Though there are millions of users worldwide, Linkedin is still a mystery for many professionals. What are the real benefits? Many. How does it actually advance your career or job search? A lot. How do I know? I asked Donna Sweidan, a career coach and Linkedin pro to answer the questions I know you’re wondering about, too.
Q. How important is it to have a Linkedin profile that is 100% complete? Lots of people do little more than post their name and company.
A. A robust profile is important for a couple of reasons. First, it looks more professional. Recruiters are mining LinkedIn for candidates all the time, and you never know when they will come across your profile. Second, a complete profile increases your chances of being found in a search. The LinkedIn algorithms are designed to pull up complete profiles. And longer profiles are likely to have more keywords that help your profile come up higher in search results.
Q. How should your LinkedIn profile differ from your resume?
A. Your LinkedIn profile is more like a Career Portfolio than a resume. Your LinkedIn profile usually includes most of what is in your resume–but it can be longer and more detailed. Unlike a resume, it is also a dynamic interface where all your activity is a reflection of who you are and how you think.
Q. Should you spend a lot of time getting your headline right–the title and affiliation that is the first thing people see when you come up in a search?
A. Yes, this is the first impression people get when they see your profile. It is also prime real estate on your LinkedIn profile, because it’s “search sensitive”. To improve your chances of coming up higher in search results, it’s really important that your headline includes key words that describe your major skills and expertise.
Q. What’s your take on recommendations? Do employers and networking contacts think they’re true or contrived?
A. If they look authentic, substantive and meaningful, they can be very compelling. But if they look forced and contrived, then they won’t be taken seriously.
Q. What’s the minimum number of connections you should have to show that you are a serious networker?
A. I would suggest 500+ is essential if you are trying to sell yourself as someone with a substantial network.
Q. What is the benefit of joining Linkedin groups?
A. There are a number of benefits to joining groups and considering that there are 1.3+ million of them, there’s something for everyone. Groups expand your opportunity to network exponentially. You have the chance to engage in discussions, ask questions, connect with colleagues, and partake in “knowledge-powered networking” (when you showcase your knowledge and expertise to people outside of your usual professional circles).
Another big benefit is that you can email almost any group member directly, as long as you are connected by at least 2 or 3 degrees, I believe. They’ve gotten a lot stricter over the last year about who you can email through groups–but groups definitely provide more direct access to more people.
When you are doing a specific search in Linkedin, your results could be much greater depending on how many groups you belong to and how they relate to the search.
Finally, many groups have separate sections where jobs are posted.
Q. In the April 27, 2010 Fortune magazine cover story the CEO of Spencer Stuart was quoted as saying that Linkedin has markedly changed his and the entire recruiting business. What percentage of candidates do you think are now found via Linkedin vs. recruiting firms, for example?
A. It’s hard to pinpoint a percentage, but it’s widely known that in-house and external recruiters love Linkedin. A 2011 jobvite.com survey names LinkedIn as the most popular social media tool for recruiters and the top resource people use to land jobs today. Linkedin can connect you directly to HR professionals and hiring managers who used Linkedin to avoid paying for external recruiter placement fees. In a down economy, employers are especially concerned about keeping recruiting costs down.
Q. Is Linkedin geared to certain job levels? There don’t seem to be a lot of C-suite executives.
A. That’s a misconception. There are 2 million C-Level executives on LinkedIn. And of course lots of other people at the administrative to executive levels.
Q. Is Linkedin more useful to people in certain industries?
A. From Alternative Medicine to Accounting and from Warehousing to Wireless, everyone should be on LinkedIn. It provides access to the largest premier networking party you’ll ever find, and you just have to join in to benefit.
Q. Is it absolutely taboo to send a direct invitation to someone you do not know personally?
A. Not at all. However you must personalize the invite. My greatest pet peeve is invitations that are nothing more than the generically worded link request. I have received hundreds of those and they don’t compel me to respond. I teach people how to personalize invitations in my webinars.
Q. So when you personalize the invitation, people are less apt to click the “I don’t know this person” box and get you labelled as a Linkedin spammer?
A. That’s right. You have to take the time to personalize your invitations–and point out common interests, people or experiences–or a large volume of “I don’t know this person” blocks could lead to reduced Linkedin privileges.
Q. When you hear that people are not on Linkedin, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
A. Missed opportunity.
Career coach Donna Sweidan conducts regular webinars that help you maximize Linkedin and also advises job seekers in individual coaching sessions. More info at www.careerfolk.com Mention 9 Lives for a 10% discount.
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