Everyone knows how important it is to be on LinkedIn – it’s the top social media site for career and professional networking. And while most people do have a LinkedIn profile, it’s surprising how few know how to optimise their profile so they can maximise their chances of finding a role.
We spoke to Victoria McLean – CEO and founder of City CV – to find out what you need to do, as a returner, to make sure your LinkedIn profile becomes your hardworking ally on your return-to-work journey.
First of all, let’s understand why LinkedIn is so important when you’re looking to return to work after a career break or indeed for any subsequent job search. Well, here the stats are clear – and mind-blowing. Ninety-seven percent of recruiters/headhunters use LinkedIn as their primary way to source candidates; 85% of recruiters make their shortlist decisions based on LinkedIn alone and nearly 50% of engaged users of LinkedIn have hiring decision making authority.
“LinkedIn is your online marketing document. It’s your business case that needs to clearly demonstrate why you meet your future employer’s needs and why they should hire you,” says Victoria. “Your profile is all about strategically aligning you to your target role,” she adds. It’s used in every part of the recruitment process.”
Victoria recommends starting with a blank Word document so that you can strategically plan out, format and spell check your information before you put anything online.
Here are the steps she recommends you take:
1. Carry out a detailed keyword research. This is where you need to start. Create a list of key words and phrases (key skills, expertise, job titles etc) that a recruiter or a computer algorithm is likely to use to find candidates like you. The more keywords you have the better. It doesn’t matter if you’re saying the same thing in lots of different ways – make sure you cover all your bases. Once you have a comprehensive list, use it in every part of your profile so that you can be easily found. And remember – keyword breadth and density is important.
2. Create a killer profile. The first things a recruiter will see are your photo, name, headline and location so it’s super-important to get these right. Make sure you use a corporate-type photo – professionally shot, if possible. When it comes to your headline, LinkedIn’s default is to use your last job title, but you can change this and create a brief, powerful picture of who you are and what you have to offer. You have 120 characters so try to use all of them wisely. Make sure you include your industry (or target industry) in your headline to increase your chances of appearing in recruiters’ searches. For your location, it’s important to say where you want to work, not where you live. Recruiters screen by location and if you leave this out, or have the wrong location, you could miss out on a lot of opportunities.
3. Craft your summary. This is the most important and valuable part of your profile and it should set out your business case. Find a tone, style and level of detail that suits you, make sure it is keyword rich and use all the 2,000 characters available to you. It’s completely up to you whether you use the first or third person when writing your summary, although Victoria says she prefers to use the first person. It’s really important to get the first two or three lines spot on so that recruiters are motivated to click on ‘see more’. One way of making sure you have used all your keywords is to have a list of your specialities within your summary.
4. Talk about your experience. Make sure you use job titles that are searchable (eg Marketing Manager not Brand Warrior). And double check that your job titles and dates match those in your CV. Use the first person and bullet points or short paragraphs – enough to entice a recruiter to contact you – but don’t copy and paste from your CV. Focus on the most important information and go back far enough so that former colleagues can find you.
5. Fill in your education details. It’s important to add your university (and maybe school) details as you’re likely to receive 17x the messages you would get if you left this section blank.
6. Detail your skills and expertise. You can add up to 50 skills and areas of expertise. This section is an ideal opportunity to use your keywords to say the same thing in different ways (to maximise the chances of your profile coming up in searches). LinkedIn will guide you and suggest similar phrases. Input the skills needed for your target role, putting the most relevant ones first. See if you can get endorsed by your contacts for these keys skills as endorsed skills will appear at the top of the list.