I took advantage of a recent lunch with fellow MENG member Jan Wallen (you can check out her website here), an expert on selling online who literally wrote the book on using LinkedIn, to ask her LinkedIn job search questions relating to how executives should use this social networking site.
Following are Jan’s answers to the LinkedIn job search questions I’ve been asked most often following my “How to Write an Effective Resume” webinar.
Today’s Seven LinkedIn Job Search Questions
1. Can you quickly give me a few key thoughts about using LinkedIn in my job search?
About 80 percent of companies look on LinkedIn first to find candidates. It’s critical to have your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and optimized and to be sure it represents you well.
When you’re conducting a job search, you’re selling yourself, and your profile is your marketing brochure. It’s not meant to be your life story or a long, chronological list of accomplishments. When it’s optimized with keywords, it’s more likely to come up when companies and recruiters search on LinkedIn. There’s SEO and now there’s LinkedIn profile optimization.
It’s very important that your profile is written to showcase your expertise because a junior person in a company may be looking on LinkedIn first to do the initial screening. They’re making a short-list of candidates to be interviewed, and they may not have the business depth to grasp that your profile fits the job description they’ve been given.
2. Under my name, should I focus on SEO or positioning myself?
This LinkedIn job search question relates to your Professional Headline which is below your name on your LinkedIn profile. Many people put a job title there. It’s much better to position yourself with a tagline or headline that shows your expertise and what you’re known for.
LinkedIn has a search algorithm which they change periodically, the same as the search engines. All sections of your profile are searched. When companies and recruiters search LinkedIn and your profile comes up in a list, it sets you apart in a positive way when your Professional Headline stands out from all the rest. Therefore, it’s best if you can position yourself and also have keywords in your headline.
3. Is a premium package worth the cost?
The premium accounts are getting a lot of attention now, and LinkedIn is encouraging members to upgrade to the premium levels. The recent changes that LinkedIn has made mean that premium account members receive more information and more detail than those who haven’t upgraded.
LinkedIn has recently made changes to the features that are available in the free basic account and those available in the premium level accounts. It doesn’t make sense to pay for something if it doesn’t give you value. The best way to decide whether one of the premium accounts is best for you is to check their Comparison Matrix. You’ll see line-by-line the features that each premium level gives you.
To see the Comparison Matrix, go to the black menu bar in LinkedIn and click on Upgrade. You’ll see the matrix and can compare each account level.
Some of the differences that may make it worth it for you to upgrade include:
- InMails—Are LinkedIn’s special messages, and they’re available when you have a premium level account. Of course, you can always send a message to your connections. If you’re not connected, premium accounts allow you to send InMails. My guideline is that if you look up profiles and they say Send InMail 50% of the time or more, it may make sense to upgrade.
- Who’s Viewed My Profile—You’ll see more details if you have the premium level accounts.
- Advanced Searches—You’ll be able to search based on more criteria with the premium level accounts. For example, you can specify a list of companies by size and if they’re a part of Fortune 500 when you have the premium level accounts, which could be important to a LinkedIn job search.
4. How do I show accomplishments?
Your accomplishments are very important to show on your profile. Show the size and scope of your accomplishments as appropriate. At the same time, remember that your profile is a public document. Do not show any confidential or proprietary numbers in your profile. Use words like “double-digit” growth rather than specific numbers.
Keep your accomplishments to one industry, area of expertise or theme as much as possible. If you list too many areas, it can be interpreted as unfocused or vague, or have less credibility. I’ve found that describing what I call your “Expertise DNA”—what sets you apart and are known for—is the best way to show your accomplishments for LinkedIn job search.
5. How do I handle consulting?
This is another good LinkedIn job search question and has several answers, including, unfortunately, “It depends.” Depending on your situation and goals, doing consulting while you’re conducting a job search can be perceived in a positive or a negative way.
If your social media profiles show you started a consulting business shortly after leaving a company, people who read your profiles may perceive that as you’re pursuing consulting full time and not conducting a job search. If you want people to see that you’re conducting a job search or pursuing a search for your next business opportunity full time, I would not update your profiles with the consulting business. Simply pursue your consulting business—and not list it on your social media profiles.
6. How do I handle being out of work?
It’s best to show a strong positive approach on your social media profiles. For example, show in your profile that you’re searching for your next opportunity and not “in transition” or conducting a job search. Then describe briefly what type of opportunity you’re looking for, your relevant skills and expertise, and most importantly—what you can do to add value to the company.
Use LinkedIn for job searches and also to network to find out what opportunities are out there. There may be opportunities that are not specifically listed as LinkedIn job search opportunities. Invite people to connect and reconnect with people you know. Tell them what you’re looking for in your next opportunity, and ask if they know someone you can talk to. Many jobs are found as a result of this networking and the right person being introduced into the company by someone who’s already there.
7. How do I write my profile if I’m looking for more than one job function in more than one industry?
This is an especially relevant LinkedIn job search question. Right now, companies want someone who has done the specific thing they’re looking for and have done it their entire career. I know few careers that look like that. However, companies are risk-averse.
When you’re a senior level executive with an outstanding track record, you’ve most likely worked in more than one job function and more than one industry. You’re multitalented.
The dilemma comes when the person searching on LinkedIn searches for skills in their job description and then read your profile. Your skills may match. If they see that you’ve worked in many industries and job functions, they may think you’re unfocused and vague. They think that because most people are not multitalented, and they don’t understand that people can master more than one skill and industry. Also, many times a junior person is doing the initial LinkedIn job search. They don’t have the business depth or experience to understand that the skills and qualities they see on your LinkedIn profile fit the job description they been given.
My recommendation: Go through the professional branding process and identify what I call your “Expertise DNA.” That is, the combination of skills, experience, and expertise that are uniquely you—your professional brand—and sets you apart from other executives. Think of your “Expertise DNA” as an umbrella that encompasses all of your skills and talents. When you talk about your “Expertise DNA” rather than a long list of skills, you’re perceived as focused in one area.
Your profile is not a place to list all of your skills and accomplishments in a long chronological list. Your profile is your handshake and the way to get in the door. Interviews and conversations are the places to talk more in-depth.
(This content was originally posted at MENG online. While we hope Jan’s answers are helpful, we’re only halfway done. We’ll have more LinkedIn job search Q&A in the coming weeks. In the meantime, check out Jan’s website here.)