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How to Use LinkedIn Effectively

Anyone who’s trawled through the internet in the last 10 years knows the granddaddy of all business networking sites: LinkedIn. Like 133 million other users, you may have already taken advantage of a free account with the service and posted your résumé into LinkedIn’s format. And then you sat back and waited and … nothing.

LinkedIn’s universe of users spans 200 countries and territories around the world. According to the Jobvite survey of recruiters, 87 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to evaluate candidates when hiring, and 67 percent use Facebook. (Don’t saturate your social media with content that potential employers find objectionable or can use to discredit you.)

Using LinkedIn to find a job requires effort on the user’s part. Here’s how.

Update your profile

TopResumeForbesThe Balance CareersUSA Today, and even AARP all put keeping your profile up to date as the one key factor in making the best use of LinkedIn. Updating your profile means making sure that you have current experience and education shown. Include important projects, publications, presentations, awards or honors received, and other such milestones that attest to your credibility and capability. A complete profile offers more than just a résumé, it shows a real person beyond the limit of two pages.

When writing about your skills, training, and objectives, remember to insert detail. Your headline should grab a hiring manager’s attention and the profile summary should hold the viewer’s interest. Therefore, use complete sentences and observe correct grammar. No recruiter or hiring manager will look more deeply into your profile if the first thing he or she sees is poor grammar and sloppy writing.

If your writing skills leave much to be desired, then consider hiring a ghostwriter to compose your profile content for you. Freelance sites such as Fiverr, Upwork, Remote, etc. allow you to post your content needs and receive myriad bids from vendors. Review bidders for the project to ensure their writing skills are up to par: ask for writing samples and evaluate those samples for quality. It’s more important to choose quality over cost: this content will represent you to a global community of professionals, some of whom you hope will see you as a desirable employee or colleague.

Use a good portrait

When updating your profile, include at least a semi-professional portrait. Despite what we’d all like to believe, hiring professionals do look at and consider candidate appearance.

Think of your profile portrait as a personal brand. In her article “8 Dos and Don’ts of LinkedIn Profile Pictures,” Bronwen Hann states that “having a professional-looking profile picture on LinkedIn can’t be understated. Why is it so important? It’s common sense: you’re a person, not merely a set of keywords.” She advocates that your picture convey important traits such as confidence and leadership.

A good LinkedIn portrait doesn’t necessarily mean getting all gussied-up in that 1980s power suit and affecting a stern expression that say you mean business. However, going too casual doesn’t offer the right impression either. For your LinkedIn profile photo, wear something that you’d wear on the job. If that’s the aforementioned power suit, then go for it. If not, then business casual works perfectly well. Avoid bikinis, tank tops, t-shirts, and formal wear—anything you wouldn’t wear to the office.

Smile. Look approachable and friendly. A personable appearance attracts others to your company. In short, you want to look like someone with whom another person would enjoy working. Heed the joke that if you look like your drivers license or passport photo, then you’re too sick to travel. In similar fashion, if your photo looks like a mugshot, that, too, sends the wrong message.

Keep the composition of your photo simple. It’s okay if other people are present in the picture, but be sure you’re prominent in that picture. Don’t confuse recruiters and hiring professionals as to which person in the photo is you. In the same vein, lose the critters. Unless you’re a dog walker, horse trainer, zoologist, or other professional whose career revolves around animals, keep the profile portrait free of cute animals. That goes for small children, too.

Your portrait can—and may—indicate recreational interest or hobby, but keep it positive and tasteful. LinkedIn is not a dating service, so your profile photo should not look romantic, as though it belongs on a dating profile.

Use keywords

Easier said than done, using keywords in job titles and descriptions helps recruiters find your profile for the jobs in which interest you. Recruiters don’t like wasting their time, so they cast keyword-specific searches for candidates. Since LinkedIn works rather like a huge database or search engine, recruiters appreciate the use of pertinent keywords that help them find the right candidates for the open positions they represent.

In his article “How to Use LinkedIn to Find Your Dream Job,” Steven Petrow reports, they keywords aren’t intuitive “because hiring managers are often idiosyncratic in the language they use to describe a position. What you must do … is study each job description and use the words it uses in your profile and résumé.”

You can check out job descriptions under the “jobs” tab in LinkedIn. Use the platform’s database capabilities to search for the jobs that interest you. Refine your search terms as you go until the results display the perfect (or near-perfect) jobs and then review the terminology use in the job descriptions. Echo that terminology common to multiple job descriptions posted by different companies in your profile in order to expedite recruiters finding you for similar positions.

Use recommendations and referrals

Recommendations and endorsements offer potential employers a quick way to confirm that they’re evaluating a suitable candidate. Although you might feel awkward requesting colleagues, clients, and former managers to post recommendations and endorse you for skills, the accumulation of positive “reviews” adds to a hiring manager’s confidence that the candidate—you—is a good fit for the open position in terms of skill and attitude.

There’s an art to writing an effective LinkedIn recommendation. An effective recommendation reads as though a real person is speaking to the recruiter; it tells a specific story about one of his or her favorite people—you—and then explains how that person knows you, why that person is qualified to recommend you, and what impressed that person about you. A powerful LinkedIn recommendation imparts credibility on the parts of both the person making the recommendation and the person receiving the recommendation.

In requesting a recommendation from someone, feel free to write a template that he or she can fill in. The Muse breaks down the format of a great LinkedIn recommendation that can be used and modified as appropriate to your situation. The site offers the following example:

[Descriptive phrase] is the phrase that comes to mind when I think about [name]. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing [name] for [length of time], during which [description of your working relationship]. Above all, I was impressed with [name]’s ability to [description of what makes person really stand out]. And, of course, his/her [personality trait][Name] would be a true asset for any positions requiring [1-2 skills needed for position] and comes with my heartfelt recommendation.

Build your network of connections

LinkedIn enables users to check out companies and the public profiles of people who may be in a position to hire or recommend you. Don’t ignore this valuable source of inside information to learn about them. As Liz Ryan’s article “Ten Ways to Use LinkedIn in Your Job Search” says when reviewing your future boss’ profile, “You’re going to learn who this person is, what s/he cares about and what he or she may be up against on the job. The more you know about your hiring manager’s situation at work, the better for your pitch! Read his or her profile, check out the Groups your hiring manager belongs to and see which Influencers s/he follows.”

Building your network involves joining groups, inviting secondary and tertiary connections to connect with you, following influencers and other thought leaders, following target companies, and, yes, “liking” the relevant content people post. Regular and routine activity in posting your own well-written (or ghostwritten) content that showcases your expertise plays the long game of inbound marketing. Eventually, someone will read your content and like it. Their activity will ripple through their professional network and draw the attention of others.

You may certain request first-degree connections to introduce you to others, say a prospective boss at a company where you’d like to work. Select “get an introduction” from the message menu of a first-degree connection if he or she also has a connection to the person whom you wish to contact.

Think of LinkedIn as networking on a global scale. Where once we relied upon networks of friends, neighbors, and colleagues, we now have the ability to get in touch with people who can help us more directly, either through sharing their insight, making recommendations and referrals, and bringing ourselves to their attention by positioning ourselves as the experts to solve their business pain.