LinkedIn is the social network for business professionals. LinkedIn members can use the site to network with other professionals in their industry, to search for new positions and to verify the qualifications and experience of job applicants. LinkedIn is a fast-growing network, with 172,800 new users joining the site each day. This comprehensive guide to LinkedIn shows everything needed to get started with LinkedIn with tips for making connections, finding a dream job, researching companies and maximizing the benefit of the social network.
LinkedIn has over 350 million users, and 172,800 new users join each day. That’s two new members every second.
Step-by-Step to Crafting an
Effective LinkedIn Profile
To get the most from LinkedIn, users need to create a profile designed to maximize the network’s usefulness. Step-by-step, here’s what needs to be included to create a complete, valuable and marketable profile.
Perform Initial Setup
First, the profile basics should be put into place:
Create a LinkedIn account using your first and last name and email address. Choose a unique password.
Enter basic demographic information, including country and zip code. Select whether you are employed, a job seeker or a student. Fill in the requested information for the chosen selection. For example, the employed section asks for information such as current job title and company.
Connect your email address to your account by verifying the LinkedIn account through email.
Select contacts from your email address book to connect with on LinkedIn. You can skip this step if desired.
Select email address contacts to invite to join LinkedIn from among contacts who do not currently have a LinkedIn profile, or click “Skip This Step.”
Add a phone number (or skip).
Select account type. Choose from Basic, which is free, or Premium, which is a paid subscription. The basic subscription allows profile creation, connections, the ability to join industry groups and tools to search and apply for jobs. The Premium account offers additional features, including the option to see who views your profile, save the profiles of others and send messages to members not connected to your account. Premium subscriptions are offered with multiple price points: Professional ($59.99 per month), Recruiter Lite ($119.99 per month), Jobseeker ($29.99 per month) or Sales Navigator ($79.99 per month). Some plans offer a free 1-month trial.
After filling in basic info, the LinkedIn profile page will open.
Add a Photo
LinkedIn members with a photo receive 11 times more profile views, making a photo addition crucial to success on the networking site. Choose a professional photo with no other people in the shot, preferably a headshot from the chest up, and avoid silly or non-professional photos. If you do not have a professional headshot, take one as soon as possible – even a headshot taken with a smartphone will do.
Import Resume or Enter Job Information
Importing a resume is the fastest and easiest way to fill in a LinkedIn profile. Hover the mouse cursor over the down arrow next to the “View Profile As” button and click “Import Resume.” Upload a resume in Word, PDF, text or HTML file. After uploading the file, LinkedIn will automatically parse the information from the resume and populate the appropriate profile fields. However, the information may not translate in the correct order, so make sure to double-check all information before publishing.
Add additional information, such as projects completed, any awards, special skills and unusual job experience to complete the “Experience” and “Education” fields. Unlike one-page resumes, the more detailed the better, especially concerning information about skills and accomplishments earned during your career.
Enter all information manually by scrolling to the “Experience” section and clicking “Add Position.” This will bring up a box where you can enter the information you need, including company name, title, location and time period you worked there as well as a description. Add relevant media to each position, such as a document video, or link to a project completed in that position. Repeat this step for each past position relevant to your current career or career aspirations.
Add Relevant Skills
Click “Add Skills” to pull up the “Skills and Endorsements” section. Adjust settings if needed, and enter all skills and areas of expertise, such as marketing, accounting, known software, coding experience or experience with tools such as Microsoft Excel. As you type, LinkedIn will automatically offer suggestions for related skills using a drop-down menu. Choose from suggested skills or type your own. You can add up to 50 skills, so don’t hold back – the more you add, the better your profile will look to potential employers and business contacts. Once you’ve added your skills, you can drag them around to reorder them, such as by experience level or industry type.
Input Educational Information
If educational information was not automatically added through the resume upload, take this time to include it. Be specific and detailed, filling in any earned diplomas or degrees, extracurricular activities, professional clubs, awards and specific courses or certifications that are relevant to your profession.
