How to Prepare Your LinkedIn Profile and Account Settings for Job Searches

By Joel Elad

Part of the success of finding a job is to have an appealing LinkedIn identity so hiring managers can find you and want to contact you with an opening. According to Forbes magazine, 90 percent of employers are using social media sites to recruit employees, with LinkedIn the most used of those sites. After all, the best search is when someone comes to you with an opportunity without you sweating the details.

Check your LinkedIn profile’s visibility

If you’re currently employed but decide to quietly start looking for a new position, consider what you’re broadcasting to your LinkedIn network before getting ready to make a change. You don’t want your current employer or co-workers to see a flurry of activity that’s typically a sign of moving on to greener pastures!

To check your visibility settings, click the Me icon, at the top of any LinkedIn page, and then click Settings & Privacy under the Account header. On your Settings page, click the Privacy header, and pay careful attention to the following three options:

  • Profile Privacy: Sharing Profile Edits: Click the Change link for this option, and make sure the slider is set to No for the Choose Whether Your Network Is Notified about Profile Changes option. That way, your boss or co-workers won’t see a flurry of activity if you update your profile or follow companies, one of which could become your new employer.
  • Profile Privacy: Who Can See Your Connections: Again, typically, this option is set to Your Connections so your first-degree connections can see your other connections. However, you can change this option to Only You so your boss or co-workers can’t see when, for example, you add a bunch of recruiters or competitors to your network.
  • Blocking and Hiding: Followers: Typically, this option is set to Your Connections so your first-degree connections can see all your public activity on LinkedIn. If you change this option to Everyone, people outside your network, such as recruiters and potential hiring managers, can get an idea of the information you regularly share on LinkedIn.

Optimize your LinkedIn profile

The core of your LinkedIn presence is your profile, which is included with every job application you make on LinkedIn. Odds are good that prospective employers are going to check your LinkedIn profile when evaluating you for a job, so you want to make sure your profile is optimized to make you as appealing as possible.

Now that you’ve checked your settings, here are some things to keep in mind when bulking up your profile for a job search:

  • Complete all the sections in your profile with as much accurate information as possible. It’s easy to put up a skeleton of your employment history and never get around to fully completing your profile. Unlike a resume (where you could feel confined in terms of page length), you can be as expansive as you want with your LinkedIn profile. You never know what part of your profile will get you included in someone’s search result, but the more information you provide, the better the chances that someone will find you.

    Make sure your most recent positions are filled out, because many employers focus on those positions first.

  • Focus on accomplishments rather than duties. Lots of people prepare their LinkedIn profiles in the same way they do their resumes, focusing solely on the duties they performed at each job. Although you want to give people an idea of what you did, hiring managers want to know the results of what you did, and the more concrete the example, the better. Saying you “organized procurement processes in your division” may demonstrate a skill, but saying that you “cut procurement costs by 16 percent in your first year” has a bigger effect. Go back and talk to past co-workers or bosses, if necessary, to get whatever specifics they can provide on your performance.
  • Add all relevant job search keywords, skill sets, and buzzwords to your profile. When prospective employers are searching for someone to hire, they may simply search for a core set of skills to see who can fill the position. Therefore, just stating your job titles is not enough. If your profile says “Software Developer,” prospective hiring managers could assume that you’re qualified, but the only way you’d be considered is if these managers ran a search on those keywords.

Say that a hiring manager does a search for the programming languages C++, Java, Perl, and Python. If all those keywords are not somewhere in your profile, you won’t show up in the list. If you’re unsure about what keywords to use, ask people in your field or research the profiles of people who have the job title you are seeking.

  • Use an appropriate and professional profile photo. It has been said before but is worth repeating: LinkedIn is designed so you can network like a professional, and your profile photo is an important part of that process. Ditch the party photo best suited for Facebook. LinkedIn provides tips for choosing a profile picture on its talent blog.

    Use a photo of yourself rather than the generic icon supplied by LinkedIn. According to research done by LinkedIn Talent Solutions, profiles with a profile photo are 14 times more likely to be viewed by other members.

  • See how other people position themselves. Imagine if you could get a book of thousands of resumes from current employees and use them as models to position yourself. Do a search for people with a job, education, or skill set similar to yours and see how they’ve worded their profiles or how they put their experiences in context. Use that insight to adapt your profile to make it clearer to others.
  • List all your job experiences in your profile, not just full-time positions. Did you do any short-term or contract jobs? Were you an advisor to another company? Perhaps you’re a board member for a local nonprofit group or religious organization. Your LinkedIn profile is designed to reflect all your job experiences, which is not limited to a full-time job that provided a W-2 slip. Document any work experience that adds to your overall profile, whether or not you were paid for that job or experience. LinkedIn has sections in which you can highlight volunteer and nonprofit experience.

    Make sure that every experience you list in your profile contributes to your overall career goals. After all, employers might not care that you were a pastry chef one summer — and will question why you thought it was so important that you listed it in your profile.