By Laura Shin
Contributor to Forbes
As almost 90% of recruiters use LinkedIn, it’s imperative to put your best foot forward there.
But the amount of space the site offers can be intimidating. Is it helpful or just too much information to fill out every single section, including Test Scores, Courses, and Volunteering? What if you mention a personal interest that turns off a potential client or employer?
Because of concerns like these, many people just duplicate their resume. But that means they are not capitalizing on the ability to add videos, images, or publications, which could make their profile not only more attractive, but also add legitimacy to their claims.
So, is it better to err on the side of too much or too little information?
“It depends on the industry. But I still think whether you’re an accountant at a Fortune 500 firm or you’re a sales and marketing genius, it is coming down to personal branding,” says Viveka von Rosen, author of LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day and founder of LinkedIntoBusiness.com.
For that reason, von Rosen recommends doing more than just pasting your resume into your LinkedIn page. “Definitely don’t shy away from these new features because they don’t look like a traditional resume,” she says.
Here’s how to best to fill out your profile. (Read here to find out how to network on LinkedIn.)
“On LinkedIn, it’s your picture, name, and professional headline most times that people see,” says von Rosen. Use a professional-looking shot that will allow people to recognize you if they see you at a conference or trade show. As much as you love your family, leave them out of your picture, and just make it a photo of you.
No matter what, don’t skip the picture. “If there’s no picture, it instills no sense of trust or engagement. People go to what is he or she hiding?” says von Rosen.
Maximize the 120 characters of your headline by describing what you do and who you serve. Don’t just name your job title. “If it says, ‘CEO of ABC Corp.,’ they don’t know what you offer,” she says. “So it could be ‘CEO of ABC Corp: Helping business-to-business professionals with all their accounting needs.’”
This 2,000-character space is where the LinkedIn algorithm searches for keywords, so be sure to fill it with information you think your target audience is looking for, and to jazz it up with awards or anything that will make you stand out. Job seekers will want to put in keywords that match those of the jobs they are looking for, and business owners will want to use terms that their clients might be looking for.
“Quantify with percentages and numbers: ‘Last year, we increased business 80% or 10 times or saved $2 million,’” says von Rosen, adding that you don’t want to publicize any sensitive numbers meant for internal use only.
She also recommends adding media here, if it makes sense for your line of work. “If you’re an accountant, you probably won’t put up a client’s P&L, but any kind of credential-like content you can add or testimonials — take a screenshot of a testimonial page, if you’ve got a website — adds proof,” she says. Other types of media you may want to add include YouTube videos, JPEGs, Slideshare presentations, mp3s, blogs, articles quoting you, or any other media that that gives credibility to your claims about who you say you are and what you do.
If LinkedIn is an important part of your strategy for finding new clients, job-hunting, or another reason, it may be worth it to you to pay for a premium account. (Prices range from $20/month to $48/month to start, depending on whether you are a job seeker, recruiter, sales professional or just want a general premium account, and go as high as $75/month for non-corporate accounts. Also, it is possible to get a premium account for free. For instance, journalists can get them by signing up for a LinkedIn seminar for journalists; see if there’s a way to do so for people in your industry.) If you have a premium account, when filling out the summary, it will suggest to you keywords that, if in the summary, will get your profile to turn up more often in search results.
Under Experience, go beyond your resume by sharing media such as relevant videos, images, presentations, or articles quoting you. Von Rosen says that until a year ago, LinkedIn was almost entirely text-based. Now that you can spruce up your profile with visuals, take advantage.
“Adding two to four pieces of media to your profile will do nothing but make it more attractive,” von Rosen says. “Whoever is your prospect, whether it’s a potential client, customer, vendor, or partner, it means they’ll stay a little longer on your profile. And that can only lead to more business, whatever business looks like for you.”
Get up to two recommendations for each of your most important former positions. So, if you have 15 jobs listed on there, 30 recommendations is overkill, but 10 altogether for the most important jobs is enough to represent diverse viewpoints on your strengths without overwhelming people. Preferably, obtain recommendations from people influential in your industry, and give them talking points, such as “Can you speak to my timeliness and knowledge?” Your references can either be directly about doing business with you, or about your character.
Yes, many of us hate the endorsements. As von Rosen says, “If you have a bigger network, you will get endorsements from people you don’t know for things you don’t do” — and that just seems to defeat the whole purpose. Unfortunately, says von Rosen, “the game-ification of our culture means people look at those numbers.” So, if you’re thinking about opting out of endorsements altogether, you may want to consider the possibility that having no endorsements looks suspicious.
However, you can now at least delete endorsements for skills you don’t have, plus reorder your endorsements so the most relevant ones are at the top and the least relevant ones at the bottom. To build up those numbers for your most important skills, you could endorse other people; often, they will endorse you back. Or, you can even just email some close friends and family directly — for instance, the number of people who had endorsed me for blogging was significantly higher than the number who had endorsed me for writing, even though if someone had asked me what I do for a living, there was about a 0% chance I would have said blogging (and a 100% chance I would have said writing). So, I actually emailed several close friends and family asking them to endorse me specifically for writing, which helped boost those numbers.
Make at least 300 connections in order to get a big enough network to be useful to you professionally and to be visible on LinkedIn, but stay under 3,000, because, as von Rosen says, at that point, LinkedIn ”starts breaking.”
Proactively connect to people you should know: fellow alumni, other experts in your industry, former colleagues, friends, family.
How easily you want your LinkedIn contacts to get in touch with you is up to you. If you want them to easily be in touch but don’t necessarily want to give them your personal number, you could use non-primary contact info, such as a Google Voice number (which will transcribe voice messages into text for you) or an alternate email address. That way, you’re not missing out on career or business opportunities, but you also aren’t giving our your private contact info to 3,000 contacts, many of whom you won’t be on texting terms with.
Get a customized LinkedIn URL of either your name or your area of expertise. For instance, von Rosen’s is “LinkedIn expert.” However, since many areas of expertise are already taken, if you can’t get one of those, go with your first and last name or whatever is closest (such as adding your middle initial).
Regularly update your status with industry news and your accomplishments. “It takes seconds a day, but it helps you become more visible on LinkedIn and gives your network an opportunity to engage with you,” says von Rosen.
As for the additional features of test scores, volunteering, publications, and more, be selective. Fill out the sections that are actually relevant in your line of work or to the audience you are targeting — whether they are recruiters at firms who use test scores in their hiring process or potential clients who will want to read about your latest projects. Don’t feel the need to list every last thing, but also do keep in mind the different populations who may peruse your profile, and have something on your profile to pique the interest of each of them.
Ultimately, remember there’s no one right way to create a LinkedIn profile. You’re ahead of the game if you have the basics down and if you take advantage of features that a traditional resume doesn’t offer. Along with any extras you strategically use, you should be able to attract the audience you want.