This is part one in a series of posts. First published in March, 2014. Updated in July 2015.

You’re half way through summer and it’s practically hiring season for communications professionals.

In this series, I examine how to leverage LinkedIn to put your best foot forward.

But first, why?

It’s simple. You want a career. You have the education, you have the experience, and you’ve drafted those thank-you emails drafted. Now you need to articulate your accomplishments. LinkedIn serves to augment your resume. A comprehensive LinkedIn profile makes you exponentially more attractive to employers, and it also allows them to thoroughly gauge your suitability. Remember, you have something of high value to offer. But don’t sell yourself short to yourself. You’re worth it. This is no easy feat – and thats why this guide is divided into multiple sections. Go through each section one by one.

This guide is meant to help you craft your profile in order to achieve two things:

  1. Secure your dream job: Get noticed by employers and hiring managers.
  2. Build connections in your industry: Make acquaintances with fellow professionals and potential clients.

Let’s begin.

Basic features

Name

LinkedIn is a professional network. Keep this professional. Make sure your name is capitalised. You will be surprised to see how many people show up in search results with their names in small caps. This should be how you want to see your name on your business card.

Photograph

You will also be surprised as to how many people don’t include a photograph. I’m not sure about the rational behind not having a profile picture. Upload a professional photograph. If you don’t you’re likely to remain anonymous.

Do

  1. Use one that is recent. If you have a shaved head, for example, don’t upload a picture with long hair that dates back
    The perfect LinkedIn profile picture
    The perfect LinkedIn profile picture

    more than 6 months.

  2. Make sure your hair is trimmed and clean. Beards and stubbles are okay as long as they look clean. Use your judgement.
  3. Make sure your clothing is professional, or at least appropriate for the industry in which you are looking to work. Wear a tie, wear a suit. If appropriate, of course. Demonstrate that you fit in.
  4. Depending on where you are on the corporate ladder, use a power pose. In other words, use a pose that shows off your confidence. As Luis Leal of McGill says, displaying confidence is the secret to leadership. Demonstrate that you are a leader. Sometimes, its nice to see the pose at eye level. Other times it may be appropriate to have you look down towards the camera, ever so slightly.
  5. Smile. Not only is smiling okay, it is welcoming. It is disarming. You need to show people how you will be in the office. No one wants to work with a pouty face.
  6. Lean in. When we want to pay attention and absorb more information, we lean in. This also demonstrates trust-building.

Don’t

  1. Show your back. I’ve seen this. Pictures showing your back is equivalent to having no picture.
  2. Use a picture from your Facebook profile. You know this intuitively.
  3. Use a picture where you have to crop out your friends, or that drink in your hand. It’s called a headshot because it focuses on your head. Although, it is okay to use a picture that is as low as your torso.

    Don't do this
    Everything that’s wrong with a LinkedIn profile picture
  4.  Most people like to cross their arms and turn a bit to the side. I’m not fond of these pictures. This gets a little technical. Crossed arms demonstrate that you’re closed off. Turning a bit to the side means you’re also talking without giving due attention or respect. You want to show that you’re open to conversation. This semi-demand, semi-offer gaze sends a confusing signal. Don’t make a steeple with your hands.
  5. Use a picture of yourself in your element unless it is a close up. If you’re a public speaker, it might be okay to have a picture of you on stage, but most public speakers that I know use professional headshots. This isn’t a hard and fast rule. Make sure the picture complies with all the Dos above.
Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 6.45.36 PM
David Laroche in his element. Perfect.

Who knew photographs were so important? What else would you add? Please share your ideas with us in the comments section.

 

Headline

Use of keywords pertaining to your industry is crucial.

After your name and photograph, the next most important thing that people see is of course, the headline. This is tricky. Whenever you search for a professional or a keyword on LinkedIn, you’re going to see search results that look something similar to the one on the right. Many people use this space to highlight their current position. While creativity is good, this may not be the best place. Use keywords that are relevant to your industry. Look to the image on the right.

You need to understand these two items before you set your headline:

  1. Search results: If a hiring manager is searching for a Public Relations professional, they’re likely to look at the name and the headline. They’re not likely to look at your current job position that shows ONLY after your connections. Look again at the picture above. Your current and past titles only show up at the end.
  2. Search algorithm: LinkedIn’s search algorithm is conservative. The results also show up according to who is searching for what. To elaborate, if two people are searching for the same keywords, they will get the same results. The order and priority in which results are displayed, however, will vary. LinkedIn refers to these as relevance scores.

To understand the second point, consider this (from LinkedIn):

More keywords aren’t always better. Our advice would be to only include the keywords, including repeated keywords, in your profile that best reflect your expertise and experience. If you integrate an extended list of keywords into your profile, you’re likely showing up in a high number of searches. The question you need to ask yourself, however, is whether members consider your profile relevant to their search. If not, their behavior as a collective group may be influencing the algorithm used to rank you in search results.

What this means is that you don’t have worry about showing up. You have to worry about showing up correctly. Be conservative and use only the best keywords that reflect your expertise. If you are first and foremost a communications consultant, use that as your headline. You may also include multiple key terms in your headline.

Protip: Even if you are not currently working in the field in which you want to work, use the title appropriate title. For example, if you are in retail but want to work as a communications consultant, your title should be “Communications Consultant,” not “Retailer.”

For more information, LinkedIn has published a document that helps people understand LinkedIn search relevance for people search.

Oh, and please, make sure you capitalize correctly. Lower case titles are not titles.

Location and Industry

This one is straight forward. Select the correct city and country in which you currently reside. Select the exact industry from the provided drop-down list. Some people might suggest that you select the city in which you want to work. Don’t do this. There is an option on LinkedIn (discussed later) that allows you to inform hiring managers that you are willing to relocate.

The next blog post will focus on how to achieve an all-star profile. 

 

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