The days of sending your CV off to recruitment agencies or making speculative applications to your dream company are gone. Today, the first port of call for jobhunters – and recruiters – is almost always LinkedIn.
Estimates of how many recruiters use the professional networking platform to find and vet job candidates vary but they are consistently high. In 2012 Viveka Von Rosen, author of LinkedIn marketing: an hour a day
, suggested 98% of recruiters used LinkedIn to find candidates. In 2013, the Society of Human Resource Management
put it at more than 90%, and, in 2016, the Jobvite Recruiter Nation Report
said 87% of recruiters find the platform most effective when vetting candidates during the hiring process.
In a study published in 2016 in New Media & Society
– a peer-reviewed academic journal that focuses on communication – Sonja Utz, of the University of Tübingen in Germany, looked at the impact LinkedIn had on people’s careers. In particular, she looked for ‘professional informational benefits’ received by a representative sample of 1,959 Dutch users of LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, who were in employment. Utz defined professional informational benefits as “the (timely) access to relevant information and being referred to career opportunities”. Utz reports
that while several studies have speculated about the potential of social media for career development, her study demonstrates for the first time that working professionals actually do receive professional informational benefits.
LinkedIn users report the highest amount of benefits across the three social media platforms studied, and they report higher benefits than non-users. Posting professional content and strategic networking are strong predictors of professional informational benefits.
If LinkedIn really can help to progress your career, how do you maximise your chances of getting noticed on a platform that has 500 million users? Here are a few tips on building an effective LinkedIn profile.
According to Ngaire Moyes
, director of corporate communications at LinkedIn, profiles are 11 times more likely to be viewed if they have a photo. LinkedIn career expert Blair Decembrele
says profiles with a photo get up to 21 times more views and up to 36 times more messages. Choose an image that’s clear, friendly and appropriately professional. If you’re not sure about what is appropriate, look at the profile photos of people in the company/sector that you want to target. Choose something similar and you can’t go far wrong.
, a LinkedIn blogger and HR technology consultant, found that your profile picture can have a direct impact on the number of profile views, connection requests and work opportunities you get. He experimented with different styles of photos, including a headshot, silhouette and a close-up. He found that a photo of him in action in a professional setting was the most effective, helping him to close six new opportunities within just three weeks of posting it. Jason says an action shot can convey the passion, energy, charisma, empathy and other soft skills that are difficult to write about.
Think about customising your URL too. A customised LinkedIn URL will make your profile more memorable and easier to publicise. The ideal format is linkedin.com/yourname.
To customise your profile:
- Click the ‘Me’ icon at the top of your LinkedIn home page
- Click ‘View profile’
- Click ‘Edit public profile and URL’ on the right-hand side of the page
- Click the edit icon next to your public profile URL on the right-hand side of the page
This is your chance to make a great first impression. Keep your summary snappy and informative. Give readers enough to leave them wanting more but not so much that they get bored of reading about you.
- Write three to five short paragraphs, telling readers what you’re passionate about at work, your key skills, unique qualifications and work experience
- Use numbers and real-life examples to bring your summary to life. For example, if you’ve helped over 100 clients achieve a financially secure future, add that in. Numbers and examples will catch recruiters’ attention and stick in their minds
- LinkedIn helps you to start conversations that will benefit your career, so write as if you are actually having a conversation. Use the first person and let your personality shine through. This will help you stand out in that crowd of 500 million.
- Make your summary keyword friendly. Putting descriptions of the jobs you’re interested in into a word cloud tool will help you identify the most commonly used words. Weave them into your summary because they’re the keywords recruiters will be using to search for their perfect job candidate
Remember that LinkedIn is a social network. At a networking event, you get out as much as you put in, so always make an effort to talk to fellow networkers and make positive contributions to the conversations you take part in. You might even share your own advice and experiences. Think of LinkedIn as a virtual networking event. Follow organisations and groups that you’re interested in, share their updates and participate in discussions. You’re more likely to get noticed by people who can offer you great career development opportunities if you speak up and contribute.
Ask for recommendations, and don’t be afraid to specify what you’d like the focus of the recommendation to be. A recommendation that highlights the results of a specific project you worked on will tell a recruiter much more about your skills and capabilities than a generic statement about how great you are. And remember to return the favour when a connection requests a recommendation from you.
Update your LinkedIn status, ideally once a week, with news of what you’ve been up to professionally. Perhaps share a blog you’ve just written. Your entire network will see your update in their news feeds, keeping you front of mind.
To really feel the benefits of LinkedIn, aim to have at least 50–100 connections. Spend a few minutes each day sending an invitation to connect to someone you think could help you, but who you can also offer some benefit to. To maximise your chances of acceptance, personalise your invitation to connect.
LinkedIn alone won’t help you to climb the career ladder, but it can certainly offer you a step up – if you use it effectively.