When I talk to participants at my Social Media Skills for Employment workshops at JVS Toronto, it seems that more and more job searchers have already signed up with LinkedIn and have begun to set up a profile. This observation is borne out in the data offered by LinkedIn, who report that they presently have 175 million worldwide members, with two new members signing up per second. However, when I ask job searchers about whether LinkedIn has made a difference to their job search, some complain that even though they created a profile, “nothing is happening”. When I evaluate their profiles, it is clear that certain common mistakes are made, many of which are easily corrected. After correcting these and learning to use the tool properly, many have reported a huge difference in the effectiveness of LinkedIn, leading to increased attention to their profile, and — even more importantly — job leads and even invitations to interviews and offers of employment.
The common mistakes made by job searchers on LinkedIn can be divided into those related to profile completeness and mistakes related to the ways the profiles are used:
Complete your profile:
LinkedIn emphasizes the importance of a complete profile as a way to maximize visibility and make users more easily found by others. If you have an up-to-date resume, a simple professional photo and a few people with whom to connect, 100% completeness is relatively easy complete.
I have outlined the criteria for profile completeness on our blog, which can be summarised as:
- A current position, with a description
- Two more positions
- A photo
- 5 skills, at least
- A profile summary
- 50 connections, at least
- Industry and postal code
The challenge for unemployed job searchers is the expectation of a current position. One good way to address this issue is to include a volunteer position (make sure to clearly indicate in the job title that it is volunteer work, though). Job searchers could also include freelance or an interim survival job, by way of completing this requirement.
Another challenge for the unemployed job searcher is finding 50 connections. The best strategy for maximizing connections is to connect with all of the people you know on LinkedIn, as well as begin actively identifying new possible contacts through groups and networks of previous employers and schools. Try to personalize each invitation and don’t be shy to reach out broadly. You’ll be surprised to find that most people are happy to connect.
Be an active user:
Whether a profile is complete or not, there are many ways job searchers can use LinkedIn to raise their profile, meet new contacts and maximise their existing network. This includes (but is not limited to) joining Groups, searching through the Jobs, following Companies, and providing Answers to questions:
- LinkedIn reports more than one million Groups of various sizes, from two members to over a quarter of a million. It is worth joining a few, to start. Usefully, LinkedIn actually recommends groups that match your profile (“Groups You May Like“). Read the comments and questions, offer your own feedback and ask intelligent questions. Keep in mind that LinkedIn is designed so that you can more easily connect with a person with whom you share a group.
- Job search is quite easy on LinkedIn. It follows the same process as many job boards, and allows candidates to save a search, narrow the criteria and even receive emails that alert job searchers about jobs that match their requirements. It also recommends “Jobs you may be interested in“, based on the content of your profile. Jobs are often described in great detail, and job searchers may be able to apply directly on the site, using their profile.
- The number of company pages on LinkedIn has grown, with over two million recently reported. Follow local employers for whom you would like to work. This is an excellent source of data for job searchers, as well as an opportunity to interact with companies, as well as receive notification whenever they post a job on the site.
- Answering questions is an excellent opportunity to raise your profile and show off your expertise; this option is not used by enough LinkedIn members (which is exactly why YOU should take on this opportunity!). You can answer questions posed on the site, share your ideas or ask your own (thoughtful) questions. You will find this section on the “More” section of the main menu, under “Answers”.
If you face any difficulties implementing these suggestions, check with the LinkedIn Help Centre, which be found on the “More” section of the menu, under “Help Centre”.
I recommend to job searchers to spend at least a third of their job search time (2 hours per day, perhaps) on LinkedIn, to job search, follow companies, network in groups, share their expertise and to expand their contacts.
Of course, take any opportunity you can to meet new contacts in real life and strengthen your existing relationships. This always has been the key to a successful job search, and will continue to be so, as long as hiring is done by people rather than computers.