If you don't know, now you know: LinkedIn is not some digital landfill where you dump your résumé text and pretty picture (yes, you need a photo) and leave it as some act of professional due diligence. LinkedIn is where folks get jobs -- or at least get closer to jobs than they would just submitting online applications.
A 2014 Jobvite survey of 2,135 adults found that 94 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to source and vet candidates, while only 36 percent of job seekers are active on the site. You know better. If you want to impress the heck out of recruiters, answer their questions:
Does this person really want the job? It's tempting to root yourself in the cozy world of job boards, where you can simply shovel your information into online applications and never have to ask anything of anyone. But this easy route is rarely effective. "The cold application should be the very last resort," says Brendan Browne, senior director of global talent acquisition at LinkedIn. "If you navigate your way to a warm path, your efficiency rate goes way up."
Peruse your connections for someone who works within the company you're applying to or someone who knows someone else within the company. For the latter case, ask for an introduction via InMail. In the message, show you're "massively informed" about the company and role, Browne says, and demonstrate why you're interested in the position and why you're a great fit.
Yes, this reaching out takes some effort, but that's exactly why you should do it. The majority of candidates don't make this effort, Browne says, so those who do will stand out. "It's going to give some reflection that they actually have a thoughtful process on how they want to tackle problems," he says. Plus, connecting with others shows you're collaborative. "They're not sitting in isolation," Browne says of networking candidates. "They're working through other people."
Perhaps most obviously, there's nothing like a kind word to differentiate you from the forgettable candidates who just hit the "apply" button. Browne points out that whomever introduces you to someone within the company is probably advocating for you as well. "That's a pretty clear signal that this [candidate] is pretty good at what they do," he says.
Who does this person know? "Quality and relevance of network matters a lot," Browne says. He gives the example of a standout candidate he was considering for a senior-level role. However, the candidate wasn't connected to many colleagues and industry peers Browne felt he should know. So even though the candidate was well qualified, Browne considered his thin network a red flag.
Beef up your connections by first connecting with people you already know, such as former and current colleagues, classmates and friends. LinkedIn's People You May Know feature, which you can access by hovering over the connections icon in the top-right corner of your homepage, will also direct you toward new connections with old contacts. Browne points out that you can also find new contacts by searching by skill, connecting with alumni of your alma mater or engaging with people in LinkedIn groups. Look at who is publishing content to build relationships with thought leaders. Did a big name in your industry just publish an interesting post? Simply send the author a connection invite, and share your thoughts on the post.
Who has this person impressed? "I definitely put creed in recommendations," Browne says, but he urges job seekers to "be thoughtful." He suggests a mix of four or five recommendations, including one from a boss. "Who is your toughest internal customer, and do they like your work?" he asks. "If they were willing to write a recommendation that's reflective of that, that would be a powerful statement -- versus your cubemate who you're high-fiving every day."
Does this person even have a personality? "This is not your CV; this is not your résumé; this is not some static list of things," Browne says of your LinkedIn profile. "It's the story about who you are." The content of your profile, as well as what you post and share, all add up to "your tone and voice and who you are," Browne says.
The Summary section is an ideal spot to show your personality, says Marcelle Yeager, president of Career Valet, a career consulting group. "The summary helps the recruiter get to know you beyond your résumé," she writes in a U.S. News blog post about how to improve your LinkedIn profile. "Tell a brief story about why you love what you do or why you want to do something new." Like other career experts, Yeager recommends using first person and ditching stilted "professional speak." She adds: "If you are just starting out in your career, describe what made you choose the field you're targeting."
The articles, videos, slideshows and blog posts you post or share show who you are, too, and Browne says that content should reflect what you do or aspire to do. If you're a reporter -- or want to be a reporter, for example -- post and share content related to the media. Krista Neher, CEO of Boot Camp Digital, a social media training company, put it like this in a post about building your personal brand: "I would much rather hire someone who shows some kind of passion and interest in the industry than someone who doesn't."
Is this person a big deal? Don't be shy about including promotions and achievements in your profile, Browne says. You can nod to your aspirations or career arc in the Summary section, but it's in the details of your Experience section (the part that reads like a résumé) where you can really shine. Include each title held, and describe the role and qualitative facts about what you achieved. (Increased sales by X percent within Y months, for example.) This paints a clear picture for recruiters, who will see that you kicked so much butt in the assistant management role that you were promoted to management within a year. When they see career progression, "recruiters start thinking, 'Hey, this is someone who has a lot of potential and is a fast riser,'" Browne says.
But recruiters won't see the fruits of your hard work unless you spell it out in your profile. As Browne puts it: "This is an opportunity to truly amplify who you are and what you're good at."
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