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Put the polish on your LinkedIn profile

A recruiter's top tips for how to boost your LinkedIn profile and be ready for your job search

Building your career is a journey filled with challenges, excitement, and forks in the road. And journeys are easier with maps. In this column, job experts answer your questions and deliver advice to help you take the next step.

Question: I’ve decided it’s time for me to seek a new role. Are LinkedIn profiles a “must have” in my search? If so, what can I do to help mine stand out?

Answer: With more than 530 million members worldwide, LinkedIn’s presence in the career-building world can’t be ignored. More than ever, your profile has the power to help you connect with recruiters before your first conversation, especially within the tech industry. It makes sense to have your profile in tip-top shape should you be discovered for that unexpected, dream role.

Samirul Mallick, an 11-year recruiting veteran in India, has matched people in sales, marketing, and technical roles at Microsoft. Based on his experience helping people connect to and get discovered by companies in an evolving job market, we asked Mallick what works, and what doesn’t, in an online profile today.

Profile picture

Always upload an image. For many recruiters, the lack of a head shot keeps a job seeker “in the dark,” both figuratively and literally. And you might inadvertently come across as standoffish or unapproachable if recruiters only see the default avatar. “By including a picture, it helps recruiters foster trust and create a relationship with people,” Mallick said. “Research shows that people are more likely to connect with someone when they see a clear picture of the person’s face.”

When it comes to the type of image, Mallick says there is no straight rule but offers his personal guidance. “Everyone likes a smiling face. It’s better to use a professional picture with a single-color background.” Keep it professional, but warm and approachable should be the tone.

Recommendations

Always ask your peers and managers for professional recommendations. From a recruiter’s eye, Mallick wants to see your “real-time experience.” A recommendation offers a solid, authentic stamp of approval and provides more clarity about your previous, relevant roles. This, he said, builds the level of trust between a recruiter and a job seeker even before they speak or meet.

Recommendations are based on the true experience a person has gained while working with you,” said Mallick. “It’s always good to be specific when asking for the recommendation. Request that recommenders focus on areas they have personal knowledge of and that are applicable to your overall career aspirations.”

“Ask recommenders to focus on your professional skills, competencies, knowledge, contributions, and, lastly, soft skills,” said Mallick. “You should have diverse recommendations from peers, colleagues, former managers, clients, and business stakeholders to add weight to your profile and gain visibility to your extended LinkedIn network.”

And there’s no such thing as too many LinkedIn recommendations. “A person can ask for many recommendations, and later they can manage which ones to showcase,” Mallick said. Building up a bank of varied recommendations will leave you prepared for when your career aspirations evolve and will ensure that you always have recommendations that are relevant to the roles you seek.

Search words and phrases

Mallick says recruiters want to better understand your expertise through LinkedIn’s Experience and Featured Skills & Endorsements sections, which feed into the site’s search algorithm. Recruiters will search profiles of competing companies, including title names, product groups, and relevant skills. Include this information to heighten your visibility within a search. And, Mallick said, make sure this information is applicable to your aspired positions.

“This helps me, as the recruiter, run a more relevant search,” he said. “For example, if you listed cloud computing as a skill, LinkedIn’s algorithm will help me find you when my search pairs cloud computing with the other key skills I’m searching for.”

To increase your chance of being shortlisted for a great opportunity, Mallick said you should clearly list all company names and role titles in your portfolio, as well as projects and products you have worked on. He advised you also include your complete educational details in the Education section in order to be more easily found by recruiters who might also search for a specific degree or certification.

Remember, your first impressions start long before your screening call with a recruiter. Follow these easy steps to get discovered and to build a connection with tech recruiters that will help you land the perfect job. Now freshen up your profile, and go get that job!