If you’re like me and your GPA looks like it was beaten with a stick, then you know the value of a powerful LinkedIn profile. It says to anyone looking you up, “Yes, I have my life together. Take a look at all the amazing stuff I’ve done.”
LinkedIn profiles are important because even after resumes have been culled with a first pass, they still need to be cut down to a more manageable size before reaching out. When there’s nothing left to read in the resumes, where else can recruiters turn to get more information about their candidates? LinkedIn, of course. With online profiles so readily available, and offering twice the information as a resume, it’s no surprise recruiters resort to LinkedIn to scrub candidates.
This being the case, it’s behoove of you to ensure it’s the best LinkedIn profile you’ve ever made. Let’s take a deep-dive and see how we can make that happen.
Components of a Strong LinkedIn Profile
There are three tiers LinkedIn entries fall into: Ancillary, Customary, and Impressive. Not so intuitively, the Tier I (Impressive) is the one you’ll likely be spending the least amount of time on. In fact, Tier II should be your focus. Although its items are commonplace, it’s where you can add the greatest pizzazz.
Tier III items are useful if you have something outstanding to display, but they won’t be sorely missed if they’re left off. Many of them I think, if they weren’t so easy to punch in and get out of the way, I’d say don’t waste your time.
Focus your energies in Tiers I and II, and your profile will be golden.
Let’s talk about these in more detail. We’ll go in reverse order.
The term ‘Ancillary’ governs this tier because its items provide support only for the primary items on your profile: Tiers I and II. It provides the backdrop for what you’re trying to promote about yourself. Consider it “setting the scene.”
Nothing in this section will be woefully missed if it’s not included. If you forgot to add what Groups you follow or Causes You Care About, it’s not the end of the world.
The caveat, however, is that if you do decide to put forward an Ancillary item, it needs to be outstanding. It needs to greatly add to your profile.
Put it this way, if you profess to have a talent, skill, or trait that is worth showing off. One day someone will ask you to put it on display. If it was never an amazing talent, then you’re just going to look bad after doing it. You may have been be better off never mentioning you could do it. It’s like stating you play the Piano, but when someone asks you to play a tune, all you’ve got is Ol’ McDonald. It looks bad.
A good example is Test Scores. If you scored fairly average on the SAT, and you decide to put up your scores, then you might turn people away. They may have thought you were a great candidate before, but after seeing your scores thought otherwise.
Don’t affirm to anyone you’re average–even if you are–that’s not the point of the game you’re playing.
If, however the opposite was true, and you got a near-perfect score on the SAT, then entering that on your profile would be advantageous. It makes up for areas of mediocrity that you can’t fix in a hurry. Folks that didn’t do as well on their SATs think you’re just implicitly smarter than others.
Another example would be Courses. Providing all the classes you’ve taken to earn your degree does not signal much. Most believe that you made it through college, so throwing every course you’ve taken on your profile is unnecessary.
The smart or strategic thing to do is accentuate the courses that will bode well for a new job in your industry.
When I was in the midst of my job hunt, I only put down the courses I knew were relevant to the type of job I was looking for. I had many courses on my profile that were nixed because they didn’t “add” to my story; they were superfluous.
While Tier III is not a complicated section, it does take thought. It needs to fit your overall strategy. Just don’t spend too long on it.
Anything more than 20 minutes means your unfocused. Like throwing spaghetti at the wall. Each item should feel like the piece of a puzzle to your LinkedIn page. Each piece should take you closer and closer to your goal.
It’s low hanging fruit, but valuable if done right. Move on when you’re ready.
This tier is ‘Customary’ because it contains the routine items you find on every LinkedIn profile. There’s nothing particularly exceptional or challenging about it, but adds the most meat to the profile. It’s where you can do the most “sprucing up.”
The key to the Customary Tier is to add, add, add! Flush out and push the boundaries of your LinkedIn entries.
