How to improve your LinkedIn profile

Darcy Nathan, Editorial assistant
June, 2024

LinkedIn is a valuable social media platform for people looking to build professional connections and advance their careers. With so many profiles on the platform, here's how to make yours stand out

Make a powerful first impression

Your profile picture is crucial as it's often the first thing that recruiters or potential connections notice.

'Having a profile picture makes you appear approachable and statistically increases your chances of attracting interest. When choosing your picture, steer clear of overly casual shots (like those with a drink in hand), low-quality images, filters and heavy editing, or group photos,' explains Fay Staker, recruitment consultant at AJP Recruitment.

A headline is positioned under your name and should be more than just your job title. It should highlight your unique strengths and include relevant keywords that recruiters and employers use to search for candidates. Focus on what you bring to the table, like 'building' or 'leading' for a leadership role, or 'optimising' or 'driving' for a performance-oriented position.

Examples include:

  • data analyst - Data-driven decision maker | Optimising business performance with analytics
  • marketing manager - Growth-focused marketing leader | Building brand awareness and driving sales
  • software engineer - Full-stack developer | Building scalable and user-friendly applications

The 'about' section is an opportunity to expand on your headline and tell your professional story. Use this space to showcase your skills, experiences, and career goals. Don't hesitate to share your achievements and let your personality shine through to connect with others.

'I would conclude your bio with a call to action, such as inviting others to connect or providing contact information like your email. This approach ensures your profile is concise while still encouraging engagement from recruiters and other potential connections,' adds Fay.

Consider customising your LinkedIn URL to make it easier for people to find you. You can use your full name or a combination of your name and profession for consistency across all your online profiles.

  • On your profile page, click the pencil icon next to 'Edit public profile and URL' on the right side.
  • Click the pencil icon next to your current URL to edit it.
  • Enter your custom URL in the text box. It can include letters, numbers, and hyphens, but not special characters.
  • Click 'Save' to confirm your new custom URL.

Keep in mind that URLs are on a first-come, first-served basis. If your preferred URL is unavailable, try variations with your middle initial, industry, or a relevant keyword.

Showcase your accomplishments

The experience section is where you capture attention, entice potential employers, and showcase your professional worth. You can do more with this section than simply listing past job titles:

  • Quantify your impact - Don't just say you 'increased sales' - state by how much. Did you streamline a process? Highlight the time or cost savings you achieved.
  • Tailor your achievements - While highlighting impressive metrics is crucial, ensure they resonate with your target audience. For example, if you're applying for a marketing role, emphasise results related to brand awareness or lead generation.
  • Beyond numbers - Quantifiable achievements are great, but don't neglect the qualitative. Did you win an award for your work? Did you lead a successful project that boosted team morale? These achievements showcase your value.

When listing your education, make sure to include the name of the institution, degree earned, and graduation year in chronological order.

Fay recommends that you 'start by reviewing the skills listed in job postings for roles you're interested in. Make a list of these skills, and select the ones you have to showcase on your profile. Highlight any relevant degrees or certifications that highlight your experience in your desired career path. Be sure to focus more on recent achievements rather than older credentials. This approach ensures your LinkedIn profile effectively communicates your suitability for the roles you're targeting, making it easier for recruiters and connections to see why you're a great fit.'

In the skills section, highlight your most relevant hard skills, such as software proficiency and programming languages, along with soft skills like communication and teamwork. It's important to include a mix of general and specific skills based on your target jobs. For more information on what to include, see what skills do employers want?

Furthermore, you can showcase any professional certifications you have gained to demonstrate your expertise. To keep your profile up to date, make sure to add new skills, completed projects, or certifications regularly.

Boost your credibility

The recommendation section on a LinkedIn profile serves as a space for testimonials from other professionals. It's similar to an online reference section that allows those who have worked with you to endorse your skills, experience, and work ethic.

'First and foremost, ask someone you have already built rapport with. One of the most effective strategies for getting recommendations is not to ask for too much. Personally, most of my recommendations come from candidates I've helped place in jobs. Once they're settled in, I usually ask for a couple of lines of feedback rather than a full review. Nine times out of ten, I end up receiving a lengthy recommendation anyway. By not pressuring them to write an essay, you make it much easier for them to say yes and help out,' explains Fay.

Email is a convenient way to approach potential recommenders. It allows them to respond in their own time. Briefly introduce yourself and your networking goals and express your appreciation if they'd be willing to provide a recommendation.

To guide their recommendation, mention the skills and experiences most relevant to your job role. You can also showcase a specific project or achievement that exemplifies those skills, and you could consider attaching your CV for further context. Always thank the person for their time and consideration, regardless of their decision.

Another tip Fay recommends is 'for colleagues to consider offering to write a recommendation for each other - it's a mutually beneficial way to support one another's professional growth.'

Tailor your profile

When creating your profile, ensure that the skills and experiences you highlight are relevant to the industry you are targeting. This will attract the attention of recruiters and hiring managers who are seeking specific qualifications.

For industries that value visual communication, like art, design or marketing, consider incorporating additional elements beyond just your headshot. This could include examples such as presentations you have delivered, infographics that demonstrate your skills, or even a brief video introduction that showcases your personality and expertise.

Start engaging

To build a strong LinkedIn presence, it's important to do more than just share your own content.

'Once you've made connections, stay engaged - congratulate people on their promotions, comment on their insightful posts, and even send a friendly direct message to spark a conversation. It's often a case of 'it's not what you know, it's who you know,' so the more contacts you gather, the better,' explains Fay.

Here are some other ways to find people to engage with on LinkedIn:

  • Follow industry hashtags and keywords - LinkedIn will show you posts that use these hashtags and following them allows you to see discussions and content from a wider range of people.
  • Search for people in your network - You can search by name, company, title, school, or even keywords in someone's profile. For example, if you're in marketing, you could search for 'marketing managers' at your target companies.
  • Look at 'people you may know' suggestions - LinkedIn will suggest people you might want to connect with based on your network and profile information. These suggestions can be a good starting point for finding people in your industry.
  • Follow influencers in your industry - Many industry leaders and experts have active profiles on LinkedIn. Following them allows you to see their content and engage with their posts. You can also learn from their insights and perspectives.

'I also recommend sharing industry news along with your own insights to spark discussions and demonstrate to your network that you're well-informed and have valuable perspectives to offer,' explains Fay. 'For instance, you might repost an article from a reliable source and add your own thoughts. This not only helps you share knowledge but also builds meaningful connections. LinkedIn is also a hub for industry events - I've attended many networking events after discovering them on the platform. Making real-life connections is one of the best ways to strengthen your network and career opportunities,' she adds.

Finally, following companies you're interested in working for is a great way to stay updated on job openings and company culture. It also shows your genuine interest to potential employers, making you a more well-rounded candidate. By following these steps, you can shift from being a passive observer to an active participant in the LinkedIn professional community.

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