LinkedIn profiles are fast becoming like resumes in one impossible-to-ignore way: Everyone is an expert on how yours should appear, and how it shouldn’t.
You know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, go ask five people around you what they think of your profile, and what you should do to change or improve it. And then just set back and wait for allllll the advice to roll in.
The most interesting part of this experiment will be that some of the sage wisdom you’ll receive—often from people you know, trust and value their opinion—will directly contradict input you’ll get from others you know and trust.
Then what, indeed. Then you’re left to figure out which suggestions you should incorporate immediately, and which recommendations you should totally ignore.
Further complicating matters is that the platform’s a different animal than your resume. And many people—even the most educated, business-minded people you know—have limited understanding of how it actually works. (Hint: It’s a job board. SEO does matter if you want to be “found.”) Yet this doesn’t necessarily prevent them from freely doling out recommendations on what you should and shouldn’t add, include, or do..
How do you spot the bad advice? Here’s a start: six common LinkedIn recommendations that you can (and should) completely ignore:
1. “You Should Write Your Summary Like a Corporate Bio”
Nooooooo. Well, for sure no if your corporate bio’s written in the third person.
“Mary is an accomplished marketing manager who excels in strategy and…blahhhh.”
LinkedIn’s designed to facilitate conversation. That said, it’s absolutely appropriate to write your summary in the first person, in a conversational manner. It just makes it easier for people to quickly get the feeling that you’re someone worth talking to. (And here are templates if you’re struggling with getting started.)
I promise you that no one is going to fall over and die if you loosen up your tie or wear the dress jeans instead of the linen slacks when constructing your summary.
2. “You Shouldn’t Connect with People You Haven’t Met”
This is such a common belief among people. And I get it, to an extent. But here’s the rub with having an “only people I know” level of stringency—you may miss out on a lot by saying no. You may miss out on a valuable networking opportunity. You may miss out on an opportunity to leverage that person’s connections (which are your “2nd degree connections on LinkedIn). You may miss out on a meaningful connection that you could have had, just because you didn’t know that person before he or she reached out.
I have a rough “rule” when it comes to connection requests: If we don’t know each other at all, I’d prefer you tell me via the request note what your motivation is for connecting, but I’m certainly not uptight about it. And that rule has served me well; I’ve forged some wonderful connections (and booked direct business) from people who simply sent a random request.
Do what’s comfortable for you, but realize that a strict “I have to know you first” policy may limit your opportunities.
3. “You Should View Other People’s Profiles Anonymously”
OK, yes. Occasionally, this is probably a sound strategy (e.g., when looking up your boyfriend’s ex). But people are so much more paranoid than they need to be about “checking people out.” Um, newsflash: This is a big part of what LinkedIn is there for in the first place, people. Again—it’s a social media platform designed to facilitate conversation.
So, for heaven’s sake, be social. Or at the very least, be bold enough to show someone that you’ve checked him or her out. Why? Because it could very well lead to a conversation, networking opportunity, or even an interview if someone notes that you’ve taken interest.
Certainly, use judgment. But there’s no need for paranoia. (And, if you’re paranoid in general, perhaps you shouldn’t be on there in the first place.)
4. “You Should Worry Way More About Content Than Keywords”
This one frustrates me. I’ve had conversations with people who earn at least a portion of their livings writing these profiles for people, yet don’t pay any mind whatsoever to keywords or SEO.
“It’s just so important that you use your story to connect with the reader,” they’ll say. And for absolute sure, this is true. But again, you’re talking about a platform that’s used by thousands (if not millions) of recruiters, every single day (93% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find candidates). And what do you suppose they are using to find you as they search? That’s right: keywords.
So, certainly—you should strive to make your profile an engaging read, especially the headline and summary. But pay attention to keywords, too. You need to optimize your profile with terms that are common and specific to your industry (hint: to find these, look at several job descriptions that appeal to you and find the terms, skills and requirements that appear with frequency), and then use these terms in multiple sections if you want to get contacted for positions that may be remotely interesting to you. Just make sure that you’re using them naturally—and not jamming them in places where they don’t belong.
5. “You Don’t Need a Summary”
This one’s just ridiculous. I will argue that this is the most important section of the entire profile. Why? Because some reviewers won’t get any further than the first few lines of your profile. You need to make it a good read.
What do I mean by “good read?” I mean that this is your prime opportunity to introduce who you are professionally and in what you specialize, very quickly. It also affords you a chance to give off some solid hints about your personality and likability, all in one little section.
Don’t squander this chance. Spend time making it solid and, again, rich in keywords.
6. “You Shouldn’t Divulge Numbers”
I had a client earlier this year who was full-on panicked about including any numeric data in his profile, for fear he’d be giving away some vital trade secrets or ticking off his current employer. I mean, he was 100% no-go on anything specific when it came to the numbers.
No matter how I explained to him the potential advantages of a reasonable amount of specificity, he was dead set in leaving off any of these details.
Don’t get me wrong—you need to be mindful when it comes to the content you share via LinkedIn. Unlike your resume—a document that you control the distribution of—your profile is something that (assuming you’ve got your privacy settings opened up) can be viewed by anyone, any time. Thus, you should be careful to not divulge any proprietary, confidential or otherwise sensitive information. However, there’s a difference between “mindful” and “paranoid.”
Keep in mind, it’s often through the numbers (even if they’re just ballpark) that recruiters, hiring managers, and other influential people who visit your profile can figure out that you’re a high performer, and someone they may want to bring on board.
There’s truly no one “right” way to present yourself on LinkedIn, and the way you go about it will also depend somewhat on who your target audience is, and what you want reviewers to do once they find you.
But there are plenty of “wrong” ways to beef your profile up. Avoid these. Find industry professionals you trust (who have specific, authoritative knowledge of the platform) if you need a hand. And don’t just assume that every armchair tip you get is a sound one. With a blend of engaging, conversational read and mindful use of relevant key words? You can nail this.