Whether or not you’re actively searching for employment, it pays to keep your LinkedIn profile up to date.
Every single minute, three people are hired on the platform. It’s true that some of those hires were people who took the initiative to network and find opportunities to apply for. However, the site is highly favored by recruiters. Stats show that 87% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find both active and passive candidates. It’s completely possible that a recruiter is looking for someone with your exact qualifications right now.
Recruiters use search terms and filters to find candidates. But, with 766 million users accessing LinkedIn for networking and career development, it’s likely that any search will turn up a significant pool of candidates. In order to stand out, you need to optimize your profile.
We’ll show you how in just 8 steps.
1. Use A Professional Profile Photo
Your profile photo is a terrific way to establish your personal brand. Your image should represent how you would look at work – both in terms of your demeanor and how you’re dressed.
If you can afford it, it’s well worth the money to have a professional photographer take your headshot. But if it’s currently beyond your budget to pay for photography services, Lydia Abbot has some suggestions on how to take the perfect profile photo. In a blog on LinkedIn, Abbot suggests that you:
- Choose a current photo that looks like you, complete with your current hairstyle and usual grooming, eyeglasses (if you wear them), and the clothing you would wear to work.
- Use a high-resolution image, of at least 400 x 400 pixels.
- Adjust the photo so that your face takes up at least 60% of the frame (it doesn’t need to be centered).
- Ensure that you’re the only person in the photo.
- Ask someone else to take the photo of you, rather than using a selfie.
- Show a casual, smiling expression. While you may be a naturally serious person, studies show that when people smile in their photos (and especially when they show their teeth), viewers judge them as being “more likable, competent, and influential.”
- Pose in front of a clean, uncluttered background.
- Wear what you would wear to work.
- Take the photo in diffuse natural lighting.
- Choose a filter wisely, if at all. While you shouldn’t distort your photo, LinkedIn actually offers a few different filters which may give your profile photo a different feel. Try them out and see which one (if any) feels best for the image you’re trying to present.
Since your profile photo is the first image that a potential employer might see of you, present yourself in a positive, professional, well-shot pose.
2. Capture Interest With Your Cover Image
Your background (or cover) image is a terrific opportunity to showcase what’s important to you. Choosing a relevant and attractive image can capture attention and help your profile stand out. Depending on the message you want to convey, you could include a work-related image, such as a picture of your (tidy!) workspace or your current team. You could also highlight the personal interests that you would include on your resume, like your participation in volunteer, sport, or hobby activities. Just be sure that these activities wouldn’t be judged as controversial by a potential employer (such as volunteering for a political party or cause).
Alternately, you could design your background image to include text that you want to spotlight right at the top of your profile, such as your website URL, your contact information, your key skills, or a meaningful quotation. A blog piece at The Muse suggests using the customizable LinkedIn templates at Canva to create this type of graphic.
If all else fails, search for a meaningful image at a free stock photo site, just to fill in the blank space at the top of your page and create a more visually attractive profile.
3. Optimize Your Headline
By default, the headline on your LinkedIn profile is your current job title. However, your current job title:
- Might not necessarily be what you want to be known for.
- May be an extremely specialized role that few people are familiar with.
- Might not be particularly descriptive or memorable.
Instead, craft a sentence or a short string of phrases that explain who you are and highlight your strengths. A quick search on LinkedIn turns up over 12 million results for “Software Engineer.” Some variations of that headline look like:
- Software Engineer
- Software Engineer at Company Orange
- Software Engineer @ Company Orange | Web & Mobile App Developer | Agile Practitioner | Data & AI Enthusiast
Which of those headlines catches your eye? Which is more compelling and tells the better story? Since it’s the first text a recruiter will see on your page (besides your name), hack your headline and make it count.
4. Tell Your Story In Your About Summary
You have 2,000 characters to paint a compelling and interesting story about yourself and your career in your About summary. Give recruiters a chance to get to know you here. It’s best to complete the About section using a first-person narrative (“I work at Company Orange where I ….”). Write a few short paragraphs that talk about:
- Who you are as a professional and what your current role is.
- The top skills and achievements and the most relevant work experience that you want to highlight.
- Personal tidbits about your job and career, such as what you love about your work or what your goals and ambitions are.
- What you do outside of work. While this is optional, it can give recruiters a fuller understanding of how well you would fit within different company cultures.
You can also include a call-to-action statement in this section, encouraging the reader to contact you to discuss job opportunities, steps that would help you achieve your goals, or even just things that you have in common, to open up the door for networking.
5. Tailor Your Experience Section
Sometimes it’s tempting to list all the different jobs we’ve ever had because we’ve taken something away from each one. But to keep your profile optimized for recruiters who are working in your industry, limit your list in the Experience section to roles that are relevant to the job you have or to the job you’re hoping to get.
Apply the same sort of focus to the description of each job. If you aspire to management positions, for instance, include points about the leadership and mentoring roles that you’ve assumed within the teams that you’ve worked on. Laser in on your accomplishments in each role and provide clear examples on how they impacted your team and/or company.
6. Complete All Sections
In a LinkedIn profile, it’s the top few sections that command the most attention. Not only are they visually anchored at the top of the page, so that all visitors have to see them, but they hold the information that recruiters are most interested in. For that reason, it may seem unimportant to complete all sections of your profile, right down to the subsections under “Accomplishments,” which include “Publications”, “Projects”, and “Languages”.
However, as the piece in The Muse points out, “LinkedIn’s algorithm rewards users with complete profiles, [meaning that] you’re far more likely to show up in search results with a complete profile.” In fact, a blog piece at LinkedIn by Diana YK Chan includes the eye-opening statistic that users with complete, optimized profiles are 40 times more likely to be found by recruiters and receive opportunities.
For that reason, it’s well worth the time to complete your full profile, even if it means taking a skills assessment test so that you get a Verified Skills badge on your profile or publishing a blog post on LinkedIn so that you have something to add to the Publications section.
And, don’t neglect the Featured section, which is relatively new. Located right below the About section, it can provide an eye-catching pop, with thumbnail images from your own videos, publications, and achievements that you choose to share.
7. Adjust Your Profile Settings & Use A Custom URL
If you’re open to receiving opportunities and offers (and who isn’t?) then make sure your profile settings indicate that you’re open to new work. Your settings do allow you to restrict anyone in your own company from seeing this, if that’s your choice.
And while you’re adjusting your settings, take the time to change the URL that LinkedIn assigned to you. Customize it with something that’s easy to remember, such as your name or initials. If your name is already taken, try adding relevant abbreviations that indicate your degrees and/or certificates.
8. Engage And Grow Your Network
Engagement and networking are key to a successful LinkedIn profile. The more you engage, the more you will stand out and attract more opportunities. As the blog post at The Muse states, every time you “click a like or when you comment or share, that gets featured or showcased in your networks feed. This will mean that you will be at the top of people’s minds in your network. This will create a lot of opportunities for you.”
There are several other ways you can increase your interactions on LinkedIn, including:
- Asking for, and giving, endorsements;
- Asking colleagues and associates, past and present, for recommendations;
- Adding thoughtful comments and/or asking for feedback on material that you share; and
- Writing and sharing long-form content like blog posts.
Although it can take some time and effort, the value of an optimized LinkedIn profile is truly priceless. Even if you’re not actively looking for work, an up-to-date and complete profile can open up new and exciting opportunities for you. Why not put it on your to-do list?