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How to create a rock-solid LinkedIn profile

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You LinkedIn profile should work for you

By Bill Wednieski
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In 2018, Ladders, Inc. published a study that recruiters spend an average of 7.4 seconds reviewing a resume. I’m confident that my team and I do better than that, but honestly, hopeless resumes don’t get much more than 15 seconds with some of those extra seconds just out of personal empathy. A candidate’s LinkedIn profile augments the resume and a great profile may provide just as much value. So, what are the deal killers in a LinkedIn profile?

Here are my top five biggest pet peeves about LinkedIn profiles, and some examples to first help you do no harm, and second, make you stand out:

  1. A picture is worth a credible vibe

With no photo on a LinkedIn profile, the first impression looks lazy and shady. There really is no excuse not to have a photo as LinkedIn has been around and popular for more than a decade, and its predominant use is on mobile app. Even if you don’t have a professional headshot, smartphones have good enough cameras that you can take a picture of yourself wearing some decent business attire. When I meet people for the first in person or over video it is an oddly satisfying feeling to recognize them, rather than see them for the first time.

LinkedIn profile that is blank

If you want to stand out then a professionally taken photograph or even a memorable background can set you apart. I’ve seen people take a smartphone picture in the lighted tunnel at Detroit Metro Airport that looks great and makes a solid impression. A relevant banner in the section encompassing the photo also adds a touch of class. The luckiest people are the photogenic ones with a “million-dollar smile”. Seems trite or shallow but it matters.

  1. Goldilocks and the “About” summary

Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears I prefer a LinkedIn profile with summaries that are not too short and not too long. Three to five well written sentences feels just right for an accomplished professional. Too many buzz words will wreck it for me. If you want to use a few quick bullets that is perfectly fine as long as you don’t get carried away regurgitating your resume in this section.

To stand out, just succinctly tell me what you do and why it is important. I’d like to know your industry specialties as well if you can keep it to a few.

  1. Un-Lame you headlines

Just below your photo and name is your headline. After I look at your photo, the headline is probably the first thing I look at, and it tells me precisely what you do. If you are an engineer and I am looking for a purchasing leader then we’ve got a disconnect. If it is cheesy or over the top then you are turning off the very people you are trying to attract.

To stand out you still may have room to get creative depending on the company you work for and title you have. Employees in smaller companies frequently wear many hats, and people in disruptive or bleeding edge technology often have some latitude with headlines. If you work in automotive on transformative EV technology then say it! If you work in IT SOX and have passion for good governance and controls then say it! It is amazing the impact you can have with a few words.

A solid LinkedIn profile is helpful in your job hunt

  1. What do you even do?

The Experience section is next for me. Yes, listing your employers, ideally with a logo, and job titles are very important. This section is more than just a career timeline but less wordy than a resume. As I like to say, concise is nice, and I like a little company background that could include industry, company size or something about what the company does. A few key accomplishments are important for readers to see as well. Your resume should guide you in this section, but don’t cut and paste from it.

To stand out is to use keywords for your position or industry. For technical types like SEC Reporting, IT Auditors or ERP System Analysts consider checking out a couple relevant job postings and their responsibilities and qualifications. Use the same keywords and phrases to describe your accomplishments. Put disproportionately more effort into your more recent roles.

  1. Over-active activity can be a turn off

The Activity section is a little touchy and reminiscent of the points above on Goldilocks. If you like posts all day long or comment on posts multiple times daily then an employer or recruiter may wonder just how much time you are spending on LinkedIn vs. getting work done.

To stand out activity that is genuine, relevant and authentic is apparent. Showing you care about old colleague’s anniversaries or new roles, causes you care about or industry issues gives credibility and some insight into you as a person. Political or religious rants probably turn off more people than they turn on but can be done carefully.

In closing

Like it or not, LinkedIn profiles are as important as resumes for most industries. Whether you’re in an active job hunt or not, it can be worth your while to fine tune yours into a rock-solid LinkedIn profile. To create a strong resume (yes, that’s still a thing, too), check out these tips. You’ll look stronger as an employee and candidate if you invest some time and follow these five steps to strengthen your LinkedIn profile.