Key steps to creating a great LinkedIn profile.
Whether you are a serious job seeker or just occasionally receptive to the right opportunity, you need a LinkedIn profile and it must be top notch.
Your CV is key to your job search and a CV can be tailored to each individual job application but your LinkedIn profile is a vital complement to your career and job search brand.
You may be receive recruiter or head-hunter approaches and a good LinkedIn profile can ensure you are approached more often and with more relevant jobs.
What you may not realise is that it is also invariably looked at when you apply for management consultancy jobs and an out of date or incomplete profile raises questions. As do any inconsistencies with your CV. This applies to applications through LinkedIn but also other channels too.
Indeed if you apply through LinkedIn the recruiter may not look at your CV if they don’t like the look of your profile.
Your LinkedIn profile can make the difference between your being shortlisted or rejected from a job you have applied for.
If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile that is almost always viewed negatively and with suspicion. Also it’s such a dominant advertiser of jobs you might be missing out on 75% of potential roles.
It is also a key part of your professional brand: an employer recently said to me “we want clients to be able to see our employees’ LinkedIn profiles: especially if we are expecting them to pay us a lot of money for them!”. Another said of a candidate applying to a senior role “how can this person claim a good network and contacts if they’re not even on LinkedIn?”. While one could argue with that, it’s probably a widely shared view.
The key to being visible to head hunters and potential employers is ensuring your LinkedIn profile sells your skills and experience to your target audience. It needs to be honest but always remember its main purpose is as a marketing aid.
Key steps to creating a great LinkedIn profile
1. Have a well-defined idea of the consulting job you are seeking. A proper career plan is a great start!
Everything on your LinkedIn profile should be built around this. Use keywords to optimise your chances of appearing in a search as recruiters use keywords and phrases to narrow the field. Also if someone is reviewing dozens or hundreds of profiles and only has time to spend a few seconds looking at yours then relevant words need to stand out. (See this advice on the famed “seven second rule!)
- Your Headline should reflect the type of job you want. For example “Digital Marketing Specialist” or “Programme Management Consultant”. Avoid the default LinkedIn generated “Director at Company xxx Ltd” which is too vague. Note the first 80 characters may be all that people can actually see for various reasons so don’t be tempted to use all the space.
- “About” i.e. the summary section should reinforce the type of consultancy job you are looking for and should be keyword optimised. LinkedIn is constantly evolving and changing but assume the default is to display only the first two lines of a summary in search results. Ensure keywords are at least in the first sentence or two for both search optimisation and to catch a recruiter’s eye.
2. Consider your target audience and put yourself in an employer or recruiter’s shoes.
How would you search to find the ideal candidate for the job you are aiming for? Which skills would you want to see demonstrated? The keywords you focus on will depend on your marketable assets. For example ‘change management in the health sector’, rather than ‘change management’ on its own shows you have skills in a particular sector.
Make sure your employer’s company in your experience/job history cross links to their record. i.e. it doesn’t display as a grey box but is a proper logo. This makes your profile look better and enables people to find out about your employer if it’s not a well-known name.
Make sure the Experience section (i.e. job history) is not confusing with overlapping or concurrent roles or assignments.
Ensure the location is helping, not hindering you: it needs to be set as the location you wish to work in or where the jobs are if you’re flexible. If you apply to a consultancy job in London because you are happy to work there and your LinkedIn profile says Bristol that immediately raises questions. You also won’t get many approaches from recruiters for a London consulting job if your profile says Bristol. The reverse is, of course, also true so it’s a balancing act.
As well as your main profile try and find out how you look in a “snippet”. Any search on LinkedIn will produce a list of people with an edited highlight snippet of each. How you are displayed on that list will be key to whether the recruiter or employer “clicks through” for a proper look at your profile. This will also give an indication of the summary that will be seen if you apply for a job on LinkedIn.
3. LinkedIn is your key marketing tool.
Be specific, not general. It is important to position yourself for the specific type of job you want rather than simply any job you may have the experience for. In this way a recruiter knows immediately both what kind of consultancy job you are seeking and are suitable for. Avoid too many general statements or clichés such as “I’m an experienced problem-solver and leader”. Guide the reader so it is clear what your experience is and you want your next move to be.
