Optimising your LinkedIn profile

Why use LinkedIn?

With more than 85 million members in more than 200 countries, LinkedIn is a professional social network worth using, understanding and optimising.

After you’ve covered the basics of setting up your LinkedIn presence, features including recommendations, applications and LinkedIn Answers can add value to your profile. Many of these highly useful features, though, are often overlooked or underused by newcomers.

Cover the Basics

The first step to spiffing up your LinkedIn profile is to fill in as much information about your work experience as possible. It’s your online resume; pay as much attention to it as you would your cover letter or paper resume.

Your LinkedIn profile should, at minimum, reflect your current situation. That includes an up-to-date headline along with information about your most recent position. A recent photo and contact information are also musts.

If you’ve covered those bases, we recommend focusing on making connections, joining groups, getting recommendations and posting status updates. Once again, the focus should be on quality additions in each of these areas.

A status update is a great place to share an article of interest or something new you’ve been working on. People do comment on status updates, so it’s a nice way to start a conversation.

If all else fails, just follow LinkedIn’s built-in status bar for recommendations on how to complete your profile. When you hit the 100% mark, though, don’t think you’re finished; there’s plenty more to be done.

Ask for meaningful recommendations

Potential clients aren’t going to take your word for granted when you describe your top-notch abilities. Instead, they will want to hear from those who have worked with you and have a grasp on your working style, personality and skills. That’s where recommendations come in.

Gathering recommendations is all about quality over quantity. Let’s face it, if someone has dozens of recommendations that are generic in nature, it’s not as valuable as a handful that are specific about a person’s experience and contribution.

Focus on asking for meaningful recommendations from your supervisors and colleagues who work closest to you. Before sending out a request on LinkedIn, approach each contact in person to explain the importance of his or her recommendation. Adding a personal touch to your request will probably result in a better response rate, as impersonal, default requests can sometimes fall on deaf ears.

Be sure to thank each of your colleagues who recommend you on LinkedIn, and consider returning the favor with a follow-up recommendation.

Use Value-Added Applications

One of the hidden jewels on LinkedIn is its ability to incorporate applications. Check out its Application Directory for a taste of apps that can spice up your profile.

Here are a few faves:

  • SlideShare Presentations: If you’re a public speaker or publish lots of reports, SlideShare is a useful tool for getting the word out about your work. If you don’t have a SlideShare account, get one. If you do, this app is a great way to showcase:
  • WordPress: Add personal flair to your LinkedIn profile by importing your latest WordPress blog posts onto your profile. You can choose to display all posts or only those tagged “linkedin.”
  • Tweets: If you’re a huge LinkedIn buff with a passion for Twitter, Tweets is a great Twitter client for accessing the microblogging service right from LinkedIn. Plus, you can choose to display your most recent tweets on your profile.
  • These apps will help to give visitors to your profile a better idea of who you are as a person and job candidate. You could also check out the Events app, which enables you to discover professional events and indicate which ones you’re attending, giving you more opportunities to connect with fellow attendees.

Become an Expert With LinkedIn Answers

LinkedIn Answers is a Q&A platform that enables members to demonstrate their business acumen by answering questions from other members. When questioners choose another user’s answer as best, that user gains points of expertise. These points rank members on the Answers leaderboard, called “This Week’s Top Experts.”

And finally – avoid these buzzwords!

Apparently, research indicates that we’re all overusing certain phrases when we big ourselves up on our LinkedIn profiles. LinkedIn has released the most overused buzzwords written by job hunters when describing themselves – and all the usual suspects are there.

Whilst many Britons favour ‘motivated’ people in Spain, Brazil and India can’t resist describing themselves as ‘dynamic’. However, our German, Italian, French and Netherlands colleagues like to make themselves stand out by using ‘innovative’.

Top of the list compiled by the professional networking website for its users in US, Canada and Australia is ‘extensive experience’.

Fortunately, however, very few seem to refer to themselves as ‘The Brand’, unlike Stuart Baggs – the contestant on The Apprentice, who has gained notoriety for his cocksure use of business buzzwords.

Other hackneyed horrors are ‘team player’, ‘results-oriented’ and that old stalwart, ‘entrepreneurial’.

Beware that a lot of employers and potential clients could well simply ignore CVs containing these overused phrases – you have been warned!