Most LinkedIn users are just floating in a sea of inactive and ineffective accounts: profiles without pictures. Profiles that haven’t been updated in years. Profiles which only list Microsoft Office as a skill.
The site has made networking easier than ever, but that doesn’t mean it’s as simple as just signing up. An inactive, out-of-date profile isn’t any use and perhaps more harmful than good; are you actually still in that position listed as “current”? Is your bio still relevant?
LinkedIn is a great tool, but signing up doesn’t equal a job offer. This requires you to put in the work. At first glance, it might not be clear what that work is, though. The site’s a powerful ally in a job search, but only if you know how to use it.
Building Your Profile
- Have a professional picture! While there are some cute people on LinkedIn, this is not the place to impress them with that shot from last Saturday night. You don’t need to wear a blazer, but you should be able to show up at an interview looking the same as your profile.
- List your education. Have you taken extra courses? What was your focus in uni? Did you study abroad? This is a chance to demonstrate your background beyond recent roles.
- Keep it relevant. We don’t need to know that you iced doughnuts at Donut King when you were 16 unless it’s relevant to your current career.
- Where are you heading? Focus your profile, not just on where you’ve been, but on where you want to go – take advantage of your bio and headline. Don’t leave them blank and don’t make them generic. Use this space to channel your personality and goals. Your LinkedIn is not actually a resume. HR wants to know who you are, and your profile is a chance to let them know where you’re heading.
Network, Network, Network
Adding connections on LinkedIn is not about just finding friends. Add colleagues, former tertiary classmates, and previous and prospective employers who you would love to work for!
It’s also not Facebook. You shouldn’t just send invitations into the ether: send a personalised note – did you go to the same school? Mention it – networking should not be about amassing. It’s about connection.
To that end, lurking won’t get you anywhere; you should be sharing content, liking updates and posting statuses. Joining professional groups, as well as interacting with the members, is another great way to build relationships. Again: your profile is more than a resume. You should use LinkedIn to build an authentic presence. The more recognition you receive, the better the chances that you’ll land an interview.
It’s fine to say you’re skilled, but it’s better to be endorsed. Don’t spam or inundate anyone with requests, but also don’t feel like you’re being a bother. Send polite requests to previous employers or senior-level colleagues who you have worked with (or reported to for at least a six-month period) for an endorsement or recommendation, and then return the favour!
If you have companies you’d love to work for, find them on LinkedIn. If you don’t, consider where you want to head and then check out their profiles. If organisations have open positions, try applying (within reason)! Don’t, however, apply to apply. If you don’t match the requirements, HR won’t think you’re searching seriously and will be less likely to offer an interview for roles you are suited to.
Before you apply, as well, take a look at the profiles of the company’s current employees. Where have they worked? What skills do they have? What was their journey to get to where they are now? Consider how you can tailor your profile to stand out as a match among applicants.
LinkedIn is a powerful tool for many reasons, but few of them are as key as the access it provides to hiring managers and decision-makers. Instead of the anonymity of sites like Seek, HR professionals on LinkedIn have profiles. You can see what they’re interested in, where they’ve been, and most importantly, you can message them.
Once your profile and your network are solid, try reaching out. Send a note (with a CV attached) to kindle a connection, but make sure you’re not wasting someone’s time. Does your experience match their industry? Are your skills suitable for their past positions? If not, pause before sending that message and consider whether you’re shutting a future door.
Of course, even if you’re qualified, no one wants a copy-and-paste message, and that doesn’t just mean adding their name in. Make it personal: what do you have in common? Why are you specifically reaching out to them? And while everyone knows you’re looking for potential positions, don’t make your message about that. Everyone knows, so it doesn’t need to be said. Again: this is about connection, not just a resume or an application.
Even when you take all the right steps, getting hired from LinkedIn is not guaranteed. However, if you put your current, authentic self out there, there’s a much greater chance when a new job comes up that you’ll be on the top of the list.