Write an Engaging Summary
The professional summary is the first section of the profile that other LinkedIn members will see after your name and headshot. An engaging summary is vital to make a positive first impression on potential employers or contacts. Use the summary to introduce yourself, with simple information about background, career goals and best career accomplishments. Include anything relevant that might interest connections and potential employers, using keywords highlighting career experience and goals. Use targeted keywords to improve the profile’s SEO, but avoid empty phrases. For example, “motivated” was the most overused LinkedIn profile word in 2014, so avoid it and replace other filler words with true skills and accomplishments.
Enter Additional Information
The last sections on the LinkedIn profile page are optional. Fill in these sections with relevant information, but do not worry about leaving them blank if there’s nothing to include. Do take the time, however, to fill out the contact information section so potential employers can contact you. Only include contact information you are comfortable sharing publicly.
Double-check Your Profile
Once all relevant sections are completed, double-check the public profile page to see how it looks to others. Click the “View Profile As” button to view your profile as a visitor. At the top of the page, click to toggle between Personal Connections or Public View. Depending on the profile settings, the profile may appear different to connections and the public. Read through the profile carefully, looking for spelling, grammar or factual errors. Edit any necessary sections to highlight your best skills and experience.
Completion of your LinkedIn profile matters if you want to be found by job recruiters and new connections. The more complete your profile is with the most information and keywords, the better your chances are of making the connections you need to succeed.
Pro Tip: Customizing Your URL
The LinkedIn profile URL is a valuable tool for sharing profile information and helping people discover the profile through search engines. The default customization option uses your full name in the URL, but if you have a common name, that URL might already be taken. Instead, consider using your name along with numbers, your position or your location. When a URL is customized, the page will rank higher in searches with your name. Customization also makes it easier to share the URL with potential employers and connections.
Customizing a profile URL is simple: Click the gear image next to the public profile link, and in the right-hand column, click the pencil image next to the URL. Type in the URL you’d like to use (which must be five to 30 letters or numbers) and click “Save.”
Profile Dos and Don’ts
While including as much relevant information as possible is key, for best results, follow these guidelines for what to include in – and leave off of- a profile.
- Make detailed entries on abilities and achievements in every section.
- Be informative without sounding dry or boring. Entertainment is not necessary, but adding variety and enthusiasm to the page keeps recruiters or potential employers engaged.
- Brainstorm to find creative ways to present your accomplishments.
- Incorporate visual elements whenever possible, such as links and presentations.
- Use concrete data to illustrate accomplishments, such as, “increased department revenue by 20 percent.”
- Keep your profile updated with new experience and skills. Update your profile every two to three months with relevant info.
- Include non-professional personal details. Unless you work with animals, no one needs to know about your cats.
- Include any negative information, such as past mishaps or by highlighting lack of experience.
- Bad-mouth any employers or coworkers on your profile, posts or in recommendations.
- Include information not relevant to current career aspirations. For example, do not include grammar school information or high school jobs, unless that experience applies to your current career.
What Makes a Profile
- Eye-catching headline
- Factual educational information
- Detailed job experience with visual media (when applicable)
- Volunteer work and supported causes
- Engaging summary
- List of honors, awards and recognitions
- Relevant career skills for potential endorsements
- Roles in professional organizations
- Recommendations from colleagues
- Contact information
Building Your Network
After building out the bones of a profile, the real work begins: growing a professional network. LinkedIn networks are composed of several parts. To most effectively build contacts, it is necessary to learn about how the network-creating process works on LinkedIn.
One of the fastest and easiest ways to start building your network is to import email contacts. After uploading existing contacts, LinkedIn provides the option to invite any remaining contacts to join LinkedIn. If you do not want to invite all contacts, uncheck the “Select All” box, which is selected by default.
How Connections Work
Unlike Facebook, Twitter and other social networking platforms, it is impossible to make random connections on LinkedIn. Just like in real life, if you want to meet someone new, you may have to use an existing connection to be introduced to the new person.
When you are connected to another LinkedIn member, that person is considered a first level connection. Introductions to meet new contacts can be authenticated only at the second tier level, which means that second tier person is already connected to one of your existing first tier connections. To connect with a second tier person, ask the first tier connection connected to the person you want to meet for an introduction. LinkedIn also has a third tier level, which includes LinkedIn members who are connected to your second level connections. Meeting a third tier connection may require two introductions.
