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Whether you’re using LinkedIn for the first time, or the first time in a long time, it’s crucial that you’re up-to-speed on LinkedIn best practices so that your LinkedIn profile works for you—not against you. If you’re operating with a LinkedIn that’s incomplete, inactive, or just plain unprofessional, you’re missing out on valuable self-marketing opportunities on the #1 business professional social networking platform. In a climate where 77% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find quality leads, you can’t afford to have a profile that doesn’t stand out in searches. With that in mind, here are some ways you can make sure your LinkedIn profile is doing its job:

1. Build a Strong Profile

Shoot for an “All-Star” rating: To increase your visibility on LinkedIn, your goal should be to achieve an “All-Star” profile rating. This means following all the steps to complete your profile, such as:

Having a profile photo

Creating a headline

Writing a summary

Filling in your career information

Listing skills

Including your education

Perhaps the most critical step of this process is including a professional headshot. Just having a profile photo makes you 21x more likely to get noticed by others, so it’s worth getting a professional headshot if you don’t have one already.

Align your LinkedIn with your resume: Let’s assume that at some point in your job search, it’s likely that a recruiter will look at both your resume and your LinkedIn profile. Because these things go hand-in-hand, you want to make sure that that your LinkedIn profile matches what’s on your resume, particularly when it comes to your work experience and career timeline. It’s pretty easy for recruiters to cross-reference your resume with your LinkedIn, so you want to make sure you don’t raise any red flags by including or excluding information on your LinkedIn that’s not on your resume.

Update your skills: The skills you include on your LinkedIn profile matter. Recruiters use these skills as search terms when seeking out candidates, so the better you align your skills with the positions you’re targeting, the better you’ll show up in searches. So, how do you know what skills to include? Start by looking at the suggested skills that LinkedIn generates for you based on your profile. Once you’ve done that, check out positions you’re looking at and write down what skillsets the mention that you already have. Once you start entering these, LinkedIn will generate more suggestions for you. A few relevant soft skills are appropriate, but make sure you hit all the hard skills first.

2. Network

Join Groups: Just like joining a club in college helped you meet people with similar interests, so will joining LinkedIn groups. However, this does you no good if you simply join a group to creep on what others are saying. To get noticed, you’ll have to contribute by asking questions, joining in on conversations, and contributing meaningful content.

Seek out potential employers: LinkedIn isn’t like other social media sites—it’s o.k. to reach out to someone you’ve never met. You’ll want to start by searching for the recruiter or hiring manager for the company you’re targeting. Once you’ve done this, the strategy here is to make the connection as authentic as possible, so don’t use a generic “let’s connect” message and expect that to pay off. Instead, you’ll want to introduce yourself, what kind of position you’re looking for, and think of some pointed questions you’d like to ask about the company. Hopefully, you’ll get a reply, which means the door may just be open. Sending your resume is the next step, so you’ll want to send a LinkedIn message or email and attach your resume, as well as a more email-appropriate version of your cover letter as the body of the message that is a little more conversational than a formal cover letter.   

Leverage connections: The best way to make meaningful connections with others on LinkedIn (and in life) is to build on what you have in common. If you already know someone at a company, then great! Reach out to them with a few questions about the company and/or position. If you don’t have any connections, then you might have to do your own research. A great resource is making connections with fellow alumni by using the alumni search feature on LinkedIn. To use this, type the name of your university in the search box, click on “alumni,” and search by your desired industry, company, or job title. Networking with fellow alumni is a great way to get your foot in the door at a company. Even if there’s not something available at their company at the time, you can ask them to notify you if something does open up.

3. Stay Active

Endorse someone: When you take the time to endorse someone on a skill, you’re building a rapport with them that might come in handy later. If it’s someone you feel knows you pretty well, feel free to (respectfully) ask them to return the favor.

Share meaningful content: If you’re using LinkedIn for the first time, be sure and follow (at the very least) your university and the LinkedIn page. That way, you’ll have a steady stream of content to choose from. Once you’ve gotten the hang of things, start sharing content from groups you’re part of, hashtags you follow, or individuals you admire. Sharing a few articles a week will increase your visibility significantly.

Like and comment: Contribute by commenting on and liking articles, events, or job openings that others share. Keep in mind, this is not Facebook, so you want to treat every interaction with a little more professional finesse. However, even a small, thoughtful comment can go a long way in terms of building your professional brand.

LinkedIn may not be your only job search strategy, but it should undoubtedly be one of them. To make the most of your time on LinkedIn, make sure you’re not just being a bystander. Engage with others by having a profile that quickly spotted, networking with others, and maintaining an active presence.  By doing so, you’ll increase your chances of making that one connection that leads to your next job. Not sure whether your LinkedIn profile is helping or hurting? Let us take a look! Executive Drafts offers LinkedIn optimization services to help your profile stand out to future employers.