Keith Cowing

Keith Cowing

Product guy. Entrepreneur.
Career advisor. Read bio

How to Make Your LinkedIn Profile a Magnet for Hiring Managers

June 5, 2012

linkedin-iconThroughout the process of starting and building a company, I have become a fanatical user of LinkedIn. I use it heavily when seeking investors, clients, employees, and partners. It’s also a great way to answer the question “Who is this person and what have they accomplished in their career?” This post addresses that question, which is what I try to answer every time somebody emails me about a job.

I think that a resume should be a slightly more detailed version of your LinkedIn profile, but LinkedIn should tell people 90% of what they need to know to judge initial interest. There are four core aspects to deciding if you are a good fit: your general background (school, jobs, etc.), what you have specifically accomplished (products built, sales generated, rankings in school, promotions), what you are capable of (extrapolating past success to future endeavors), and your personality (fitting the culture of the hiring company). Below are my guidelines for making these four points come across strongly. Remember, succinctness is key. Your goal is not to list as many jobs and responsibilities as possible. Your goal is to make a strong impression that defines why somebody should hire you. The fewer words you use to make that impression the better. “First man on the moon” doesn’t take 3 pages, but says an awful lot. Get as close to that as you can come.

Include a Picture
Managers don’t hire resumes or credentials, they hire people. If they see a picture you become a person instead of a resume. Make sure it’s professional and one of your better shots, but the point is not how you look (though it’s funny how much personality can come through in a picture). The point is to make it slightly personal. Studies have shown that people are more drawn to blogs where the writer includes a head shot of themselves. You start to feel connected with the person even though you’ve never met (just like you feel connected to your favorite TV characters when you know they’re not real). Seeing faces matters.

Include a Little Personality
You have to work with your colleagues every day, most weeks you see them more than you see your family. Personality matters. Share it. Own it. Just don’t overdo it. This is a balancing act where you want to describe what makes you tick (aka be interesting) without posting too much information. You want a career where you’re being compensated well, doing something that you excel at, AND doing something that you love. If you state what you love doing there is a much greater chance that you’ll find gratifying roles throughout your career. If you don’t know what you love doing, then you should focus on that, experiment, and figure it out. People change over time so this will be a moving target and that’s natural.

Describe Your Differentiation and Value
At the surface level, there are lots of people just like you. So if you’re an engineer, what specifically sets you apart? If you’re in sales, what aspect of your career gives you a slightly unique angle? Think about this carefully. You can get jobs with just the base requirements, but breakout careers are built on differentiation. There’s a reason why LeBron James is worth more, he’s different from the rest of the pack. Companies don’t have game tape to see how you’re differentiated, so you need to explicitly tell them. Do it in 2 sentences or less.  Put this front and center in the summary section.  Literally tell them why they should hire you.

Make Frequent Updates
You can set LinkedIn to not notify your connections every time you edit your profile. This gives you the freedom to make frequent, small updates, without flooding people’s feeds. Then you can change the setting if you switch jobs and want to broadcast your move. By keeping your profile updated and edited over time, you’re always putting your best foot forward. You’ll be ready when that breakout opportunity comes your way. The biggest moments are frequently unexpected, so always be armed and dangerous. Let everybody know what you’ve accomplished and what sets you apart.

Make it Authentic
Don’t be an “energetic, go getter who leverages synergies to deliver value.” Use real words to describe who you are, what you do, and where you’d like to go. Being honest with yourself is where it all starts. Honesty makes a powerful statement and will help put you in the right place. The corporate world is compared to a rat race because so many people act like lemmings and follow a herd mentality. Here’s the great thing, you don’t have to follow. You can lead your career down the path that brings the most success and happiness to you. Reid Hoffman’s book The Startup of You does a great job illustrating how to think like an entrepreneur during your career. This mindset can help you generate opportunities that build and take advantage of your abilities and experience, while being mindful of market realities. Just remember, success without happiness isn’t really success, is it?

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