In some cases, it is possible to connect with other members without an introduction. When you click “Connect” on a member’s profile, you will be asked how you know that person. You can select a company you both worked at, a school you both attended or you will have to know that person’s email address. Otherwise, a direct connection is impossible.
To request an introduction for a second tier connection:
Hold your cursor over the down arrow next to “Send a Message/Send [Name] InMail,” and click “Get Introduced.”
On the introduction page, select a shared connection and write a message explaining why you want to be introduced. If the introduction is approved by the first tier connection, a new connection will be made.
LinkedIn members can also make connections by direct introductions using InMail:
While on the potential connection’s profile, click the “Send [Name] InMail” button and fill out your contact info and a friendly, professional message introducing yourself. If the person approves the relationship, a new connection is added.
After signing into a LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn will offer a list of “People You May Know,” which allows connections with a click of a single button.
Making the Most of Your LinkedIn Network
The most important aspect of a LinkedIn network is the quality of existing connections. Connections that lead to other connections, groups and potential jobs offer the most value.
After the initial network creation, continue to expand on that network to keep it valuable. One method to maximize the potential of a network is by interacting with connections via updates and posts. Unlike Facebook, where you might post personal stories or a funny cat video, LinkedIn updates and posts should remain professional and provide value to other connections and LinkedIn members. For example, sharing a link to an article related to your profession is a perfect type of post. Be a source of valuable information for connections.
While completing a professional profile and growing a network are important for LinkedIn users, joining groups is a great way to build connections and establish a name for yourself in your chosen career field. Much like professional groups formed in real life, LinkedIn groups create career opportunities in the same way.
In 2015, LinkedIn hosted more than 2 million professional groups. LinkedIn members can join up to 50 groups offered with one of three focuses: Professional, Cause or Interest Based, and Alumni Associations. Each type of group provides specific benefits to members.
According to data from LinkedIn, those active in groups have a five-time better shot at being seen by colleagues, industry influencers or future employers. Despite this fact, only 16 percent of LinkedIn members have joined the maximum number of groups allowed.
Professional groups are highly visible and easy to find for any specific industry or niche. A quick search on the site for an industry brings up a long list of potential groups to join, all of which are a valuable for finding new colleagues or employers.
Joining several relevant professional groups provides maximum benefit for networking and career growth. Look for groups where you can contribute valuable information to other members as well as groups where you can learn. Join groups where potential employer might be looking for someone with your knowledge, experience and skill set. Even if the general topic or industry is the same, every group will have a different set of members, making it beneficial to join multiple professional groups for maximum network growth and career potential.
LinkedIn has a massive library of groups based on specific causes and interests. Cause or interest groups are used to connect with members who may work in a different industry, but share similar professional interests. Regardless of career industry, members can offer tips on career growth and marketing. For example, both an IT freelancer and a packaged foods business owner would benefit from learning new strategies for using social media to engage with customers. Members from all professions join groups such as “Social Media Marketing Strategies for Business Professionals” or “Social Media Mastery for Business Leaders.”
Alumni association groups offer a different type of networking space for alumni association members. Instead of in-person meetings, alumni can connect online to keep in touch, plan events or find job opportunities.
All LinkedIn groups provide the opportunity to expand your professional network by connecting members with common interests.
Making the Most of Groups
Some groups have open enrollment, which means any LinkedIn member can join at any time. Closed groups require members send a request to join, and a group admin will approve or deny the request. Groups are often closed to ensure that they remain comprised only of professionals in that industry. Other group’s admins may prefer to keep their groups small.
Once you join a group, become an active participant. Spend time engaging with other members a few times a week. Active status varies from group to group, but typically involves sharing ideas and content with other group members. Post content that informs or generates conversation, and comment on other members’ posts to keep the conversation going.
Don’t use groups to sell yourself directly, either to colleagues or potential employers. Groups are not the place for self-promotion – that’s done on your own profile. In a group, make the content about the community, not yourself, and use group participation to share your expertise. You can sell yourself one-on-one outside of the group if a member approaches you directly.
Use the search function to find specific groups. For example, the search tool can be used to find fellow alumni working in a specific industry. In an alumni association group, click “Members,” and type the industry, position or keyword into the search bar. The results will foster additional connections with other alumni group members. Group members have the added benefit of connecting directly without an introduction no matter what the existing relationship is, which can lead to valuable professional relationships.
