In the professional realm, having a profile on LinkedIn can be about as fundamental as having an undergraduate degree. Like earning a college degree, the same is true for your LinkedIn profile - if you don’t put much effort into it, you probably won’t get much from it. Helbling & Associates are executive search consultants who specialize in engineering and construction, facilities management, and real estate development. While LinkedIn is not one of our primary tools, depending upon the level of the search we are performing, it can be part of the initial stages of our recruitment process. LinkedIn can offer immediate information about a professional, provide insight prior to an initial call, and help us to determine if we have mutual connections with that person.
Ryan Pugh, Senior Managing Consultant, sums this up quickly, “LinkedIn, itself, is a venue for connecting with people in your industry and profession and sharing knowledge, which is why having a profile is so important. A LinkedIn profile basically functions as an online resume. Beyond that, it shows that you are progressive, career-minded, and involved in your profession.”
Summary and information beyond current employer and title
Pugh says, “The first thing I look for in a profile is depth of information. I consider if the individual simply provided his/her current and previous employers and respective titles, or if they took the time to elaborate on what they do or did at those organizations. To capture attention, a user will want to provide specific information regarding their responsibilities, projects, and other initiatives in which they have had involvement."
Jim Lord, Managing Director, goes on to say, “Not all of us need an elaborate position description on LinkedIn, but if you do something specific in your role such as focus on a particular industry, or vertical market, or perform certain functions that people may not realize from your title, then that information should be included. A good profile is relatively detailed and covers an entire career. It does not have to be as detailed as a resume, but it should be more than just a listing of titles. As a recruiter, I want to see a person’s career progression so I can make an initial determination of their skills and motivation.”
The profile summary provides an opportunity to include more keywords and skills for which you want to be found by colleagues or prospective employers. It’s also an opportunity to highlight your employer, what it does, and the markets in which it focuses. This section is especially useful for professionals who may have changed careers, positions, or industries.
As humans, we are inclined to relate to visuals and photos. Your profile photo is the first thing people see and, as studies have shown, it literally only takes 1/10 of a second for someone to draw conclusions about you. There are many psychological reasons why providing a profile photo is impactful, and we won’t go into all of those details here. The only thing you have to remember is to include a photo with your profile. By this, we don’t mean ones taken of you dressed up at a wedding, vacationing on the beach, or posing for an imaginary photo shoot. While you don’t need a professional photo taken by a photographer, a clear photo of your face or one taken from the waist up in business casual attire is recommended.
Think of the skills section as keywords in how people will find you in the massive LinkedIn database. You will want your skills list to be comprehensive and accurate, including only the skills that you feel are most important in your career. Do not list so many that you will lose someone’s interest. Getting endorsed for critical skills by your peers is even more advantageous as your skills will be listed according to how many endorsements you have for each of them.
The lesson here is "grow your connections." Tom Dunn, Senior Managing Consultant, says, “One of the first things that I look at within a profile is the individual’s number of connections. A 500+ connection status shows that the person actively uses LinkedIn as a networking tool and strives to maintain visibility and accessibility within their respective industry. While connections don’t tell the whole story (because that number can be inflated or deflated for various reasons), if someone is using LinkedIn professionally and has a large network, it typically correlates with the strength of their profile.”
Recommendations are different from skill endorsements. While a connection can just simply click a button to endorse you for a particular skill, a recommendation is a short (or long) paragraph about you and why that person recommends you professionally. Pugh elaborates, “Recommendations are a great way to make your profile, and consequently your capabilities, stand out. When someone takes the time to write a recommendation, it boosts your credibility. When I see a profile with a number of recommendations, it tells me that the person must truly care about their performance and are passionate about what they do.”
While LinkedIn provides the ability for your connections and others to InMail you, it’s easier to have your contact information provided publicly on your profile. Even just an email address can make it easier for others to contact you.
Privacy Settings & Sharing Updates
The whole point of having a LinkedIn profile is being visible. While strict privacy settings may be prudent for some high-level professionals, it doesn’t make sense for most. Dunn explains, “When professionals have high privacy settings, they aren’t taking full advantage of the main purpose of the platform, and may be missing out on viable career and/or networking opportunities. Just sharing an update can lead people to your profile. But, if you have privacy controls on, most will never even find you or your update. This thought extends to profile views as well. If you are using LinkedIn for its primary function, you should not be concerned if someone can see that you viewed their profile.”
LinkedIn is a resource that should be leveraged by most every professional. It provides numerous benefits that no other platform can offer. Furthermore, a LinkedIn profile is a tool that should be developed to its fullest potential. Otherwise, just like that college degree, there is no sense in having one.