How to make the perfect LinkedIn profile

There are more than 15 million active job listings on LinkedIn, but career experts say merely having a profile on the online networking site isn’t enough.

Even if you’re not looking for a new job, it’s important to have a polished profile, says Lisa Rangel, owner of Chameleon Resumes, an executive job-search consultancy that specializes in upgrading resumes and LinkedIn profiles. “You want to be found for what you do,” she says. “In most searches, LinkedIn ranks even higher than someone’s personal Web site. And it’s a negative if someone puts your name into LinkedIn and nothing comes up, or if the profile’s anemic.”

Plus, by promoting yourself, you subliminally signal that you’re confident in what you do. When your potential employer notices that you’re proud of your accomplishments and sharing them, it increases your value.

“Your LinkedIn profile is often the first professional impression you make, and small updates can help you strengthen your professional community,” says LinkedIn’s resident career expert, Blair Decembrele. “A strong, regularly updated profile can be your ticket to a variety of professional opportunities, from jobs and mentors to new business and volunteering.”

Here’s how to make your profile more personal, more social, and more search-friendly.

Include the essentials

A comprehensive profile includes a headline with keywords; headshot photo; first-person summary and experiences; education; skills; geography; industry; contact information; volunteering; custom URL and accomplishments such as publications, organizations, awards, spoken languages and certifications, says Sandra Long, author of “LinkedIn for Personal Branding: The Ultimate Guide” (Strauss Consultants).

Members with a profile photo receive up to 21 times more profile views and 36 times more messages, so make sure your picture looks professional, says Decembrele. That said, unless you’re a veterinarian, you may want to rethink that headshot with your cat. “LinkedIn users without a photo run the risk of being ignored or not trusted,” says Long. “They miss the opportunity for profile views and are often overlooked for group membership.”

By listing the location where you want to land a job, you will stand out up to 23 times more in searches, according to LinkedIn data. For example, if you are job-searching in New York but still living in Florida, update your location to New York to better match with your desired jobs, says Decembrele.

And make sure you list your education, since some recruiters are looking for people who went to a certain school or have a specific major. “By not including education at all, people assume that you didn’t go to college,” says resume expert Rangel.

Ace the summary

Your LinkedIn profile summary is the No. 1 place recruiters look when viewing profiles, and a summary of 40 words or more makes your profile more likely to turn up in a future employer search, says Decembrele.

“Think of your summary as an elevator pitch,” she says. “Here’s where you can also showcase experiences or skills that may help paint a more holistic picture of yourself. Maybe you played a competitive sport which helped you cultivate soft skills or volunteered in a foreign country to master a new language. Adding this information can help round out your professional identity and help you stand out from the crowd.”

Don’t just copy and paste your resume

“A direct cut-and-paste can work for maybe 50 to 60 percent of a LinkedIn profile,” says Rangel. But you shouldn’t stop there.

“Job seekers who merely upload or copy their resume into LinkedIn are wasting a significant opportunity to be found and create the best impression,” says Long. “Recruiters and hiring managers will get a much better flavor for a personal brand by seeing a photo, headline, summary, accomplishments, recommendations, skills, and rich media.”

Go further by spotlighting your skills in your profile, suggests Decembrele, who says that nearly 90 percent of professionals perceive skills as even more important than job titles. Include at least five relevant skills in your profile. For example, rather than just stating that you’re a skilled engineer, highlight the specific programs you use along with past projects you’ve worked on that best showcase your expertise.

Strike the right tone

For most people, writing in the first person is most appropriate.“It’s more compelling and approachable,” says Long. Just be careful not to sound too braggy or self-centered in your profile. Instead, paint a picture of how you work with others or help clients.

Avoid referring to yourself in the third person, which can come off as stodgy — or worse, like an obituary. And always include some kind of a call to action: View my website, reach me at this e-mail, or sign up for an exploratory call.

Optimize your keywords

To make sure you’re including all relevant search terms, look at job descriptions of jobs that you’ve had as well as jobs you want, says Rangel. And don’t get too creative when it comes to your title.

The key with keywords is don’t be so different that it’s not a searchable term,” she says. “If you say ‘financial whiz’ and not ‘controller,’ you won’t be found. Find the standard terms, and be creative within them.”

Be social

Engage with contacts by liking, sharing and commenting on their activity. Your name will stay in their heads, and LinkedIn’s algorithm rewards active users with more profile views.

An easy way to interact with your network is to check out your LinkedIn Feed to see what your connections are chatting about. On the flip side, when you’re posting an update or sharing an article, try asking a question to invite others to chime in. For example, if you share an anecdote about a new tactic you’ve used to achieve an empty inbox, ask your network to share any additional productivity hacks they’ve used.

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