We all know that job searching can be a hassle. We hear our friends talk about struggling to find a new job, or we have been through it ourselves. Before I began career coaching, I went through a 2-year failed job search. I was miserable, and I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. Fast-forward to now, and I receive about 2 offers a month to interview for jobs without even applying. I also frequently get messages from professionals asking for coaching without doing any “cold selling.” My secret: LinkedIn. Now, I teach others how to do the same.
One of the best ways to approach a job search or be proactive about a future search is to make sure that your profile is optimized for recruiters. I don’t mean LinkedIn’s step-by-step profile creation prompts. I’m talking about diving into the functions of the platform and playing to the psychology of recruiters and others who may view your profile. Here’s my Top 5 list of things you need to create a killer LinkedIn profile that attracts employers and can get you interviews for jobs without applying.
1. Upload a high-quality profile picture
According to LinkedIn research, your profile is 14x more likely to be viewed if you have a profile picture. However, some people still choose to skip adding a profile picture, or they have one that does not positively contribute to their brand. Keep the selfies for Instagram.
You can’t go wrong with a professional headshot, but a nice work-appropriate picture is also fine. Ideally, your photo, and everything else on your profile will be in alignment with your desired professional brand. For example, someone trying to be known for public speaking might choose a photo of them speaking to a large crowd or actively engaging with their audience.
2. Use a keyword-optimized headline
Your headline is the area under your profile photo and name. LinkedIn will default your headline to your “Current Job Title” at “Your Current Company, ” but your LinkedIn is not necessarily for you to promote your employer (unless it is involved in part of your job duties). It also doesn’t usually have much of a positive impact for keyword searches.
Let’s break this down really quickly: Some recruiters will perform keyword searches related to the positions they are hiring for, using LinkedIn’s search feature. Examples: Digital Marketer, Customer Success, or Data Analyst. If you have some or all of the terms in their search, you are more likely to appear closer to the top of their search results. So, you need to think about the terms/titles that recruiters will be searching for, in alignment with the jobs you want.
If you are looking for a job as a Digital Marketer, you should consider writing a headline that includes that term. A great example might then be something like, “Digital Marketer specializing in Social Media Management, Email Marketing, and Paid Advertising.” This example is good because there are several keywords in that headline in which a recruiter might search when looking to fill a Digital Marketing role.
3. Write your About section/Summary telling your career story
This area is often overlooked. Or, it is written robotically, with very little personality. There are a lot of opinions about what should be included in a LinkedIn summary, but I created the SKIP strategy that has worked very well for me, my clients, and students: SKIP is an acronym for Story, Keywords, Interests, and Passion.
Career Coach Brett Ellis
If someone has come to your profile, they are already interested in learning more about you. Your Story is important to who you are as a person and professional. Think about the work that you want to do and who you want to attract. Now appeal to the needs of that person. You can also use your story to avoid potential confusion or red flags from recruiters. Let’s say you are making a career change. Use your Summary to help recruiters understand why you’re transitioning. Follow that up with what you are currently doing to gain expertise or qualifications to be more marketable for your desired role.
The next thing to be sure to include is relevant Keywords. This works very similarly to the Keywords strategy in your headline. Be sure to include relevant keywords that recruiters might search for but make it less obvious. You can infuse keywords into your story or simply share something like, “My biggest strengths as a UX Designer include using HTML and CSS, A/B Testing, and creating mockups for online retail stores.”
LinkedIn is a little different than other social networks because there is a general sense of helping and wanting to assist others in their career growth. Interests can be great to include as a way to connect with others and showcase your future career goals. Give a little more insight into the things you are working towards. After all, it can be difficult for people to help you if they don’t know what you want.
Last, but certainly not least, is showcasing your Passion for the work that you do. Generally, people want to work with others who share the same excitement for the work that they do. This has the ability to contribute to your engagement, job satisfaction, and potential fit with an organization, so it’s important that you come across as a passionate professional in your industry.
