Building a Solid LinkedIn Profile

I built my first LinkedIn profile (my own) approximately 10 years ago. At that point, LinkedIn had been around about 5 years and the site was well on its way to becoming a solid career management resource. Still, I don’t think we knew exactly how significant it was going to become. These days, companies use LinkedIn not just to evaluate an applicant before or after an interview, but also as a head-hunting resource to source candidates for open positions. With a well-written LinkedIn profile, your next job might find you instead of the other way around.

What I find when reviewing a client’s LinkedIn profile is that it either contains very little information or that it contains poorly written summaries that don’t really convey the individual’s value to a potential employer. The best-case scenario might be that it is a cut and paste of their CV. Your goal for LinkedIn should be that it is different than your CV while still highlighting the same capabilities and achievements. That way, the reader isn’t processing the same information in the same way. Furthermore, you want to augment your use of keywords, which means using the space available to you in each section. For tips on achieving these two distinct goals, read on:

Headline

The platform allows 120 characters (including spaces). This section is basically designed for you to communicate a title to your readers, such as Sales Manager or Accountant. However, with 120 characters, you can do a little more than just mention your most recent job title. You can use that space to perhaps tell the reader a little bit about yourself. Consider:

An Award-Winning Sales Manager with Experience Overseeing a 20-store region
Sales Manager: Team Building, Client Relations, Presentations, Contract Negotiations, Revenue Growth

On the other hand, if you aren’t firmly committed to a single job title (maybe you’ve had a varied career), this space allows you room to communicate more than one job objective. For example:

Quality Assurance Engineer, End-to-End Testing Manager, Process Improvement Specialist

Operations Manager: Manufacturing and Production, Shipping and Receiving, Automation, Project Management

While it might seem wordy to put so much into your headline, try to remember that this is an ideal way to differentiate yourself from your competition. Furthermore, by using keywords in your headline, you increase your chances of registering in search algorithms.

Summary

Your Summary section allows 2,000 characters with spaces. This is probably the section of LinkedIn that I see underused the most. You should adopt one of two strategies for your Summary on LinkedIn: the bio or the cover letter approach. Generally speaking, I recommend that you write your LinkedIn write up in a more conversational tone than your CV, using first person pronouns and writing as if you were conversing directly with the reader. While a bio can be written in first-person, it is typically written in third-person. So even if you choose to structure your summary as a bio, I would still recommend writing in first-person rather than third.

That said, if you want to treat your summary as a mini-biography, maybe begin writing about your current (or most recent work) and detailing a few elements from the early parts of your career as you build it. Conclude the summary with a few notes on your education, interests, and/or hobbies.

You do not have to use all 2,000 characters, but make sure you have included enough information in this section to give the reader a good idea of who you are. Consider the following example:
Currently employed as an Area Manager for XYZ, during 2019, I will be opening 20 new shops with forecast sales of £4.7m in year 1.

Prior to taking on this role, I have served as a Restaurant Manager for XYZ, where I opened and grew their most successful (and profitable) locations in London, Nottingham and Sheffield.

Other experience includes working as a Restaurant Manager for ABC and as a Bar Manager at FG&H. In those roles, I managed up to 51 staff in the £7.2m per annum unit in Doncaster.

Some of these elements will still be present when writing your profile using a “cover letter” approach but the main focus of that strategy is to highlight achievements. Consider the following:

As a Software Development Executive, I offer a proven track record of achievement in driving innovative solutions. I drive performance turnarounds and enhance efficiency by improving processes, architecture, and tools. I build and manage on/off-shore teams while directing multiple projects simultaneously.

I led efforts to build a single sign-on system at AAA, ensuring compliance with timelines/budgets while delivering system with more required feature sets.

I directed 3 teams of developers and architects in BI Development at BBB.

I re-architected the primary pricing engine for ABC, reducing processing by more than 55% for a £7m e-Commerce operation.

I completed my BSc in Software Management at the University of Leeds and am trained in the Agile and Waterfall SDLC.

Contact section

Fill as you see appropriate for you, but its inclusion saves clients moving up and down. You can then add – as you’re comfortable / not – email, phone, Skype, etc. Some people add all, some none, it’s personal choice. My thinking is it’s about using the platform to maximum effect – how easily can the recruiter find you.

Linked to this process, as a wider option, depending on your willingness to be sought or very actively search, consider cross-fertilising all the platforms you have: to email signature, add phone, WhatsApp, Skype, LinkedIn, etc.; to Skype profile, add email, phone, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, etc.

If all the details of all other platforms are on each platform, your accessibility to recruiters is fully maximised. But I realise many aren’t comfortable with that. You can simply say, “Please contact me on LinkedIn” or you can provide an email and telephone contact if you like.

Experience

Each position description under the experience section allows for 2,000 characters including punctuation. Whether you fill up each section or not, you should include achievements with each role. Start each description by explaining what your job was in that role (where possible, always include team sizes, budgets you managed, number of clients you worked with, etc… – **numbers sell**). By describing your job in the first person like this, hopefully you avoid any reader perception that your LinkedIn is simply a “cut and paste” from the CV.

After you explain your job to the reader, you should include several achievements and/or awards that you earned in each position. LinkedIn allows for limited use of symbols, so you can even create a “bulleted” list.

NOTE: Because each position does allow so many characters, if you held two positions at one company, you can list them both together. The position title even allows room for 100 characters with spaces which is more than enough room to list two titles if needed.

Activity

Recruiters like it all to be populated and used, it shows the platform is live and used. It doesn’t need to be much but start sharing and posting, even occasionally – but consistently

Colour throughout

Where you can locate them, add PDFs or graphics of completed projects, and web addresses / links to pages even if they don’t have graphics. Many organisations routinely produce these, so they should be easy to locate. Add as many as you can – it livens LinkedIn and looks good for the reader. If PDFs have more or less photos and graphics, choose those with more. You will see how much it brightens the overall look and feel. It doesn’t have to be your employer’s / organisation’s own PDFs (etc) direct. It could be YouTube seminars about them, commentary from respected publications, etc.

Recommendations

I never stop telling clients, the single best way to optimise your LinkedIn profile is to have recommendations from clients, colleagues, managers and others, providing you with a quick write-up about your interactions in different positions included on your profile. To have any is a good start – it cannot be overstated how critical they are to recruiters’ view of a client’s credibility and ability. Always promise reciprocity when asking, you’re more likely to succeed. In that regard, if you find you ever have a received vs given disparity, try to fix it. The discrepancy may not seem, or even be, a problem – and you’ll never know – but you could have missed out on more because you’re seen to take but not give. Continuously drive for more and very much keep that a continuing process.

Skills

The platform allows 50. There is no fixed number you “must” have – 21 or 49 or less / more is fine. It could be argued that all skills are relevant, but be strategic. For instance, if you are an IT manager and have located your own 49 top skills, and can add MS Windows 95 as the 50th, is it really 1 skill well-used? I’d argue not. Almost all skills are good and worthwhile but just apply a little care.

Other

Anything you have done that might represent you well to an employer can be filled out in other sections, including volunteer work, organisations, projects, courses and awards, etc.
If you have publications, you will be permitted 250 characters with spaces for the title (which is enough to include publisher information as well) and 2,000 characters to describe your work. You probably won’t need all of that space to describe your publication, but it does allow you to give more details on the work than only the title would provide. You can also add the www / url. It will not be hyperlinked within LinkedIn but to add it gives the reader one less piece of work to do.

Written by

Nigel Benson is a professional career sector specialist with over 12 years' experience writing executive level CVs and expertise in recruitment, job interviews and training.






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