Pro tip for job seekers: Before you send out your resume, before you call your connections, before you fill out any applications, set up your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is the social network for all things career, and one of the main ports of entry to the business world, so treat it like your first impression.
For many potential employers, LinkedIn is where they look you up right after viewing your resume. In fact in one survey, 87% of recruiters cited LinkedIn as their preferred online talent sourcing hub. So even if social media isn’t your thing, make an exception for LinkedIn if you’re serious about finding a job.
LinkedIn’s oversized market share in professional online networking is actually good news, because it creates one central hub where you can set up and maintain a profile easily. The app also gives you a lot of control over your professional online presence, from what you choose to share and whom you want to connect with.
So what should a LinkedIn profile include? In this post, we’ll go through the basics and then look at some LinkedIn best practices. Let’s start with getting set up.
When you create a LinkedIn account, the app will walk you through the basic profile setup, so this should be pretty intuitive. It’s best to complete your profile before you make it public. LinkedIn’s own research shows that users with completed profiles including a are 40 times more likely to get opportunities through LinkedIn. So, fill in all your info (this includes your photo) before you publish.
You’ll be asked to submit your name, pronouns (optional), a headline that sums up what you do, current position, industry and education. Most schools and large companies have their own LinkedIn presence, so you’ll start seeing fellow alumni and current or former coworkers pop up as recommendations.
You’ll also be asked for your contact information. People will be able to contact you through LinkedIn, so you don’t have to share your phone number or messaging app handles directly if you’d rather not. This is also where you’ll see your personal LinkedIn URL, which employers will often request.
Writing your LinkedIn profile is equal parts art and science. You want your words to be clear, concise, intelligent, and optimized for LinkedIn’s search algorithm.
Unlike other social networks, you want to keep your LinkedIn profile very professional. It doesn’t mean you can’t have any personality in your profile, but it does reflect how you draft language and interact with others. This also depends somewhat on your line of work.
One way to put it in perspective is to think about how you would dress for the job you want, and how that might translate into how you write your profile. For example, if you’re looking for a job at a financial firm where you would wear business-professional attire, keep your tone and details more conservative and ultra-professional. If, by contrast, you’re a brand marketer seeking to join a creative team at a startup where everyone wears jeans and hoodies, a more writerly tone might make sense.
In general, no matter your industry, don’t get too cheeky. While this might appeal to a recruiter or hiring manager here and there, it’s likely to be a turn-off to some, or make you seem like an unserious candidate. Stay straightforward and find subtle ways to make your language shine. Speaking of language…
All the SAT words in the universe aren’t going to do your profile any favors if you haven’t used language that LinkedIn’s algorithm is designed to find. So you should use words that help it find you. Keywords are key!
Before you get fancy, make sure you’re using familiar titles for your roles. Make your headline an industry-standard job title or description that represents the work you do or want to do. So, for example:
DO: Marketing Data Analyst
DON’T: Upbeat Marketing Data Guru
You’ll also want to use specific words that might help you come up in a refined search (e.g., “fashion,” “social media,” “SEO”). This includes adding five or more skills. According to LinkedIn’s own research data, 44% of hirers use skills data in filling roles. So get your skills and search words in there first, and then you can go back and insert words like “indefatigable” if you must.
Pro tip: If you need inspiration for your keywords, or you’re just looking to come up in the searches of particular recruiters, find a few job postings for positions that you would want to match with. Make sure the skills highlighted in the description are included in your own profile (as long as you actually have these skills!), and then browse the posting for recurring words that you might want to add to your summary or job history.
Speaking of word choice, one of the hallmarks of great writing is economy of words. This doesn’t mean boring words, but it does mean removing extraneous ones. Recruiters are going to skim for the highlights; don’t make them pull out their thesaurus.
Once you’ve finished writing, go back through and see how many editorial adjectives you’ve used and get rid of most of them. The recruiter wants information, not an ode to your achievements. A well-placed adjective where you’re describing yourself is a great opportunity to show some personality, but they’ll stand out more if you haven’t overdone it elsewhere.
The above notwithstanding, flexing your vocabulary in a restrained way is a very good thing. Going through resumes can be tedious, particularly when applicants rely on the same words over and over again. Words and phrases like “experienced” and “deadline-oriented” get pretty stale for recruiters reviewing profile after profile.
So, instead of describing yourself as creative, say you’re a “blue-sky thinker”; instead of “independent,” say you’re “self-directed.” Below is a list of overused words in resumes. We’ve provided alternatives, but get creative (blue sky?) with your own:
If you’re wondering whether you should upload a profile picture, the short answer is yes. Everyone likes to attach a face to a name, and showcasing yourself in this way personalizes you to whomever is taking a look. Plus, profiles with photos get 21 times more views and 9 times more connections than those without.
That said—this might seem obvious but it bears repeating—choose (or take) a nice, professional photo of yourself. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a corporate headshot (though if you’re at an executive level, that’s probably best). However, it should be a good, clear picture with a background that is not too distracting.
Make sure you’re in color, fully clothed, that your face is taking up most of the frame, and you’re wearing a friendly expression. No selfies, full-body shots or group shots.
Lastly—and this becomes important in the event you’re asked to interview in person or over Zoom—make sure your profile picture is recent and genuinely resembles you. Showing up to an interview looking like an entirely different person isn’t the best, well, look.
When choosing a background banner (the image across the top and behind your profile pic), look for something that either showcases your industry or lends your page a little bit of your vibe. It might be more difficult to find something you can use in your personal photos, because of the shape of the banner. Instead, do an image search and choose a landscape or skyscape of where you live or have traveled, look for an image that represents your industry of choice, or choose something else entirely. Just use good judgment.
You’ve completed your profile, optimized your language, and uploaded a little imagery. You’ve given recruiters a polished, LinkedIn-optimized preview of you as a business professional. What’s next?
Once you’re set up, LinkedIn will start doing its thing, suggesting connections based on your school and work history, and suggesting you to others. You’ll be able to search and apply for jobs, and you may even get some incoming requests from recruiters.
Stay engaged. Now that you’ve joined the Internet’s equivalent of the job seeker’s town square, keep your profile up to date and begin networking and engaging with fellow members, recruiters, classmates, friends, and coworkers past and future.
WCU provides career guidance and assistance but cannot guarantee employment. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student.