Like many of you, I decided to join LinkedIn because of peer pressure. In 2005, I received so many invitations from friends that one day, I finally decided to take the plunge. Unbeknownst to me, this was the best decision I could have made as a recruiter, and it is the best decision you have made as a job seeker.
There are 200 million LinkedIn members (and growing), but this doesn’t mean there are 200 million expert members looking for jobs. Here are 5 ways to stand out from the crowd and win the hearts, minds, and attention of top recruiters.
1. Be ‘highly searchable’ for busy recruiters
Back in 1997, I rode the NYC subway with a pile of faxed and mailed in resumes in my hand every Monday evening. I would screen them one by one, hoping to find the perfect candidates to show my hiring managers on Tuesday morning.
Keywords barely mattered back then. Today, they are practically the only thing that does matter. Why? Because recruiters start by running searches for candidates, and they can only find you by the skills you’ve listed. Being concise is good, but not at the expense of completeness.
You can find the appropriate keywords from job descriptions that you apply for. Make sure you mention them. Some repetition is fine, even helpful – especially if multiple positions have involved similar skills and duties – but remember that a human will be reading your profile at some point. Avoid obvious ‘keyword stuffing’, as it will undermine your credibility. Here is an example of how to incorporate words artfully:
“Developed PowerPoint presentations for the Board of Directors”
“Responsible for creating PowerPoint decks”
Even if you’re not job searching now, many recruiters build a ‘pipeline’ of future candidates, and it’s good career sense to be on the radar of as many recruiters as possible.
2. Give them a consistent picture, across your LinkedIn profile and resume
Your LinkedIn profile will more than likely be viewed, reviewed, and compared with your resume. Don’t get tripped up by creating confusion or mistrust in a recruiter’s busy mind.
Here’s a simple rule: Be sure that the titles and dates match. If they don’t, you may fail to meet expectations on the core requirement of integrity. Recruiters hate having to withdraw offers from candidates when everyone in the company has fallen in love with them.
It’s true that many job search experts encourage job seekers to create different versions of their resumes. If you opt for that strategy, ensure the basic facts are consistent. Adding emphasis on certain roles, or certain dimensions of your skillset, can be totally appropriate, but be transparent. For example, if you have a title that doesn’t match the standard titles in your industry or your actual responsibilities, add an explanation in parentheses. For example:
Vice President, Marketing (Acting in Marketing Manager role)
Director of Finance (independent contributor)
Office Manager (also responsible for Human Resources)
3. Remember the personal touch
In the same way that you would not go up to a stranger and ask them to hold your hand without having gotten to know you first, one of my pet peeves is when people send LinkedIn invitations without personalizing them. In other words, just because some of us are open networkers, doesn’t mean that we don’t want to know how you learned about us. Customize your invitation when you ask people to join your network. Include how they know you, how you can help them by being a part of their network, and/or how you hope to work with them in the future.
On LinkedIn, if you have fewer than 50 connections, you simply need to find more. A large network gives you visibility of more profiles (up to your 3rd degree with a Premium subscription). Therefore, you’ll have a greater chance of seeing the name of the hiring manager or recruiter at a company you’re interested in. You probably have more potential connections than you think – try listing out all the people you knew at your former companies, your bowling team friends, and your college classmates.
4. Lead with your LinkedIn identity
As mentioned in #2, you should expect a recruiter will try to research you on LinkedIn. Make it easy! Neglecting to include the link to your LinkedIn Profile on the top of your resume could lead to mistaken identity. For example, if your name is Steve Smith, there are hundreds of your namesakes who live within 50 miles of New York City. A link on the top of your profile will send the recruiter straight to not only your background information but also to your endorsements, recommendations, honors and awards which can send you straight to the top of the pile.
When you sign up for LinkedIn, you are automatically assigned a Public Profile link for just this purpose. The default link includes your name plus a set of randomly generated numbers by the system, for example, www.linkedin.com/pub/steve-smith/5/8a/4a0. The Public Profile can be edited quite easily to just include your name instead of a bunch of numbers, and it will be much more appealing to a recruiter. If your name is popular, such as Steve Smith, you may have to be more creative as there are many of you out there. You can try adding relevant acronyms or adjectives, such as: www.linkedin.com/in/SteveSmithNJ or www.linkedin.com/in/SteveSmithCPA for example.
5. Look work-ready in your LinkedIn profile picture
While having an unprofessional or inappropriate picture won’t necessarily put you in the “no” pile, it may leave a recruiter concerned about sharing your resume with a hiring manager. A professional photo will give the impression that you are a serious candidate worth evaluating, and your LinkedIn profile is 7 times more likely to be viewed if you have a photo.
Let’s start with a fundamental point that’s often overlooked: your LinkedIn picture should be of you, not a picture of your family or your dog. Also be sure to represent yourself professionally. Avoid posting pictures where you are staring up into the sky, looking like you’re having a bad day, or clearly in a non-working mode. For example, the picture of you dressed up like Spongebob on Halloween is best saved for other social media sites.
A picture is only worth a thousand words if it is high-quality, so consider getting your headshots done at a major retail chain for a low cost. Or, get help from a family member or friend: use a high-resolution camera, and select a neutral background with indirect lighting. Remember to smile! Your picture should exude confidence.
Finally, dress for success. Imagine it’s the first day in your new role, and you’re ready to walk through the door. Note this could be different if you’re walking into an office, a plant, a store, or some other work environment.
According to Jobvite, 93% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find talent. With those percentages, you simply have to learn to take advantage of the tools LinkedIn has given you. Think of yourself as a recruiter. How would you find yourself on LinkedIn? Then, how would you contact yourself and how long would you wait for a response?
When used strategically, you can delight recruiters, and LinkedIn can become the light at the end of the tunnel that you have been waiting for!