Resume and Experience
The single most important piece of a LinkedIn profile is the Experience section. In this section, list all current and past positions, providing specific job details and accomplishments. The Experience section is the meat of your profile and is typically the first stop for potential recruiters and connections.
Add Job Details
After uploading a resume, and updating career information for the first time, continue to add details every few months. Add as many details about each job for higher ranking in search engines and attention from recruiters. Add information on specific skills you used while in each position, describe projects or accomplishments and add other relevant details that attract potential employers or connections.
Adding media to a profile improves its performance dramatically. When possible, add media to the Experience section. Include media such as projects you created, a portfolio, a photo of a marketing campaign, or a link to an article, a video or a presentation. Adding visual media provides a complete picture of actual achievements and creativity.
Keep It Current
Keep your Experience section updated, because a recruiter could be looking for a candidate like you at any time. Add new experiences and skills as you obtain them.
Resume Builder Tool
LinkedIn allows users to use information from a LinkedIn profile to craft a printable resume. Members can pick a resume template, customize the content and share or print that resume for job applications.
However, the Resume Builder tool does have drawbacks. If a LinkedIn profile is incomplete or unprofessional, the Resume Builder will create a similarly sloppy resume. Keep all information factual, relevant and up-to-date for the best resume creation. In a few cases, even well-developed LinkedIn profiles may not translate well to a traditional resume because rules for LinkedIn and traditional resumes often differ.
Endorsements and recommendations distinguish you from other professionals and confirm your industry knowledge and experience. Use the tips below to get the most benefits from these sections.
Endorsements are easy to give. Under each member’s profile in the “Skills and Endorsements” section, all endorsements by connections are listed. This section lists the number of endorsements, skills that have been endorsed and the photos of members who have endorsed that person.
To add skills, search for keywords in the search box, and click the “Add” button. Remove a skill by clicking the X next to its name. Skills are ordered from most endorsed to least, but you can reorder skills into any desired order by dragging and dropping each skill box
To endorse someone else for a skill, scroll to their “Skills” section, where all professional skills are listed. Clicking the plus sign next to each skill endorses that person for that skill.
LinkedIn members who list skills on their profiles see a 13 percent increase in profile views, making these one of the most important parts of the profile.
Often, when you endorse connections’ skills, they may come back and endorse you as well. Maximize your endorsement potential by endorsing other connections, and when other connections endorse you, return the favor.
Endorsements are easy, but recommendations provide a complete, professional profile. Recommendations are specific to your experience with a connection, and can only be written by colleagues or employers regarding a specific job listed in both of your Employment sections.
Write a recommendation for a colleague by clicking the arrow on the blue box next to a connection’s profile picture and select “Recommend.” In the first section, write the recommendation text. Think of specific skills the connection used or an instance in which the connection demonstrated a specific ability. Personalize the recommendation, rather than simply stating the connection was a good coworker/employee. Stay concise while including important and relevant information that could help the connection earn a similar job.
A text box containing a default message that will be sent to the recommended connection will appear next. Leave the default text or personalize the message, such as asking for a recommendation in return.
The next section asks for a definition of the professional relationship, such as whether you managed the connection or worked with the connection as an employee or co-worker. Finally, select the position where you worked with the connection chosen from the professions listed in the profile “Experience” section. Do the same for the connection’s position and click to send the recommendation directly to the connection.
If you write recommendations for connections, they may be more likely to write a recommendation for you in return. When you have the time, jot off a few recommendations for some of your colleagues and either ask for one in return or see if they will return the favor on their own.
Keywords, SEO and Your Profile
As with all web content, keywords and search engine optimization (SEO) are crucial for a complete and accessible profile. Keywords make a profile appear higher in searches, both on LinkedIn and other search engines. Choose keywords based on skills, experience and job titles for best results.
Job recruiters depend heavily on keywords when searching for potential applicants. Many recruiters rely on applicant tracking systems (ATS) for their searches, which search for specific industry keywords automatically. An ATS streamlines the search process by finding the profiles with the maximum number of keywords that match the skills and experiences required for a position.