Throughout most of your LinkedIn profile, you don’t have much opportunity to let people know about you as a person. It’s all about your work, education, and accolades. Your Summary can fill this gap. After all, LinkedIn is designed to be professional, but it’s still a social network.
4. Ensure your Experience section features achievements & media
Think about what a job opening means for a business. Basically, all job openings are created because a problem needs to be solved or a goal needs to be accomplished. This is why it is important for you to showcase the impact you’ve had with your previous work experiences.
Nobody wants to read a regurgitated job description in paragraph format or long bulleted list. As a reader, I don’t need 8 bullet points describing your duties as a graphic designer. I have a reasonable understanding of what your duties are. Instead, provide a very brief description that lists the roles and responsibilities that are the most relevant for your desired next role. For example, if you want to make a transition from a graphic designer to a web developer, you’ll want to focus more on the transferrable activities you did versus listing all of your responsibilities.
Fast-forward to now, and I receive about 2 offers a month to interview for jobs without even applying. I also frequently get messages from professionals asking for coaching without doing any “cold selling.” My secret: LinkedIn. Now, I teach others how to do the same.
Then follow that brief description with achievements. Your achievements will highlight your direct impact on the organization. Maybe you increased sales, reduced errors, elevated customer satisfaction, improved efficiency, etc. These are the things recruiters look for because they don’t just show what you do, they show what you have done well. It also gets employers excited about the potential impact you could have with them.
Compare these 2 statements through the lens of a recruiter:
Runs departmental Instagram page.
Increased Instagram following by 170% over the course of 6 months by creating a consistent content calendar and providing free resources and how-to guides.
The 2nd statement is much more appealing. By following the achievement up with the actions that led to it, you take it to another level. This helps recruiters understand your thought process and allows you to show off specific skills like content planning, content creation, data-driven decision making, and social media management.
If you want to take your Experience section even further to stand out amongst your competition, include relevant media. This may include pictures, newsletters, presentations, flyers, recommendation letters, video recaps, links to websites, and more. This strategy allows you to use your LinkedIn profile as if it’s a living portfolio of your work.
Now compare these 2 candidates through the lens of a recruiter:
Lists their current and previous jobs with a description of their duties.
Provides a tailored description of their duties as they relate to their desired role. Showcases impact through achievements. Has relevant work samples to be viewed.
The 2nd one is much more appealing for a recruiter and generally more exciting for everyone to view.
5. Gather meaningful and targeted Recommendations
When it comes to personal branding, you have to think of yourself as a business. Now, think about when you go to purchase something new on Amazon or try out a new restaurant. The first thing that most people will do is check the reviews. Your LinkedIn profile is not much different. In this case, your Recommendations are your reviews.
Employers may visit this section to see if others have vouched for your work. This is a great opportunity for you to include as many recommendations as you can to add credibility to everything you’ve stated on your profile. This social proof is the same thing that makes us feel more comfortable investing in a product or service with 5/5 stars.
One great strategy to getting more recommendations is to simply ask previous supervisors, colleagues, clients, professors, etc. However, be sure to make this process easy for them. Go to their profile, click the “More…” button, and select the “Request a Recommendation” option. Now choose your relationship and position. Then, include a message to request a recommendation about specific projects or skills that you want them to talk about. For example: If you are going to be looking for management roles, ask them to speak about your ability to lead others and work well on a team.
Another great strategy for receiving recommendations is to give them first. People generally want to reciprocate favors. Speak on their ability to perform well during your interactions working together. It may also look good if you have given recommendations. It shows a sense of gratitude towards your colleagues.
If you are able to optimize your profile by improving these areas, you should start to see an increase in the traffic coming to your profile simply from the keyword optimization. However, your profile is only half the battle. Engagement and content creation are the keys to really drawing viewers to your profile to see your amazing work.
Brett Ellis is a Personal Branding Speaker, Workshop Facilitator, and Career Coach based in Atlanta, GA. He loves to learn and teach others how to most effectively build their personal/professional brands to land jobs without applying, clients without “cold” sales, and more.