There are many ways to use social media. And different platforms have different audiences and best practices. For those looking to share news about their professional career, catch up on industry news and trends, and network professionally, there’s LinkedIn. But getting started on LinkedIn can be overwhelming. Having a profile and connecting with others is merely scratching the surface.
Using LinkedIn requires a bit more time and effort to ensure that you put your best professional self forward. And while that effort includes networking, liking, commenting, and sharing helpful content, one of the primary keys to success is optimizing your LinkedIn profile.
How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
While copying and pasting your resume into your LinkedIn profile is easy, a simple copy/paste doesn’t take advantage of all of LinkedIn’s profile features. The unique features of a LinkedIn profile can help you connect with recruiters and allow your profile to stand out among the millions of other profiles on the site.
Your LinkedIn profile should complement your resume and help explain your career path and future career aspirations. However, there’s no getting around the fact that, in many ways, your LinkedIn profile is just like your resume. That means a recruiter will spend, on average, six seconds reviewing it, which means you’ve got to make those six seconds count.
Of course, there are many steps to optimizing your LinkedIn profile. However, if you don’t want to tackle a full profile overhaul now, focus on these four areas to give your profile an optimization boost.
1. The Banner
One often overlooked aspect of a LinkedIn profile is the banner. That’s the long picture that goes across the very top of your profile. While there is a default LinkedIn banner, it’s kind of boring. An eye-catching, professional banner can help your profile stand out and be remembered by recruiters.
Creating a personalized banner is easy. You don’t need any special skills. There are many free and low-cost design tools that have LinkedIn banner templates. Simply drag and drop whatever elements or images you want on the banner. Just make sure you have the right to use those images or that you pay the licensing fee.
While you can keep banners job-specific and relatable to your career (i.e., you giving a presentation), this is also a good way to communicate with potential employers who you are outside of work. For example, a picture of a cause you believe in can help employers understand what’s important to you and how you spend your free time. That said, a picture of you at a fundraising event can be a great banner picture.
You can also use the banner to relay other personal information about yourself. If you live in or near a large city, consider using the city skyline as your banner. Or use the skyline of your hometown. If you’re open to or interested in relocating, consider using the skyline of the town you want to move to as the banner.
2. The Summary
The summary statement is the first thing a recruiter or hiring manager reads when they land on your profile. In some respects, your LinkedIn summary statement is very similar to your resume summary statement. You are “summing up” who you are professionally and explaining why someone should hire you.
But your LinkedIn summary can and should be different than your resume summary. Unlike your resume, you’ve got more space to summarize your professional accomplishments on LinkedIn. More importantly, the LinkedIn summary is searchable through keywords, which means a well-written and optimized summary will help your profile appear more often.
How the LinkedIn Summary Is Different
While you have unlimited space for your LinkedIn summary, that doesn’t mean you should write a novel about your professional experiences. A summary is just that: a summary. It should be short, succinct, and summarize your accomplishments and skills.
In many ways, the LinkedIn summary is a short story about your career. It should help recruiters understand your path and why you made the professional choices you did. For example, if you’ve always loved tinkering with computers, you could tell a brief story about how that led to your career in IT.
However, if you’ve changed careers (or are changing careers), you may need to tell a different story. For example, if you were an accountant and are now a social worker, you may not need to mention that you spent the first 12 years of your career as a CPA.
Put the Good Stuff First
LinkedIn will only show the first 300 or so characters of your professional summary. That’s approximately four sentences. While your summary can go beyond four sentences, make sure you create an enticing hook in the first four sentences, so anyone reading your summary feels compelled to click the “see more” link.
If you aren’t sure how to create a compelling hook, consider including the skills and accomplishments that are unique to you. For example, if you’ve been the top salesperson on your team for the last five years running, lead with that. Or, if you’ve increased client retention, use those 300 characters to explain how you accomplished that goal.
Be Careful with the Keywords
Including common industry keywords in your summary will help your profile appear in more searches. But choose your keywords wisely. You don’t want to jam your summary with keywords that aren’t relevant to your skill set. And you don’t want to create a summary that’s all industry-speak but doesn’t highlight your skills.
Conversely, you don’t want to use meaningless keywords. Saying, “I’m a team player,” is useless. Everyone says they’re a team player (even when they’re not). Instead, incorporate important keywords that help explain who you are and why you do what you love. This, in turn, will help the employer understand how your skills will benefit the company.
LinkedIn Summary Example
Not sure where to start? Below is an example.
I’m a visual designer that enjoys helping brands connect emotionally with audiences. Through the use of light, color, patterns, and texture, I create more than a brand. I create an experience.
3. Build Your Skills and Endorsements
The Skills and Endorsements sections of your profile help recruiters sort and filter candidates. Recruiters can use the filters to search for “inbound marketing” and only see profiles that mention that specific skill.
But it’s not enough to claim you have inbound marketing skills. And that’s where endorsements come in. An endorsement is when someone in your network says that you have that skill. However, an endorsement is not the same as a professional recommendation. An endorsement of a skill on your LinkedIn profile is “social proof” that you have that skill.
While you can include up to 50 skills on your profile, that doesn’t mean you should. There is the possibility that if you include every skill you can on your LinkedIn profile, you may end up with recruiters contacting you about positions that either you’re not interested in or are a poor match for.
Instead, consider cutting your skills list to the skills you have endorsements for and feature those skills as “top skills” in your skills section. You can select your top three skills to feature, then use the rest of your LinkedIn profile to talk about other relevant skills you want to highlight.
4. Ask for Recommendations
Fellow professionals can write recommendations, which go a long way in optimizing your LinkedIn profile. While recommendations sound like endorsements, on LinkedIn, they don’t mean the same thing. In most cases, recommendations carry far more weight than endorsements.
On LinkedIn, you can ask people to endorse your skills. However, anyone in your network can endorse your skills at any time without you asking. When someone in your network endorses your skill, that doesn’t mean that the person is necessarily saying you are good or bad at the skill, just that you have it.
A recommendation, on the other hand, is different. You have to ask people in your network to write a unique and personalized LinkedIn recommendation for you. While there are recommendation templates and letters, writing a recommendation takes more effort than checking off an endorsement box. Because it takes more effort to ask for and create a recommendation, they tend to carry more weight than skills endorsements.
A Few LinkedIn Profile Updates Can Go a Long Way
Optimizing your LinkedIn profile means making a lot of major (and minor) tweaks. But you don’t have to do it all at once. If you start small and commit to doing a little every week, you’ll find yourself with a well-optimized profile in no time.