As many people are job hunting right now, I wanted to provide some tips on how to use LinkedIn specifically with the goal of finding career opportunities.

Now that we are no longer in-person networking for the foreseeable future, there is no better way during the pandemic to build your professional network and look for a new position than LinkedIn.

The platform is essential for business professionals who are job hunting, whether you are actively searching for a new position, or you want to keep your options open (which in my opinion you always should do because you never know).

Also, remember that everyone is googling everyone to find out more about you and your background. Your LinkedIn profile is either your first or second search result (depending if you have a company web site bio or not), further underscoring its importance.

LinkedIn introduced a number of tools since the pandemic to help job seekers connect with open positions on the platform at no cost to them and that leads me to a question that I am asked quite often – which is “Do I need a LinkedIn Premium account?”

LinkedIn Premium

In my opinion, most people do not need a LinkedIn Premium account. First off, it’s not cheap (the Premium account options range in cost from $29.99 to $119.95 per month). Second, depending on which one you choose, there will be features you will pay for and not likely not use. I will cover the pros and cons of having a LinkedIn Premium account in another post, but there’s so much you can do without one – so I would start off there and see if you feel limited because you can always upgrade.

Here are a few tips to ensure your LinkedIn profile is in top shape to stand out to recruiters and potential employers.

Update your profile on a regular basis.

Don’t wait to update and overhaul your LinkedIn profile until you’re actively looking for a job. Your profile should be updated well before then and current. Remember, you are being googled every day whether you like it or not. Fill out all of the sections, ensure you have a keyword-rich, non-boastful about section (your bio) as well as all of your past positions included.

Upload a professional headshot and cover image.

This is a no-brainer today, but it’s still worth a mention as I have noticed some people still don’t have a current headshot and still have not uploaded a cover image. These are important areas that will brand and differentiate you.

If you don’t have a professional headshot, you can take a photo of yourself that you like and add in a professional background and retouch it using several apps on your smartphone. If you need help coming up with a cover image, reach out to me and we can brainstorm ideas.

Create a compelling headline.

Your photo, name and headline (which is listed right below your photo) are the only items people see when they do a Google or LinkedIn search. Your headline should highlight what you do or what kind of work you want to do without saying that you are seeking a job. I see a lot of people post that they are currently seeking a new opportunity and I personally think that’s a mistake – and that it may make you seem desperate. It is much more effective to use strategic words to describe what you do and then build your personal brand by creating a strong LinkedIn profile that highlights your professional background.

Fill out the skills section.

The skills section is important when you’re job hunting because recruiters use the the keywords in this section to find candidates. In addition, profiles that have more than five skills on their profile are 27 times more likely to be discovered by recruiters according to LinkedIn further underscoring the importance of including skills on your profile.

You can ask current and former colleagues endorse the skills you’ve listed as well as take quizzes to verify the skills. By doing this, you will receive a LinkedIn Skill Assessment badge that you can display on your profile, which according to LinkedIn, helps candidates get noticed and hired quicker.

Note that you can delete skills and reorder them – pinning three skills to the top of the section. If you are a lawyer and you have been endorsed for “law,” please go ahead and delete that – it’s too general and obvious. In addition, if you are endorsed for an area of law in which you do not or no longer practice, please also delete that.

Always build your online network.

It is a good idea to connect with recruiters on LinkedIn throughout your career – not just when you are looking for a job. This way you have an already established group of people you can contact for help when making your next move.

If you are interested in a position at a certain company, it’s important to network with people you know at those companies. If you don’t know someone at that company but one of your connections does (that means they are a second degree connection of yours), you may want to ask them to make an introduction for you.

In addition, you can also try reaching out to someone at a target company who you don’t know using one of your InMail credits (this is where Premium can come in handy because it enables you to message people on LinkedIn to whom you aren’t connected).

Just be sure to avoid coming off as transactional or desperate in your email messages. Giving a compliment is always a good way to build a relationship with someone like this. In addition, be sincere about why you want to work at the company.

