I recently hosted two former colleagues, Omar Garriott and Jeremy Schifeling of the LinkedIn Guys, on The Work Remix Podcast. The three of us worked together during my LinkedIn consulting days, and in this episode, we discuss how you can use LinkedIn to land a job, even in today’s challenging climate.
Is your LinkedIn profile up to speed? Are you taking advantage of secret LinkedIn hacks to rocket your profile to the top of search results? Omar, Jeremy and I are here to give you tips on optimizing your LinkedIn profile and network. (These tips will focus specifically on LinkedIn, but if you want general resume tips, head over to my 15 tips resume article.)
1. Write a great LinkedIn headline.
When it comes to search rankings, the headline is the most important section of your profile. Imagine you’re going to tweet your ideal job description – that’s how you should approach your headline. In a limited number of characters, you need to provide recruiters with a true, clear and authentic sense of who you are while also selling yourself as a job candidate.
2. Hone the first sentence of your LinkedIn summary.
The first sentence of your summary is the second most important part of your LinkedIn profile. When recruiters visit your page, they will only see this first snippet. They will have to click through to read more.
If you don’t capture them in that first, visible sentence, recruiters will never read the rest of your bio. The best tactic here is to be direct. If you want a job in sales, say that you’re a salesperson. Don’t try gimmicks in your summary opening.
3. Focus on your aspirations.
Imposter syndrome is the greatest enemy of an effective LinkedIn profile. You might not have experience as a non-profit director, but if that’s your goal, mention it on your profile anyway. Use words like “aspiring,” “future,” and “passionate” to indicate your level of experience.
When you write your profile, focus on the job you want to get, not the jobs you’ve already held. If your heading says you’re a college senior psychology major, a recruiter will never know that your dream is to run a non-profit.
4. Tell a story in your profile.
A LinkedIn profile is not the place for a dry list of past job titles. Your profile is where you show recruiters why you’re the right person for their organization. This means having a personality and requisite skills. Basically, you want to answer the question, “Who are you and why should I hire you?”
The best job interviews are when you go in and say, “I’ve already done the job.” So, piece together your story as best as you can to make that case for the kinds of jobs you’ll be applying to. Mention relevant projects that tie to specific skills, even if you worked in a different industry or role. Or if all of your past work has been in internships, volunteer roles or extracurriculars. Perhaps you volunteered to run social media for a local non-profit. Include that! This story shows what you care about and demonstrates that you bring valuable digital skills to the table.
5. Refresh your network.
I often hear the excuse of, “I’m just not a connected person, so I don’t think LinkedIn is going to work for me.” While you might not know any Fortune 500 CEOs, you probably know someone who can help you get hired – or who knows someone in their network who can help you get hired. Think about who you know from family friendships, schools you’ve attended, community activities and volunteer experiences. Maybe you should connect with your pilates instructor!
Get back in touch with some of these connections, even if it’s been years. Check in to see what they’re up to now. Don’t ask for a job outright, but do tell them you are looking. The point of reconnecting is to set the stage for a future conversation. Try to be as helpful as you can for their needs as well.
6. Deepen your network.
While you should reconnect with old acquaintances and colleagues, it’s also important to target new contacts who can help you land the job you want. Of course, reach out to people who share common connections.
Omar, Jeremy and I recommend using the Linkedin Alumni tool. Find your alma mater’s main page and scroll to the bottom. You’ll be able to find specific alumni who are, say, product managers at Google who could introduce you to the right people at Google if you see a job posting there.
7. Connect directly with hiring managers.
Reach out to hiring managers at companies you want to work for. While recruiters can still be powerful tools at the corporate level, the Internet has made direct communication between potential boss and prospect much more feasible. Many hiring managers now put “I’m hiring!” in their headlines. This means you can search “I’m hiring” to discover who’s looking to fill an open position.
8. Update your location.
Despite the growth in remote work over the past few months, many companies still want employees to live in the same city as their main office. Therefore, preemptively change your profile location to reflect where you want to be, which may not necessarily be where you currently are.
College students often overlook this detail. You might be graduating from a school in Corvallis, Oregon, or Saratoga Springs, New York, but that doesn’t mean you plan to live there. However, recruiters don’t know that. Recruiters screen out applicants by job title and location, and if you aren’t a match, you won’t be considered for the job.
9. Broadcast that you’re looking for jobs.
Did you know that 750,000 jobs were posted during the first week of May?
If you don’t ask, you won’t receive. You never know who will see your LinkedIn posts about your job search and forward your information to someone they know. A longtime family friend might know a business owner who needs a marketing assistant. Your buddy’s girlfriend from high school could be hiring a software developer.
Additionally, make sure you set your profile to say you’re open to new positions. Make your job hunt as public as possible.
10. Don’t Facebook-ize your profile.
LinkedIn is a hybrid between a social media platform and a job board. Selfies and memes usually don’t belong in your feed. If you do post, keep conversations focused on professional networking or your industry’s news and hot topics.
11. Do post relevant articles.
Speaking of posting, you should be using the LinkedIn articles feature. Articles act like blog posts. You can give advice, share case studies and publish any research you’ve conducted in your industry. This is the place to share your expertise with your network.
Articles also show up at the top of your profile, and recruiters often appreciate seeing your industry knowledge and unique viewpoints when screening for interview candidates.
12. Use LinkedIn to apply for jobs directly.
Much of this advice relates to leveraging your social connections on LinkedIn, but the platform is also a great place to apply for jobs. In fact, LinkedIn has become the world’s leading job board. There are currently 20 million jobs posted on LinkedIn.
One tip is to set up job alerts. Whenever a company posts a job you might be interested in, LinkedIn will send you an email notification. This means you’ll be in that first batch of applicants (within 72 hours of the initial job posting) that recruiters pay the most attention to.
Three bonus tips related to job hunting during COVID-19
13. New jobs are being posted across the country, but hiring may slow in the fall.
Jeremy and Omar studied the last financial crisis in 2008 and discovered that the job market didn’t bottom out until six months after Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. This means the real economic squeeze may not have fully happened yet. Things are likely going to get darker before they get brighter.
This means that now is likely a better time to find a job than later in the year. Don’t delay or wait for ideal circumstances. Send out those applications ASAP.
14. Brush up on your digital job hunting skills.
Firm handshakes and live networking events aren’t relevant right now. In their place, focus on your digital skills. Get comfortable interviewing over Zoom, recording video interview answers and sending email thank you notes. Click here for more interview tips.
15. Future-proof your career by researching growing companies.
Use this unique moment in our history to explore new opportunities. Connect with people at employers like Zoom, Netflix and Citrix, the companies that are poised to inherit our economy. Have conversations with current employees about economic trends and learn about the jobs they do. Could a job in one of these companies be a good fit for you? In short, go where the jobs are.
While finding a job online is challenging, hiring online can post its own difficulties. If you’re an executive or HR director bringing on Millennials and Gen Zs, you’ll want to understand their generational perspectives before vetting them virtually.
For more job hunting tips for college grads, grab your copy of my book Getting from College to Career to help you during this time.
With current shifts to remote work and company emphasis on employee flexibility and autonomy, my new course, “How to Manage Millennials and Gen Zs in the Workplace,” will help you grow your leadership skills and create lasting strategies to empower your Millennials and Gen Zs.
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