LinkedIn has over 200 million users, and college students are its fastest growing demographic.
If you aren’t on LinkedIn, you should be. Launched in May 2003, this professional networking site currently has more than 200 million users, and college students are its fastest-growing demographic.
In a recent survey conducted by Bullhorn Research, 98% of responding recruiters reported that they are using the site to locate candidates. Of the Fortune 100 companies, 86 are using LinkedIn’s corporate recruiting features.
Your ability to be found by these recruiters depends on the content in your profile and your search engine optimization (SEO). To locate applicants, recruiters enter words into LinkedIn’s search field much like you do on Google. Many of these words are similar to the terminology you are learning in the classroom, so celebrate your inner nerd. In addition to embracing the vocabulary of your profession, implement the following tips to avoid being overlooked by recruiters and to improve your SEO.
Complete your profile. This alone will increase your chances of being found by 40%. Begin by obtaining at least 50 connections. Use the People You May Already Know tool, which is located in the upper right corner of the LinkedIn homepage. Conduct an advanced search to locate people within your preferred geographical areas, companies, titles or industries. Connect with alumni by selecting Contacts, followed by the name of your alma mater. LinkedIn will also quickly identify people you already know by importing email contacts from your address book.
In addition to generating at least 50 connections, you need to provide the following to complete your profile: your industry, location, current position (with a description), two past positions, education, at least three skills and a profile picture. To help you develop a robust profile, LinkedIn developed a Profile Strength meter that is available on the right side of your profile. You can also click on the Improve your Profile button in your headline.
Be redundant. The more keywords you include, the higher you are listed in recruiters’ search results. You can identify keywords for your field by reviewing job descriptions, O*Net, trade journals, textbooks, professional association publications and other people’s profile. Don’t hesitate to repeat yourself. For example, include your degree in your headline, summary and education. List any relevant certifications or licenses, such as RN or CPA, in your name. If you use abbreviations in one instance, spell the term in its entirety in a different section because recruiters may enter either option into the search field.
Include a photograph. LinkedIn reports that you are seven times more likely to be found if you include it. Build a strong first impression with a professional picture. Avoid photos that include other people or are cutesy, goofy or outdated. Cartoon avatars, self-portraits and glamour shots are also inappropriate.
Craft a powerful headline. Shown immediately below your name and in most search results, your headline is prime real estate on your profile. You have no more than 120 characters to highlight your unique qualifications and to entice your viewers to keep reading. Emphasize deliverable outcomes and consider the needs of your target audience.
Even if you lack experience, you can still incorporate keywords by describing your desired position and knowledge areas. For example, if you aspire to be an accountant, consider the following example: CPA eligible with advance training in accounts receivable, reconciliations, payroll and taxation. Adding the descriptive terms increases your chances of being found if recruiters use this terminology in their online search. LinkedIn also encourages you to broadcast the position you are seeking. Consider the following example: Honors graduate with B.S. in advertising and minor in graphic design seeking professional marketing opportunity in Boston.
Carefully select your industry and location. Many recruiters use these fields to search for candidates.
Add your contact information. Recruiters cannot find you if your public profile is not visible or if your contact information is omitted.
Use anchor text for your website. If you elect to include any websites, improve your SEO by using more descriptive text instead of the generic options provided by LinkedIn. Simply select “other” and LinkedIn will permit you to customize the name.
Provide extra details and customize your profile. Do not limit experience to paid employment. Describe your participation in Greek life, athletics, honor programs, student activities, internships and service learning. LinkedIn now gives users the ability to customize their profile. You can add your interests, certifications, courses, honors and awards, languages, organizations, patents, projects, publications, test scores and volunteering. You can even customize the order of sections to ensure that you are opening with your most appealing qualifications. To place one section before another, simply select Edit Profile under Profile, and then click on the double-arrow icon at the top of the section you want to move. After you have moved it to its new space, click Done Editing.
List your relevant coursework. You may do so under Education or Courses. Course titles often relate to industry terminology and keywords.
Use multiple job titles. Consider the job titles recruiters may enter into the search field. If your position could have multiple titles (e.g., reporter, correspondent, writer, etc.), use several on your profile (e.g., reporter and correspondent) to improve your SEO.
Use the skills suggested by LinkedIn. Many recruiters use the skills section of LinkedIn to locate candidates who possess their desired qualifications. For this reason, it is best if you use the skills that LinkedIn populates in the skills box. Simply start to type a skill and select from the suggestions that appear.
You can also assess the popularity of a skill by hovering your mouse over a skill in View Mode. When a box appears, click on the text of the skill to View Skill. LinkedIn will then provide statistics on the use of the term and provide alternative words for you to consider. LinkedIn recently created Endorsements, which permits connections to affirm the skills you have chosen. The more endorsements you collect, the more likely it is that you will appear in recruiters’ search results.
Finally, claim your unique URL. Add it to your resume or email signature. Be sure to include your full name in the personalized URL to enhance your SEO and to make it easier for others to remember.
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