Build your network to the 1st degree.

Your connections can exponentially increase your exposure and access to other connections. LinkedIn makes it easy to connect with people you know through its various tools such as People You May Know – use them.

Be active.

Probably the most important tip for LinkedIn success in general is to be active on the platform on a consistent basis. This helps you stay top of mind and visible to your network, and enables you to build your brand as a thought leader in your respective area of expertise. This can be as simple as liking and commenting on other people’s content and sharing articles you read and liked. Bonus points if you write updates and articles yourself.

Use LinkedIn’s job tools to your advantage.

LinkedIn has a number of tools available to job hunters, including the new “Open to Work” badge that you can put on the top of your profile and make visible to everyone or just to recruiters.

One of the best tools on LinkedIn in my opinion is its job bank.

You can set up email alerts for specific jobs, companies and titles (up to 20) that are emailed to you daily or weekly, and you can also receive notifications of the new jobs on the platform itself.

Be quick with applying for the jobs that interest you (by setting up a job alert) as LinkedIn’s algorithm favors candidates who have applied for the position very soon after it’s been posted on the platform.

You will often need to upload your resume to apply for a job on LinkedIn, so make sure you have it handy and always send it as a PDF.

Did you know that you can easily convert your LinkedIn profile into a PDF? The option is at the top of your profile. It gives you a polished CV if you should need something quick – but again word to the wise – you should always have your resume updated, not just when you need it.

Research the companies you’re interested in and follow them.

LinkedIn makes it easy to find and follow companies. If you haven’t already done so, make a list of the companies you’d like to work for and follow them on LinkedIn. This will help you stay in the know about company news and new positions as they become available.

Research your future boss and executive team.

Before going in for an interview, you can use LinkedIn to research hiring managers and interviewers and leverage this information during your interview to create relatability and show that you’ve done your homework. Just don’t be creepy about it – I had someone mention my dog by name once in an interview – to me that was taking the online research a few steps too far.

Get involved in LinkedIn Groups.

LinkedIn Groups have exploded since the pandemic because of the lack of in-person networking opportunities. Do an Advanced Search to identify professional groups in your area and get involved. This will help expand your network, show your expertise (when you engage in online conversations and answer questions that come up), and possibly connect you to the organizations you want to work for in the future. When researching groups, you want to participate in groups that have recent activity. Otherwise, you might be wasting your time if a group doesn’t have daily or regular interaction online.

Look for alumni from your past educational institutions and employers.

Make sure you list all of your former employers so you can easily connect with alumni from your past companies as well as join their LinkedIn alumni groups. The same goes for educational institutions. Doing a search for your college or law school is a great way to connect with alumni who went to the same school as you. You can reach out to them with this common interest to build a relationship that may help you land your next job. You also can input any college and search to see how many degrees of separation you may be from alumni at any school.

A final note and something to never do…

I know times are tough – listen I lost my job last year, so I totally get it. But one thing you NEVER want to do is to seem desperate when looking for a job.

That’s why I am very much against anyone who puts that they are “currently seeking new position” or “unemployed” as their headline on LinkedIn. This is not a best practice in my opinion.

It’s okay to lose your job but you don’t need to broadcast that way.

I know I mentioned this above but it’s so important that I’m going to say it again. Simply write a headline that describes your professional background and who you are. It doesn’t need to have anything to do with your current position – in fact your headline shouldn’t be just your current title and company (because it’s the default on LinkedIn, and it’s not all encompassing of your entire professional history).

If you need inspiration for your headline, do a little competitive intelligence to see how others in your field and with your job title are talking about themselves. I use a formula of: Descriptor | Descriptor | Descriptor – now these words can be nouns or adjectives – but they do need to be unique to you. This format gives you more flexibility to describe yourself.

LinkedIn has so many purposes for business professionals – and one of the most important ones is to help job seekers with career opportunities.

I hope this article has given you some ideas for how you can enhance your profile and presence on the platform when looking for a job. Good luck!