LinkedIn is generally thought of as a social network for career and professional development. A lot of folks build a LinkedIn profile, add connections, and then return to the site only from time to time to respond to messages and maintain their profiles. If you’re actively looking for a new job, whether you’re employed or not, LinkedIn is a wonderful tool for doing so.
But active job hunting is not quite the same as career development. You can’t just “build it and hope they come.” You’ll want to spend some time optimizing your LinkedIn profile and network. And you’ll need to check in to LinkedIn often to search for jobs, refine and update your profile, maintain relationships and communicate with potential employers.
This article is intended as an overview on how to make the best use of LinkedIn as a tool for finding a job. If you are a regular LinkedIn user you might have other ideas on how to do this, and I encourage you to add your suggestions at the bottom of the article.
Update and expand your profile
LinkedIn is structured to foster useful interactions between professionals, which requires a fairly extensive profile. As LinkedIn points out, “Users with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn!”
Make sure your profile is up-to-date and complete, and that dates, job descriptions and titles match those on the resume you send prospective employers. Use a professional looking profile photo. Remember also that your profile is visible to employers and recruiters who search the Internet even if they are not members of LinkedIn, or if they are signed out. Don’t put anything in your profile that you wouldn’t tell the hiring manager during an interview.
Add certifications, articles published, volunteer activities, honors, degrees, etc. Unlike a one- or two-page resume, an online resource like LinkedIn allows you to display a wealth of information about yourself in an easily digestible format. In addition to providing a better picture of your capabilities and interests, you’ll be improving your personal SEO.
Check your contact settings to make sure you indicate you are interested in Career Opportunities and will accept both Introductions and InMail.
Round out your recommendations
Add a few recommendations if you do not have enough, if the ones you have are dated, if they will not help you get the job you are looking for, or if they are all in connection with a single job. It’s not only OK to ask for recommendations, it’s unlikely you will get any without doing so. It’s also OK to offer to draft a recommendation for the person from whom you are requesting one. Often, they are being asked to write several a week, and anything you can do to make the process easier for them will help you get your recommendations posted sooner.
Don’t seek recommendations just to achieve LinkedIn’s arbitrary notion of a complete profile, though this can be a guideline. Also, don’t broker a bunch of recommendation trades with people. A shrewd recruiter can spot this. Finally, in the interest of good karma, be quick to provide recommendations to people who request them from you, as long as they deserve them.
Turn up the volume on your networking activities
Improve you chances of success by adding connections. Look first to people you actually know or who you have worked with. LinkedIn has perhaps the most structured approach and complex etiquette for connecting with people. Respecting this will yield the best results in a job search.
No network is more free with advice than LinkedIn. When you commence the process to add a connection, LinkedIn cautions: “Important: Only invite people you know well and who know you.” They’re serious. LinkedIn requires certain information before allowing you to invite a potential connection. LinkedIn also has a convention called the “IDK.” When you send an invitation to someone, they can accept, or indicate “I Don’t Know (the sender).” If you get too many IDKs, you can be thrown off of LinkedIn.
There are ways to connect with people outside your immediate sphere of influence. You can be introduced through an existing friend on LinkedIn. This is a cumbersome and time consuming process and sometimes too slow when you are looking for a job. You can also indicate that the person you wish to connect with is a friend, or even that you don’t know the person at all, but you run the risk of generating a dreaded IDK.
Another way to reach people to whom you are not connected is through LinkedIn InMails. InMails are LinkedIn internal messages that bypass the requirement that you are connected to someone before you can send them a message. Basic accounts do not have InMail capabilities. LinkedIn users can upgrade to get InMails. A $25 per month subscription allows up to three InMails per month, and a $50 per month “Business Plus” account allows 10 InMails per month. These costs seem prohibitive except for the high-end job seeker.
Many people on LinkedIn don’t want to hear from strangers, and some hiring managers only want to be contacted by people in their networks. Ultimately, though, if you are looking for a job and feel you are an exceptionally well-qualified candidate for a position, break the rules and find workarounds. If you depend on a lengthy brokered introduction or stand too much on LinkedIn courtesy, you’ll be denying yourself and the recruiter a shot at a potential dream match-up.
Promote your LinkedIn profile
Use your blog and social networks to promote your LinkedIn profile. On Twitter and FriendFeed for example, it’s a good idea to occasionally post an update like “Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn” with a link to your public profile. (Your public profile link is available on your profile page. Mine looks like this: http://www.linkedin.com/in/joelpostman ). Publish it no more than once or twice a week, at different times of day. Add your public profile link to the sidebar of your blog.
Join a few strategic groups
One of the strengths of LinkedIn is its groups for professionals. Join a handful of these to expand your networking opportunities. If you accept the defaults, you’ll receive email updates on group activities every day, so think about changing this to weekly. If you’re interested in changing career fields, add a group or two from areas outside your own that interest you in order to start connecting with people in these fields.
Search jobs on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is of course, not a job board (better stick to Talent Zoo for that). You won’t find hundreds of positions to browse through. What you will find are interesting opportunities and smart, connected people who just might help you find your next job. LinkedIn’s job search is similar to that of a job board. You’ll notice that some jobs are LinkedIn exclusives. During difficult economic times (you know, right now), most hiring is being done within industries and job titles. Keep this in mind when building your profile and searching job listings.
Often, the recruiter for a particular job will be listed. Don’t just add the recruiter to your network. They may get hundreds of people doing that and it can be very annoying. (I know what I said before about breaking the rules for your dream job. But are they all dream jobs?) Conversely, the recruiter may add you after you apply for the job, so, again, make sure your profile is complete and fit for viewing before you apply.
Add LinkedIn applications
A relatively new feature on LinkedIn is its applications. Most of these aren’t directly applicable to a job search, but there are a couple that might be interesting. If you write a blog that showcases your expertise and might be of interest to employers, use the LinkedIn WordPress App or Blog Link app from Six Apart. Either will display your latest blog posts on your LinkedIn profile. The SildeShare Presentations and Google Presentation apps will let you show off your finest slideware.
Go to it!
Even if you’re an experienced LinkedIn user, I hope you’ve found something useful here. The LinkedIn Learning Center is quite good, and offers specific tips for job seekers.
If you have additional suggestions on how best to use LinkedIn to find your next job, please help others out by leaving a comment below. And of course, please add me on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks, and good luck!