4. How much information should you include?
Your LinkedIn profile is not your CV and the advice is towards brevity while including key information. Provide the most information about your most recent jobs. All jobs you have had in the past 10 years require some information over and above company name and date. Include a decent paragraph (four or five lines) on each, or alternatively 2-3 bullet points. Remember to include keywords and skills which are relevant to the management consulting job you seek. If you have had many roles or employers within this period then you will need to cut back on the space allocated accordingly. If the roles were interim/contract state this clearly. Or better put “freelance” in the employer section and for example “2017 – present” with short summaries of each contract. Some people even upload their CV on the LinkedIn site but Prism would advise against this for security and privacy reasons.
5. Should you allow people to deduce your age?
If you are concerned that recruiters may be deterred because of ageism remove degree dates and qualifications dates and consider omitting jobs before a certain date. Consider how to enhance the photo…..you wouldn’t be the only person to use a photo that’s not quite up to date or indeed has used a photo smoothing app! The Equality Acts of course make it unlawful for employers to discriminate against job applicants because of age but it would be naïve to pretend it doesn’t happen so make it difficult for people to do so.
6. Include a photograph.
This is non-negotiable: if you don’t include a photograph you miss out on an opportunity to connect at a more personal level. As most on LinkedIn have pictures it is now considered odd not to. This should be a professional looking photograph in work attire, of you looking approachable! Good quality selfies are just about OK but holiday snaps, dinner jackets or your adorable children are no-nos! Or a tortoise… a genuine LinkedIn photo!
7. Check privacy settings and consider including contact information.
If you are actively looking for a role consider how people might be able to contact you. Try and make it easy, balancing of course sensible privacy concerns. Not everyone uses/pays for InMail (the LinkedIn messaging service) so that’s why you need to allow (irritating) contact requests! Instead you may decide to set up a dedicated email address for LinkedIn approaches and feature this on your profile.
8. Keep it simple
Back to the Seven Second Rule. Overlapping dates are out. Numerous contracts are out (unless you want a contract role perhaps). Minimise gaps: a useful tip is that LinkedIn now allows you to display only the year of your employment.
9. A link on your CV
It is increasingly common to have a link to your LinkedIn profile on your CV. Make sure it works! At least 30% don’t!
So you’ve got a great profile: what now?
LinkedIn doesn’t require hours a day and being too active on LinkedIn is definitely a sign of having too much time on your hands. In fact you will still turn up in head hunter searches or be otherwise visible with no activity at all. Your profile however needs to be kept up to date and you need to ensure that you do regularly review and respond to messages.
Develop your “brand”. While not essential you might send a few minutes a day or an hour a week on the site and interact with others in a professional context. Join groups to make your profile more visible and engage and share comments on relevant topics. Consider publishing on LinkedIn or linking to blogs you have written. This will demonstrate your involvement in the sector. Follow companies and organisations you are interested in.
Ask your colleagues and clients for recommendations. This will enhance your profile and give added depth to your capabilities and achievements. Ideally, include recommendations from people you worked with in previous roles. Give recommendations to other people.
Finally – don’t forget the basics:
- Check for spelling mistakes. Very easy to make so don’t rely on spellcheck. Nobody wants to be contacted by a “Head Haunter”: a genuine LinkedIn error! Another person lived in the Scottish Boarders (an Audit Partner, but without an eye for detail it seems).
- Ensure consistency of basic information with your CV e.g. dates, job titles etc. Anomalies can raise questions and show lack of attention to detail.
- Be careful what you share, posts you write and comments you make. Nothing too controversial despite the occasional temptation to have a rant.
- Ask a friend or mentor to read your profile. They should not just check for typos, but to give you an honest opinion on how you have presented yourself.
- Look at other profiles, especially in a similar field. If you see one that impresses, look for tips and techniques to apply to your own.
- It MUST be up to date.
- Ensure the appropriate location (i.e. where you are seeking a job), employer (i.e. the employer’s official company record NOT a grey box) and Industry: recruiters search using all these criteria. If for example you are a management consultant in Banking you could select either Financial Services or Management Consulting on your profile. But most recruiters seeking your skills will only search for the latter category because too many irrelevant candidates will display in the former. That may be true even if you are seeking a role “client side”, if they are seeking a management consultant.
The Candidate Services section of our Insights and News blog includes a wealth of information and advice to help with your job search.