Insert keywords in a few places on your profile to help it rank higher in searches for relevant industry terms. Place top keywords at the beginning, middle and end of a profile. Don’t use exact keywords more than three or four times per 500 words on a profile, but do include similar keywords often.
Use the main keywords relevant to your industry in the headline. Add previous professional job titles if there is space. Fit in as many relevant keywords as possible to boost profile ranking.
Weave industry keywords into the summary paragraph text when describing your experience. Create a list of specialties at the end of the professional summary. Do not over-stuff keywords in the summary. It should sound natural when read by potential employers.
Place relevant keywords in each job section, using relevant skills and experience as keywords.
In the “Skills” field, enter or select the most relevant keywords. You can be endorsed for up to 50 skills, so choose the skills most related to your job experiences.
Use the suggested skills from the drop-down menu as the other keywords throughout the rest of your LinkedIn profile. These are the keywords employers search for most often.
Insert relevant keywords into the text to describe experiences and accomplishments. Find keywords by thinking about the skills and job positions learned through college courses or extracurricular activities.
Job Searching on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a popular source for professionals to find jobs and for employers to find potential employees. Recruiters review applications sent through the social network and conduct their own searches based on keywords, Groups and LinkedIn profiles. A recruiter may reach out to a LinkedIn member directly if the member meets the requirements for the position.
However, you don’t have to wait for employers to come to you. As soon as a profile is complete, LinkedIn members can start their own job hunts using site resources.
Begin Your Job Search
Click “Jobs” at the top of the LinkedIn profile page or type a position, company or keyword into the search bar or select “Jobs for [Search Term]” titles. Either method generates a list of results for jobs relevant to the search term. Scroll through the list for potential jobs. Further refine the search by entering parameters in the left-hand column, such as additional keywords, name of a company, job title, location, country, zip code, date posted, salary, job function, industry or experience level.
Search with different keywords or fewer search parameters to expand or refine the search.
Write an Engaging Summary
Click “Save Search” at the top right-hand corner of the screen to access the same search later. Basic LinkedIn members can save up to three job searches, but Premium members can save additional searches.
Click on the job title or the “View” button, to view a specific job listing. To save the job for later viewing, hover the mouse cursor over the down arrow next to the “View” button and click “Save the job.”
On the job listing page, basic information such as the name of the position, company, location and job posting date is listed Under “Other Details.” Further details are included, such as required experience level, job function, employment type and industry. Following the position overview is a detailed job description, with information including job requirements, qualifications and additional company information. Below the job listing, LinkedIn includes a list of similar jobs available for application.
The job listing page shows how many people have applied for the job. Some listings offer more in-depth information about job applicants and current employees, such as other applicants’ experience level, common skills, level of education and estimated annual salary. The top right-hand corner of the job listing may show the name of the job poster, where it is possible to see any connections between you and the job poster. It may be possible to find a connection to introduce you to the job poster, which could provide an advantage when applying for the position. Pro account users can send InMail messages requesting more information or to express interest.LinkedIn allows direct job application or the option to apply on the company’s website. After the application is submitted, applications are saved in the “Applied Jobs” section on your main “Jobs” page for later access.
Saved Jobs, Saved Searches, and Applied Jobs
LinkedIn offers users with tools designed to make using LinkedIn easier. LinkedIn members can utilize “Saved Jobs,” “Saved Searches” or “Applied Jobs” to make browsing and applying to jobs simpler.
Once a job is saved, it appears in the “Saved jobs” list. Access saved jobs by clicking the “Saved jobs” button on the “Jobs” page. Find basic information for the job and the date it was saved for offers you easy access and management of saved jobs.
Saved searches appear on the main “Jobs” page. Save keyword information from previous job searchers to save time while searching for similar jobs at a later date. When completing a search, click the “Save Search” button to save the information for the same search at a later day. This is most useful for saving regional information, desired position name and specific companies.
The “Applied Jobs” list, also on the “Jobs” page, provides a list of all previous job applications through LinkedIn. Each listing includes basic information about the job, the date applied and the date the job was viewed. When a job closes, the word “Closed” appears in parentheses next to the job title. Click the “Resume” link to see view the resume, cover letter and other attachments included with the job application.
About 94 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to find potential job candidates, but only 36 percent of LinkedIn job seekers use the network for job searches, a 2014 Jobvite survey found.