It’s no surprise to learn that employers are Googling you. When they Google you, they get a lot of results, some within your control and some outside of it. Your digital assets, such as your personal website and your social media accounts, are the parts that are within your control.

Let’s talk about how to optimize one of your most important assets so that you can get ahead in your job search - your LinkedIn profile!

Include Detail-Rich, Keyword-Rich Information

Your LinkedIn profile is your virtual resume that exists on display for anyone who searches for you. It is your public storefront.

Recruiters perform keyword searches on LinkedIn all the time. The more words on your profile that can be picked up by the search function - the better. The main places you want to include keywords that you would like to rank for are in your current and past job descriptions, and as well as your summary.

And while all the traditional resume practices apply, it’s still tough to know what to include or leave out since it’s going to be seen by everyone - you can’t tailor it the way you would a job-specific-resume.

So, what do you do?

Include detailed and content rich information on

  • who you are,
  • what you do,
  • what your subject matter expertise is
  • where you used to work
  • where you currently work
  • what value you’ve added to the companies you’ve worked for in the past

You goal is to provide information that helps prospective employers get a snapshot of who you are, what you’re about, and most importantly, the value you could potentially add to their firm or organization -- all while capturing keywords related to your industry.

Explain Your Situation

Recruiters recognize that your current employer is on LinkedIn as well, so they won't expect you list “SEEKING NEW OPPORTUNITIES” in bold ALL CAPS on your profile. Besides, you shouldn’t do this anyway, since it comes off as desperate to potential employers.

If you happen to be in between roles right now, you have a few options for explaining it through your profile.

First, you can write that you are doing consulting work from the end of your last position to present. You can list out what you are able to consult on. Even if you aren’t currently working and billing a client, it’s acceptable to list this if you are actively working towards your next consulting contract (recruiters will assume that you are looking). It’s a great way to get some work and fill the gap between fulltime roles.

The other option is to write an explanation in the Summary section of your profile. For example you could write something like this:

“I was recently laid off due to a reduction in force as a result of a merge. I left my firm on great terms and am eligible for rehire. I am actively and aggressively looking for a (insert your type of position for example: Project Manager) in (insert your desired geographic locations for example: New York, Boston or Washington DC) in the following sectors / markets (INSERT YOUR TARGET MARKETS for example: finance, startups, consulting services firms).”

Here is another example of what you could post:

“I am actively and aggressively looking for a (insert your type of position for example Project Manager) in (insert your desired geographic locations for example New York, Boston or Washington DC) in the following sectors / markets (INSERT YOUR TARGET MARKETS for example finance, startups, consulting services firms).”

By explaining your situation, you get in front of question marks and incorrectly assumed red flags, while making it easy for the recruiter to know where you might fit next.

Think About Your Profile Picture

I’m sure you know this...but it bears repeating: While in the United States Employers cannot make hiring decisions based on the way you look, your picture is important. Do not put a picture of your cat or Darth Vader as your profile picture. Do not put anything political, religious, or controversial such as a flag, politician or religious symbol as your profile picture.

As unfair as it seems, we trust people more when we can see them. A photo adds a level of legitimacy to your profile. Data shows that employers and your peers do not trust profiles that lack pictures, as they believe these to be fake profiles, scammers, or profiles with something to hide.

It’s like buying a house. When you’re house hunting, you’re looking for a feeling. You hear people say things like, “I could see myself living here.” That’s how you want prospective employers to feel when they see your photo. “I could see this person on our team,” or “This is someone who could work here.”

I am not suggesting you become a sterile version of yourself. I’m saying: know your audience. If you are applying to a creative startup, you are welcome to put up a more “fun” photo of yourself, though it should still be of your face and not something random. If you’re applying to a law firm or healthcare insurance company, then you’ll want to use a more mature and professional photo. You can still smile (and you should).

You want a relevant picture that will resonate with the audience that you’re trying to connect with. You want to appear inviting. Show the side of yourself that the employer wants to see - the professional side.

Another way of saying this is your Facebook photo and your LinkedIn photo should and most likely will be different.

Build Your Reputation at Every Turn

A lot of the time, the subject of personal branding is discussed in terms of putting together the right personal website or profile - without mention of how you can brand yourself during other moments during your job search!

If you’re looking for a job, you want to regularly check your LinkedIn inbox, at least once a day, for messages from recruiters. Always respond as soon as possible and professionally -- even if you’re not interested in what’s being offered.

Here’s a template you can make your own:

Hi [NAME],

Thanks for reaching out on LinkedIn about the [ROLE TITLE] position. However, I am only looking for [ROLE TITLE] roles at this time as I am making a transition.

I know a few professionals that might be interested in this -- I will pass your information onto them and if they are interested they will reach out to you directly.

Please keep me in mind should something come across your plate for a [ROLE TITLE] role that you think might be of interest to me please let me know.

Thanks

Your Name

Add your Mobile # & Email address

Even though you rejected the recruiter, you offered to help them out by offering to pass on the opportunity to someone in your network. This is great for your personal brand, and builds goodwill and social capital which you can then use later on.

LinkedIn has replaced Monster.com (and all other traditional job boards) as the #1 channel for job seekers and employers to connect. You cannot ignore LinkedIn when it comes to your job search! Use these tips to build your credibility and visibility on the platform, and you’ll be connected with your dream career in no time.