For tech professionals working in today’s IT industry, maintaining an active LinkedIn account is a must, according to Kate Kirschner, employer relationship manager at Creating IT Futures.
LinkedIn offers professionals a social media platform to network, share thought leadership and resources, and build relationships with peers, partners and clients. It’s also effective when you’re ready to look for your next career opportunity.
Kirschner offers the following tips and tricks for using the career-oriented social media platform to your professional advantage:
1. Use a professional headshot.
Placing a professional photo on your account makes you 14 times more likely to be found, according to LinkedIn. LinkedIn recommends that you choose a recent photo where your face takes up 60 percent of the frame. You should be dressed in what you’d wear to work or an interview, and the background should be simple and not distracting.
“As a recruiter, I see not having a photo as a red flag,” says Kirschner. “There are lots of legitimate reasons not to have a picture, but ultimately it looks like you are hiding something — whether that’s how you look or that your profile is actually fake. You don’t show up to an interview with a bag over your head; a potential employer will see your face at some point. You might as well be authentic up front to get the right job for you.”
Creating IT Futures believes in the need for headshots so much that during its IT-Ready program, all students pose for headshots and classroom shots during the first month of their training. Each student receives a professional headshot to use on their LinkedIn profile.
2. Write a professional headline.
Right underneath your name on your LinkedIn account, you’ll find your professional headline. By default, LinkedIn posts your current job title there. However, you can edit this space to showcase your personality, highlight what subjects you’re interested in, or indicate your area of expertise.
Your headline is important because recruiters often search for candidates through Google instead of using the LinkedIn platform itself, says Kirschner.
“Google search results usually include location and your professional headline, so having clear information about your industry and job function — or the industry and job function you are seeking — is key,” she said.
3. Post a professional summary.
Individuals who add a professional summary get 10 times more profile views from search results, according to LinkedIn. This space is where you can provide a more formal summary of your career and professional strengths.
But keep your professional summary concise to hold a recruiter or hiring manager’s interest. And, consider using bullets to make it easy to read, especially for people browsing via mobile.
“This really is about personal branding — what you’re passionate about and what specific skills and interests you bring to the table,” Kirschner said. “This is your chance to be creative and step outside the formal nature of LinkedIn. It’s one more way to increase traffic to your profile.”
4. Share content.
Once you’ve updated your profile on LinkedIn, don't leave — make it a point to stay online and engaged. Follow thought leaders whose perspectives you like, and share content that is relevant to your line of work.
“That helps people get to know you,” Kirschner said. “You don’t have to go crazy with it, but I run into people all the time at conferences or networking events who tell me, ‘Oh, I follow you on LinkedIn! You always post such interesting articles.’ It’s a way of connecting with people you may not know and showing a high level of engagement.”
5. When looking for a new position, allow LinkedIn to help.
Linkedin has a feature called “Open Candidates,” which gives you the ability to privately signal to recruiters that you’re open to new job opportunities.
To turn this feature on, go to your profile page. Under your summary, you’ll find a dashboard private to you. In it, there is a section called “Career Interests” and a button you can turn on or off, depending on where you are in your job search. You then can indicate your level of job search engagement, along with details about the jobs, locations and industries that interest you.
“Turning this on allows recruiters to see what you are looking for and reach out if they have appropriate opportunities making it worth both partners’ time and effort,” says Kirschner. “Also, turning this on does not allow anyone from your current company to know you are looking, even with a fancy recruiter account.”
6. Start following recruiters and “wish list” companies.
Searching for a particular company on LinkedIn is simple — just go to the search bar at the top and type in the name. Search results will yield employees working at those companies, including recruiters.
You also can see what vacant positions companies currently are hiring for by clicking “Jobs” underneath the search bar.
“Many people have had the experience of creating a profile on a company’s online job applicant tracking system and submitting a resume, never knowing where it ends up,” Kirschner said. “Following a recruiter on LinkedIn can increase the chances of your resume making it through the system to the hiring manager and getting a heads up when the right position opens.”
Kirschner said that when she worked as a recruiter, she sometimes had as little as 72 hours to line up suitable candidates for interviews. Facing such tight turnaround times, LinkedIn was where she turned first.
7. Grow your network.
The more first-degree connections you have on LinkedIn, the larger your entire network will be. These first-degree connections can make introductions for you, as well as tell you more about the company, who they know there and what they’ve heard about employment opportunities. Connecting with people also allows them to get to know you better and have access to the best ways to get a hold of you.
Kirschner has experienced the power of LinkedIn as both a job seeker and as part of an organization with an employment opportunity.
As a job seeker, she discovered her current Creating IT Futures position when the executive director posted it on LinkedIn. Since Kirschner already was connected to both her and the senior program manager on LinkedIn, Kirschner saw the posting and applied immediately, with her existing LinkedIn connections contributing to a positive impression. Kirschner had met both hiring managers at a local event the previous year and connected with them afterward.
And Chad Greene, social media intern for Creating IT Futures, learned about his position from Kirschner, one of his LinkedIn connections. Greene was seeking to transition into more social-media or creative roles, so he had connected with Kirschner and other recruiters in those fields. A few months later, Creating IT Futures was hiring for a part-time social-media position. Kirschner remembered his message and contacted Greene about the job. Now the two are coworkers who sit next to each other.
“Reach out — be respectful, be understanding and don’t be discouraged if people don’t respond back,” she said. “You never know when someone might eventually respond, so connecting should be part of a long-term career strategy.”
8. Add skills to your profile.
Navigate to the “Add new profile section” dropdown and click on the “Skills” option with a plus sign next to it. You can add up to 50 skills and prioritize them in whatever order you want. LinkedIn members with at least five skills listed receive up to 17 times more profile views, according to LinkedIn. .
In this section, you also can make endorsements for — and seek endorsements from —your LinkedIn contacts.
9. LinkedIn is more than your resume.
Your LinkedIn account and your resume should complement each other — not duplicate each other.
“Your LinkedIn account should tell a bigger story and offer more context for your career path,” Kirschner said. “Think of your resume as a ‘Greatest Hits’ album — featuring your major works — whereas your LinkedIn account is a complete boxed set of everything you’ve ever produced. You want your resume to provide the ‘glimpse’ that leads a hiring manager to seek out your LinkedIn profile to learn more.”
Make sure information and dates in your resume and LinkedIn account match, because discrepancies raise red flags. Kirschner also recommends adding your LinkedIn URL to your resume.
10. Always check your email and / or in-mail messages.
“If you set up your LinkedIn account and then don’t look at it for another two weeks, what’s the point?” Kirschner said. “Jobs go fast and you don’t want to miss out on a really great opportunity just because you weren’t paying attention.”