It’s easy to do the bare minimum and only supply viewers with a taste –similar to a resume–but it’s really where you get to differentiate yourself most. LinkedIn is not a resume. It’s your canvas.
Because these items are on everyone’s profile you must go above and beyond. When everyone’s using the same medium or structure for communication, you have to be creative and deliberate in your execution. Things like this will take your profile to the next level:
- Under Education, add your Senior Design Presentation
- Under Experience, elaborate with paragraphs and answer a typical interview question: Give an example of a time you implemented improvement.
- Under Projects, link all of your team members
- Under Honors & Awards, scan in the certificates you hung on to
- Under Organizations, really talk about how you made a difference
- Develop a gripping Summary. Be specific about the job you’re hunting for and the story about why.
Recruiters want you to tell them a story they can effortlessly follow. Make it easy for them. Paint the picture you want them to see. This works in your favor as it gives them plenty of ammunition for their boss.
It’s not easy to be better than 99% of your peers, but the work is worth it; trust me it pays off.
Having been headhunted by SpaceX based solely on my LinkedIn profile, I realized just how advantageous it is to ‘look’ good online.
I honed my profile over several months, adding projects, presentations, links, success stories, etc. My profile looked robust. I’d achieved a look hardly matched by my peers. And recruiters took notice.
Despite my shoddy GPA and lackluster set of skills, I’d put together a good enough online profile to out shine the guys that were probably more qualified.
Some find it vain to care so much about your persona, but it’s what gets people’s foot in the door. Needless to say, I didn’t land the job at SpaceX, but I learned a hell of a lot trying. I keep my LinkedIn up-to-date for this reason alone. Make a great LinkedIn profile. It opens up opportunities.
Lastly, we get to the Impressive Tier. The holy grail of LinkedIn entries. If you’ve got something from this list on display, you’re a force to be reckoned with. You’ve clearly been reading my notes on how to improve your profile.
Impressive Tier items tend to signify an individual who’s consistently at work on their professional development, and always dedicated to their own excellence. It’s challenging to acquire an Impressive Tier item, bug the payoff is commensurate.
Take for example, a patent or publication. This isn’t something you can really dream up and actualize over night. You have to continually work at it for months, possibly years. It’s no easy feat, hence why they add so much value.
A certification is a more likely Tier I item to acquire, but it’s no slouch either. Weeks of training or studying is usually required. In my case, I studied several months for an exam to earn my certification. It was part of my strategic vision to knock it out as soon as possible. Of course, I linked it proudly on my profile.
Impressive Tier items are great because they really don’t require much work to put on the profile. You did all the work upfront. They require no sprucing up, or fluff to make great. They speak entirely for themselves.
If don’t have an item from the Impressive Tier, you should be spending 99% of your off time trying to collect one. Any one can go a long way.
Secret Sauce: Written Recommendation
While I speak highly of the Tier I items, I do understand the time commitments necessary to get one. If you don’t have the time, or need immediate return on investment, I have quick solution for you.
It’s one that I never personally took advantage of, but having now done the research for this article, am very intent upon getting one–a Written Recommendation from a past professor, manager, classmate, or co-worker.
Written Recommendations tell the world you really have something special going for you. They say that you did all the work you said you did, that you did it well, that you were well liked, and that you had the social clout necessary to gain recommendation. There’s little else on the planet that speaks more than that about a person. It’s a catch-all that can really make your profile look outstanding.
If you have the pull, know the right people, and did a good job then go out and get one of those written recommendations. You’ll be glad you did. I’m in a rush to get one myself!
I hope you found this guide helpful. Just remember A strong profile is a full profile, from Tier I to Tier III. Use each tier strategically and you’ll e off to the races. Adds as much detail as possible, where possible, and know if there were any Tier thathad to take the back burner, it’s Tier III.
Discuss what item(s) you think should be added or rearranged. How many of you have written recommendations on your profile? What difference has it made in your job hunting endeavors? Share in the comments below!