Social networking sites have created a novel avenue for recruiters that are looking for new employees or contractors. In fact, this is the fastest growing arena for recruiting over the last couple of years. Five (5) or 6 years ago companies were cautioned about even looking at sites like LinkedIn, Facebook or MySpace to identify candidates, mostly because of the potential of discrimination charges that the firms might face, since personal traits, such as age and race, are usually rather obvious on these sites. But more and more firms are using social networking sites as a key part of their job search strategy. So, the question we must address is: How do you not only use these sites for your personal connections with friends and family, but also benefit from them in your job search. To start with, I’ll focus first on LinkedIn, which is a “must” for the job seeker.
How LinkedIn Helps Your Job Search
LinkedIn has migrated over the years from what I would classify as a glorified electronic address book or contact list to a “social career networking platform.” Even though it falls in the category of a social networking site, it’s best not to look at it as a variant of Facebook or MySpace, but rather as an ongoing professional meeting where you are constantly exchanging business cards and brief introductions with people of interest to you. More than that, LinkedIn gives you a chance to offer a web-enabled “resume” (Profile), a platform to show your skills and talents (Applications), a virtual “rolodex” of professional contacts (Connections), an alternative career search system (Jobs), a forum for joining discussions on various areas of interests (Groups), a source for finding information on specific firms or people that work for those firms (Companies), and numerous other features. I can’t adequately cover all of LinkedIn’s benefits in this brief blog article, so I’ll focus on just helping you get a basic profile pulled together in this post and save other topics for LinkedIn 102 and beyond.
Getting Started: Create Your Profile
The Profile is the most critical aspect of your LinkedIn job search. It’s essentially a mini-resume that gives the reader an introduction to you and your career. There are three key sections: Headline, Summary, and Jobs (Current/Last). The Headline is analogous to the classic Objective line on a resume or a Title line on a business card. The Profile Summary is very similar to the summary section of a resume, where you can highlight your talents in a brief, engaging 3-5 sentence (bullet) format. The Jobs section is closely related to the chronological part of your resume where you listed your relevant job history.
Now, I need to make something very clear … LinkedIn is not a generic job site where everyone posts a full-fledged resume. In fact, most LinkedIn users have a very limited profile which might list a brief 1-3 sentence summary and show just the last 2-3 jobs that they’ve held. On the other hand, there are many consultants, job seekers and others that have found posting their full resume as beneficial. So, what should you do with the profile?
Let’s first address the ‘Job’ section. You want LinkedIn to highlight your career and talents, so start by entering your current and most recent 2-4 job positions and company names in the ‘Jobs’ section — but no more than 10+/- years back. For the ‘Description’ part of the job, you need to add the most relevant 3-5 sentences (bullets) from your resume. Yes, you can have your entire resume details listed on LinkedIn, but the professionals I’ve chatted with suggest making it a trimmed-down version of your resume/career details.
Remember that LinkedIn is primarily a “social career networking platform”, not a jobs board, so most of the time people are interested in the “Who are you and What do you do for a living” not a complete history of your career (save that for Monster) and not a journal of your social life (save that for Twitter). So keep your audience in mind when entering your current job data. You will also find it most beneficial to list your most recent firms by their proper name so others in your industry can locate you as a peer, a business contact or former acquaintance. Make sure you enter your “generic” title and your “official” title (either in the Title line or in the text of the job).
Once you’ve completed the ‘Jobs’ section, find the ‘Summary’ section. The summary needs to be a very clear, concise statement of what your talents are – highlighting a few of your key, current successes. Make sure that what you write in the summary section matches what your ‘Jobs’ section detailed … if you didn’t mention it in the ‘Jobs’ section, then don’t mention it in the ‘Summary’ section. Note that most people don’t read your ancient history, they are mostly interested in your Summary and your most current role, so focus on making these as engaging as possible.
Then modify your Headline (right below your name) to effectively be a 1-sentence summary of the skills and talent you listed in the Summary section along with a key title or job description — a “professional identity” is how LinkedIn refers to it. Keep it brief (no more than 2 lines when viewing it on the screen) and don’t confuse your reader – pick 1 identity or a few related identities. Don’t try to be a jack-of-all-trades.
Make sure the details on your LinkedIn profile (such as job titles, etc.) are identical or similar to those on your resume. It’s very common for recruiters to find your resume on another career site and then try to locate you on LinkedIn to match what you said “privately” on your resume to what you are saying “publicly” on LinkedIn. The recruiters will be wary of you if there’s a notable difference. For example, if your resume says you were a VP and your LinkedIn profile says you were a Sr. Manager, they might think you are “inflating” your resume.
Adjusting Your Settings
Finally, go to Settings, find the Public Profile, click on the Full View option, and adjust your settings as you see fit. I suggest you definitely provide your Headline, Summary, Current & Past Positions, and maybe Education for public viewing. (Skip the photo for now…we’ll talk about that later.)
Bottom line: LinkedIn is a key element in your job search strategy. Start by entering your most recent employment history and providing brief details on recent jobs taken directly from your resume. Mock up a good multi-line Summary and a concise single-line Headline statement. No, don’t put your entire resume here, just use the “best” parts of your resume. Then make sure your profile is visible to anyone by changing the settings on the Public Profile. Remember – be visible, be brief, be engaging, and be active.