Since LinkedIn launched in 2003, it has evolved into the premier social network platform for professionals.  A few stats:

  • More than 300 million users worldwide
  • 41% of people now report 500+ connections
  • 50+% of users are spending more than two hours a week on LinkedIn

dumb manAre you a pro at using LinkedIn or just barely know the basics? From my perspective as a career professional, I have realized that LinkedIn is one of the most underutilized social media networks for job seekers. Here are a few things to help you become more familiar with LinkedIn, your profile, and how to better use this social media tool to enhance your professional online presence.

1.         Customize your professional headline. LinkedIn sets up a default heading when you set up your account. Edit that title so it grabs attention and speaks to your brand. You have 120 characters (not words) to showcase or highlight what you want people to know about you. This headline follows you everywhere on LinkedIn so make sure it is great!

2.         Professional profile picture. A photo is a must! Some recruiters won’t consider a candidate without a picture. It is preferable to have a professional picture, however, one where you are dressed in business attire against a solid background is fine.

3.         Customize public profile LinkedIn URL. LinkedIn assigns you a URL by default with random numbers and letters. Many users don’t know that LinkedIn will let you customize a URL link that will look something like An easy-to-read website address increases the chance of people being able to remember and find you on LinkedIn. And don’t forget to put this URL on your resume!

4.         Create a summary. This section is a vital part of your LinkedIn profile. You have 2,000 characters to give readers a brief snapshot of who you are (similar to the profile section of your resume). You have seconds to capture your reader’s attention. Use keywords and phrases that are related to your profession and would be searchable by a potential employer. And don’t be afraid to show some personality. It could be the differentiator between you and someone of equal qualifications.

5.   Additional Information.

a. Interests. Add interests (example: sailing, golfing, etc.). This shows the more “personal” side of you – for example: a LinkedIn member or recruiter reads your profile who sails small sailboats (let’s pretend you do too) and that can be a connection and a conversation starter.

b. Advice for contacting. If someone is not a 1st with you, they may not be able to see all your contact information at the top of your profile. If you are actively looking for another position, you want to make it easy for people to connect with you. Add at least either your email or phone number, or both.

6.         Recommendations. Seek out recommendations from people who can attest to your talents and skills. This acts like your online reference sheet. Recruiters and hiring managers want to see these on candidate’s LinkedIn profiles – it helps them see how others value your working relationship.

The next few tips refer to job search strategies using LinkedIn.

7.         Check your LinkedIn inbox regularly. Duh! People expect quick responses today, so review your connection requests and answer messages as soon as possible. Recruiters move on to other potential candidates if they don’t hear back from someone fairly quickly.

8.         Check your LinkedIn homepage feed at least once a week (daily or at least several times a week is preferable). People in your network may be posting valuable resources. After a quick skim, you may find trends and information that are helpful to your job search or career options. You can also choose to add to these conversations or just click the “like” button. Even if you just “like” a conversation it helps build your online presence and link-ability.

9.         Search Company Pages on LinkedIn to research employers. Search companies you are interested in and LinkedIn even suggests companies that might interest you. To expand your list of target options you can visit the company page’s Insights tab. That’s where you can see the “People Also Viewed” area and find companies that are similar, giving you more resources to investigate. Company pages also have a “careers” or “jobs” tab where you can access jobs they currently have posted.

10.       Leverage the power of LinkedIn Groups. Demonstrate your expertise by contributing to your top 2-3 groups in discussions where you can make a substantive contribution. This helps you build your brand as an expert or even as a “go-to” person for information. Recruiters and hiring managers search groups for people who stand out and engage.

It’s not enough to create a LinkedIn account. You need to populate it with good content, engage in conversations, and groups for higher visibility.