LinkedIn has certainly changed the complexion of looking for a job. Some people will claim it has helped individual’s job searches and some people will claim that it does nothing but make their job search more difficult. Some people claim, for instance, that they won’t put their picture on LinkedIn because it reveals their age. Some employers will not consider interviewing a candidate who doesn’t have their picture on LinkedIn. The tool, however, is here to stay and we all better make it “our friend.” Here are the top 10 mistakes that job seekers make in using LinkedIn:

#1 Waiting to start using LinkedIn until you are unemployed.  You should be a proficient user of LinkedIn before you ever start looking for a job. The best time to start using it is before you need a job in order to expand your professional network with recruiters and hiring managers. Building a good profile, developing solid relationships and most importantly, creating a profile brand, takes time. Getting people to know who you are before you need a job is really important.

#2 Not being an “active LinkedIn user.” It’s not only important to create a well-branded, search- optimized profile, it’s important to know how to be a real user. Get to know all of the features that LinkedIn can provide you before you need them. For instance, the ability to find all of the alumni of your college or university in the area where you live is a great way to seek interviews. You should know how to do this before you start looking for a job.

#3 No picture at all, or a bad, inappropriate picture. It may not come as a shock, but there are a lot of employers who won’t even consider a candidate who doesn’t have their picture posted on their LinkedIn profile. And, what’s just as poor, is a bad or inappropriate picture. A picture taken with an old iPhone, in poor light, making your head look like an egg, does not help you. A picture of you fishing, playing golf, coaching your child’s baseball team or a picture of you with the bear you just shot, all communicate someone who is not serious about business. Lots of people think that people who shoot bears are miserable and cruel people and don’t want them around their company no matter how good they are. These kinds of pictures end your potential candidacy before it has even begun.

#4 Inaccurate information (seemingly). I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen situations where a person’s LinkedIn profile did not agree with their resume. End of discussion and end of consideration.

#5 Not having a robust profile. Minimal descriptions of who you worked for and what you’ve done before not only doesn’t communicate being proud of what you’ve done before, it doesn’t give people the information that they need to elevate you. Talk about your previous jobs in very positive terms, preferably, with some kind of performance measurements. People like numbers.

#6 Not having any, or very few, recommendations or endorsements. You should have at least two recommendations for each job listed in the experience section of your profile and at least 50 skills listed in your “skills” section of your profile so people can find you using those terms.

#7 Not having enough contacts. Your goal is to have at least 501 connections on LinkedIn so you have the added branding power of “500+.” We’ve experienced candidates being eliminated, especially for sales opportunities, because they didn’t have a significant number of contacts. (“How could a successful sales person have only 100 contacts?”) But even if you’re not in sales, you need to have a significant number of contacts. A small number of contacts communicates poor social skills. Remember that business is a “contact sport” and the more contacts you have the better “athlete” you appear to be.

#8 Not having a customized LinkedIn URL. This should be used for all your marketing information so people can reach you quickly. Remember, your first and last name is the #1 searchable term on LinkedIn. So, you want to change your vanity URL to remove all of those unnecessary characters and just have your first and last name if possible. This will not only provide a nice-looking, branded LinkedIn URL, but it will also allow you to be found more often for your #1 searchable term on LinkedIn… your first and last name.  Also, be sure to include your phone number on your profile where people can easily see it.

#9 The first 35 to 40 characters of your headline are not descriptive. The first 35 or 40 characters need to describe exactly who you are and what you do at a glance. However, simply listing a job title and a company name as your headline is not a brand. It’s much better to use every one of the 120 available characters to list those searchable terms that not only tell people what you’ve done but what you can do for them. People are going to “scan” your profile more than they are going to read it. Your headline needs to capture their interest.

#10  Not listing your jobs and companies you worked for in reverse chronological order. People are not interested in the first job you had. They are interested in knowing what you’re doing now and then work backwards looking at what you’ve done before. You should do this just like a resume.

Quit thinking that a LinkedIn profile really doesn’t matter in your job search. It does matter, a lot.  In October of last year LinkedIn surpassed 414 million users. Every second, two new users sign up for LinkedIn.  If you have a poor or dismissive attitude towards LinkedIn, it doesn’t matter, but the people who are trying to hire you have a high regard for it. I can’t tell you the number of candidates who I’ve represented whose LinkedIn profile was terrible and my client simply told me that with a LinkedIn profile that poor, they just didn’t want to interview them. My candidates inevitably say “Well, I don’t use LinkedIn and it doesn’t matter.” It does matter! A poor LinkedIn profile communicates to a prospective employer that the candidate couldn’t be serious about finding a job.


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