first impression to hiring managers or recruiters, says Casey Hasten, a director of recruiting at VIP, an executive search firm. Paying attention to some small details can make a big difference, agrees Kylan Nieh, who works in product management at LinkedIn Profile.

"Listing your professional industry on your profile makes you up to 38 times more likely to be discovered by recruiters," Nieh says. "If you don't have a lot of job experience yet, consider adding any volunteer work, internships, or extracurricular activities, which gives recruiters more insight into your background and increases profile views up to 29 times."

Here are five tips from Nieh and Hasten for optimizing your LinkedIn profile.

Put 'some meat' on your profile

There are several sections to a LinkedIn profile, including a summary, work experience, education, skills, endorsements and recommendations, and interests. The more detail you add, the more likely you are to be discovered by recruiters who use the platform to find potential candidates.

That's why Hasten is looking for "some meat" underneath a candidate's title. "You want your LinkedIn profile to mimic your resume," she says. She recently hosted a podcast on the do's and don'ts of using the platform to support your professional goals.

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Be detailed about your work experience and make sure you include relevant keywords that recruiters might be seeking in potential candidates, Hasten says. She and other recruiters are often looking for someone with a unique and particular set of skills and experience: "I always joke that I'm looking for a purple squirrel."

Keywords are so important because people like Hasten use LinkedIn recruiting to screen for potential candidates, "and if you don't have your keywords on your profile, then you're not going to turn up." Be sure to update this information as you add new expertise. "Don't underestimate the importance of using all that information," she adds.

Finally, don't forget about the skills section. According to figures from LinkedIn, 87% of recruiters say the skills a candidate lists are crucial. "List your strengths on your profile and start with the top five that are most relevant for your job or the job you want," Nieh says.

If you have some time on your hands these days, this may be a good opportunity to brush up on skills or even learn new ones. LinkedIn Learning offers more than 16,000 courses and is currently offering more than 275 of those for free to help people navigate new working environments or land a job in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Nieh adds.

List your strengths on your profile and start with the top five that are most relevant for your job or the job you want.
Kylan Nieh
LinkedIn Profile

Ask for, and offer, recommendations

An area of your LinkedIn profile that you could overlook is one that Hasten always looks at: recommendations. And right now may be a good time to ask former colleagues, managers, or even friends to put in a good word, she says.

While these recommendations don't replace formal job references, it's an easy way for recruiters to learn more about a potential candidate. "I want to see the human side," she says. But don't be selfish: If you ask for a recommendation, be willing to give one as well.

Staying in touch with former colleagues can also pay off when you're on the hunt, Nieh adds: "Job applicants referred by employees are up to nine times more likely to get hired."

Actively engage with others

Even if you're not job hunting right now, it's smart to actively engage with other LinkedIn members because it helps to raise your profile and potentially advance your career.

Should you connect with someone you don't know? Yes, Hasten says, so long as you have a reason to connect, like you work in a similar industry or have an interest in their company. "Maybe there's a reason you want to get to know them but don't yet."

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If you're actively searching, making connections can be helpful for landing a potential job, especially if it's in a different industry. Prior interactions on the site make for an easier introduction if you are seeking help in your job hunt. But don't just connect and ask for that straight away, Hasten recommends. Instead, follow someone's activity, like and comment on it, and allow them to get to know you before you reach out.

"That way when you do reach out, it's a warm touch," she says.

Signal to recruiters that you're open to job opportunities

One of the easiest ways to pop up on the radar of recruiters is by letting them know you're open to job opportunities. This is a setting you can enable within your profile. 

"If you're job seeking, absolutely turn that on," Hasten says. "There are times when I'm doing a search and 100 people come up, and 20 of them are open to opportunities, so I'll talk to them first."

You want your LinkedIn profile to mimic your resume.
Casey Hasten
Director of recruiting, VIP

Be sure you're offering this information to the right audience. There are two options: You can let all LinkedIn members know that you're open to job opportunities, which can mean people at your current company, even your boss, could see, too, or you could limit that notification to recruiters.

What's more, you can specify the type of job and location you're interested in so that your profile appears in search results for recruiters, Nieh says. And if you're a business owner or freelancer, you can list services on your profile that indicate to your network that you're "open for business," he adds.  

Add a professional photo

Some people may feel squeamish about adding a photo to their LinkedIn profile but doing so increases your odds of landing a job. "Your photo is one of the first things people notice when visiting your profile," Nieh says. "Members who have a LinkedIn profile photo get up to 21 times more profile views than those who don't have one."

Just make sure that the photo you select is in line with your professional persona — ideally a professional headshot. "This is not Facebook," Hasten says. It's also important to have a background banner photo, she adds. 

In Hasten's case, she uses her company's logo as a banner. "It draws attention to your profile," she says. "It just completes the picture and makes your profile look very professional."

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