LinkedIn has 467 million registered users and you're probably one of them.
But if you're not active on the site, then you’ve tapped into only a fraction of its potential. “The biggest mistake I see people make is they assume LinkedIn does all the work,” in other words, you fill in the blanks on your profile, hit post and you’re done, says Joel Elad, author of "LinkedIn for Dummies."
That means you're not being seen by the thousands of recruiters who prowl the site for candidates.
To help get seen by hiring managers, follow these steps.
Complete Your Whole Profile
Recruiters use LinkedIn as a first stop when they're weeding through thousands of profiles, so the more detail you give the more likely they are to reach out.
“When I have more information to draw from, it catapults you up from a credibility standpoint,” says Todd Maners, president of Titan Search Partners in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I’d rather talk to the candidate who is on target than track down a person with an incomplete profile only to find they’re not the person I’m looking for.”
List all past jobs that are in any way relevant to your career or the field you’d like to transition to, upload multimedia that shows off skills and talents and fill out your educational background. Add hobbies, volunteer work and any foreign languages you speak or understand.
Don't skip a photo, no matter how camera-shy you are, says Shane Plantz, a recruiter and partner at Universal Coding Solutions, a Tampa, Florida, staffing agency. "Never use a selfie, and while a photo taken by a pro at a studio is nice, it's fine to use any clear photo in which you look professional," he says.
Put Industry Buzzwords in Your Headline
Your headline is the first thing people see when they go to your profile; it also appears in multiple locations throughout LinkedIn. Left open, it will default to your current or last position held.
“The algorithm that LinkedIn uses weights keywords used in the headline when ranking people, so you want to ensure that you use this section to highlight key attributes using specific buzzwords,” says Maners.
Scan job openings and look at competitor profiles. Don't forget your accreditation initials.
And if you’re between jobs, say so rather than leave the headline blank. “Recruiters will put in a current job title, like CFO or controller, when searching, so if you don’t have one, you’re not being pulled up,” says Maners. Try something like “CFO in transition,” he says. “Don’t be afraid to articulate that you’re looking.”
Sell Yourself in the Summary
If your entire profile details your brand and what it can do for an employer, then the Summary is your 15-second commercial.
“I tell job seekers to approach the Summary like an elevator speech,” says Chris Careccia, recruiter and partner at Beecher Reagan Advisors in New York City. “It’s the same as if you were at a networking event and a hiring manager says, ‘Give me 15 seconds.’”
Cover briefly what you do; for example, "I help (target audience) achieve (goal) by providing (service or skills set)." Include who you work with, phrasing this info along the lines of, "I partner with (target leadership level, industry, organization type). Then, sum up your achievements, such as a track record for boosting sales or market share, keeping it simple and on point.
You Should Ask for Endorsements
While recruiters aren’t fixated on endorsements, they can help if recruiters are on the fence about you. “If candidates A, B and C all have the same résumé, but candidate A has more endorsements than candidate B or candidate C, I’m most likely to look at them,” says Plantz.
True, being endorsed is as easy as your best friend or running partner (who know nothing about the work that you do) clicking a button. But endorsements gain credibility in patterns. “It's hard to fake 100 endorsements for the same exact skill,” says Elad. “Endorsements are a nice visual tool. They let recruiters see what everyone thinks your top skills are.”
Even more helpful are recommendations from colleagues. “Testimonials add credibility,” says Maners. “They’re social proof of your claims, and they work to build confidence in the mind of your profile viewers, like me.” Having at least three up-to-date recommendations, but no more than eight, is ideal.
Connect With (Almost) Everyone
The more connections you have, even if they’re not in your industry, the better. First, connections improve the chances that your name and brand are seen by a wide range of people. If your dream job is in fashion, it may be your lawyer friend who is connected to someone who can help get your foot in the door.
“Leveraging other people’s contacts is big,” says Maners. “It’s rarely the person that I target who ends up getting the job I need to fill. It is the person that they know or someone they’re connected with who ends up being the perfect fit.”
Recruiters say the number doesn't necessarily matter. Users with 500+ don't come off as more professional than those who have 200 connections. Under 100, however, sends a message that you aren't active on LinkedIn, which might translate to mean you're not active in your field, says Careccia.
But don't accept every invitation. “Don't add someone who could tarnish your name by trying to contact your network and ask for things that make you look bad,” says Elad. Stick to people who you have a real connection with: a colleague or boss from your first job, a longtime client or someone you went to college with.
Consider Little-Known Features
If you don’t want to make it public that you’re looking, turn off the feature that posts updates to your network.
For more exposure, connect your LinkedIn status updates to your Twitter account, so that every time you post on LinkedIn, a tweet goes out. And to get even more people looking at your profile, customize your LinkedIn URL, so you can print it on a business card or use in your email signature, suggests Elad.
You probably don't need to upgrade to Premium; the basic offerings are enough for most job seekers and connectors, says Elad. The premium account gives you the option of messaging strangers, he says, so it's helpful if your goal is to recruit people to your company or gain sales leads.
Add Your Contact Info
If you're wary of sharing it, at least make sure you set your account so you are open to receiving messages from other LinkedIn members, suggests Maners.
And consider setting up a new email address and making that public. An email address devoted to your job search won't get buried in your work or personal inbox, says Maners, and you won't miss a recruiter.
Be a Groupie
Recruiters also look for candidates who follow professional groups. Join LinkedIn Groups for your industry and participate in discussions or share relevant articles.
First, you’ll be in the loop about what’s going on in your field, including hearing about new jobs. You’ll also get your name in front of the people you want to work for.