A Guide to Building an Effective LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn is undoubtedly one of the most important Internet resources for job seekers.  Often providing your first impression to employers and recruiters, your LinkedIn account should provide a concise snapshot of your employment history, accomplishments, education and core strengths. It is therefore apparent that creating and maintaining an account on LinkedIn is critical for those who are serious about their current or future careers. However, many professionals are unsure how to market themselves efficiently through their LinkedIn accounts.  Such users may neglect key profile sections, write in an unappealing style or provide too much unnecessary information. In doing so, they are potentially limiting their opportunities for networking and new employment. To enable professionals to maximize their visibility to employers and recruiters, each section of the LinkedIn profile is discussed below, along with recommendations for positive exposure.

Use the name you’re known by professionally, along with a certification like “CPA” or “CISA,” if desired.  To avoid confusion, married women may wish to include their maiden name in parentheses.

Adding a photo to your LinkedIn account is more important than you may think. Given the high number of spam accounts, displaying a picture of yourself adds to your profile’s authenticity. In addition, it may bolster profile views from employers and recruiters, since a photo helps to humanize a page that is otherwise full of all text. Your photo of choice should be tasteful and professional. A simple, recent headshot, free of a distracting or inappropriate background, works perfectly for your LinkedIn account.

Headlines, which appear below the user’s name in a search, are another crucial component of the LinkedIn profile. The challenge of creating an effective headline is to capture someone’s interest in just a few words. In composing your headline, be sure to include who you are, along with your unique value proposition as a professional. Like an advertising slogan for a product or service, a headline should be concise, appealing and memorable for best results. 

Longer than a headline, the Summary should be a factual account of your biggest accomplishments in various roles.  The best summaries will avoid fluffy buzzwords like “detail-oriented,” “motivated,” “hardworking,” and “self-starter.” Such trite terms will do nothing to differentiate you from other professionals. Instead, capture the attention of employers and recruiters with numerically-supported achievements. Recommended items to be included in your summary are your years of experience, the total budget you oversee or the number of professionals you supervise in your current position. Write the summary with the objective of compelling someone to read the rest of your profile.

Skills & Expertise
The Skills & Expertise section is an essential profile feature that allows users to boost their visibility in searches. Professionals should be certain to take advantage of this section by including several keywords related to their experience, skills, certifications, position titles and software capabilities. Rather than having to incorporate keywords elsewhere on your profile, the Specialties function offers a simple opportunity for search engine optimization.  For additional inspiration, research job positions of interest and take note of commonly used words or phrases in their descriptions. If any of these keywords apply to your experience, you can include them here, as employers and recruiters will be likely to research candidates in this way.  

Functioning as a virtual resume, the Experience component should succinctly explain your responsibilities and achievements in all past and present employment roles. Be certain to include the start and end dates for each position, including months; failing to add timeframes to your job roles could signal suspicion to employers and recruiters. In addition, refrain from listing every single duty you performed in a given role. The objective is to keep the interest of the reader, so only post the most relevant information possible.

If applicable, you should absolutely display professional certifications on your profile.  Since some positions require advanced designations.  This will only help you stand out from the competition.

Be as thorough as possible in the Education section. Include both undergraduate and postgraduate schools and fields of study, along with any relevant honors or awards you received.  If your GPA is relatively strong, feel free to include it here, too.  As is the case with certifications, positions often call for a particular university degree. Don’t leave employers and recruiters guessing about what you studied in college (or whether or not you attended). Including your education is also a great tool for networking; people will respond positively to universities that are either well-known or they attended personally.

Recommendations greatly enhance the credibility of your employment and accomplishments. If you have not done so already, carefully choose and ask three past or present colleagues, superiors, subordinates or clients for brief recommendations related to your professional performance.

Additional Information
If you have a personal website, blog or Twitter account, definitely consider including these on your LinkedIn page.  Incorporating multiple professional resources gives greater credibility to your professional online presence and unifies your
personal brand.

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