LinkedIn is a powerful tool for executives — especially if you’re looking to take the next step in your career.
Consider this: Less than 10% of executive-level jobs are landed through traditional job boards. Instead, the majority of these job placements come through networking. Given the level of corporate responsibility entrusted to executives, this stands to reason. People are far more likely to bring on someone they know — or at least feel like they know — than an unknown applicant.
To attract hiring managers and recruiters, or network with C-level colleagues for potential board positions or job recommendations, you need to leverage your LinkedIn profile to build your executive brand. To get started, consider the following tips to make yourself as findable as possible, expand your professional network, tell the rich story of your expertise, and, ultimately, land your next job.
Focus on What People See First
Your profile picture and background header graphic are the first things people see when they visit your LinkedIn profile, which makes these areas prime real estate for personal branding.
Make sure your profile picture is less than five years old and still looks like you. You will get the best results with a photo taken by a professional photographer, but you can have a friend or co-worker take one for you. Just make sure you’re wearing work-appropriate clothing and the picture includes only you — no photos where other people are cropped out and no selfies.
For your header graphic, don’t settle for the LinkedIn default — aka the boring blue background. Choose a colorful image that tells people something about you, whether that’s a still shot of you at a speaking engagement or a cityscape to highlight where you’re located.
Always edit the default headline for your profile. This is the line that appears immediately below your name at the top of your profile. It’s automatically set to your current job title and company name. To make your headline more compelling, use it to tell people what you do, who you help, and how you can help them. Incorporate keywords that describe your solution, target market, and the kind of problems you solve.
Optimize Your Keywords — and Use Them in the Right Places
When you update your profile, think about the job you want rather than the job you currently have, and pay careful attention to your LinkedIn keywords.
Recruiters and other execs search use LinkedIn like a big database, and the keywords they use to search may lead them to you. Identify what keywords you should incorporate into your profile by looking at the titles and key phrases in sample job descriptions as well as industry keywords. Once you’ve identified them, use those keywords several times throughout your profile. The most important places to add keywords are the Headline, About, Experience, and Skills & Endorsements section.
Make Sure Your Work Experience is Complete
When you’re looking for a new position, keep in mind that people will be looking at all of your past positions to get a well-rounded understanding of your experience.
The most important tip here is to be as thorough as possible. You probably already have your job titles, companies, and dates filled in. Now add the details, including:
- A sentence or two that explains the type of business you worked for and the services that were offered. If you are not sure what to say, go to the company’s website and look at the About page for ideas.
- Your role and your responsibilities.
- What you accomplished in that role and what you are most proud of.
You can also add videos, documents, and images to each job, which is a great way to provide visual evidence of your past accomplishments and projects.
If you already have a complete Experience section, go back over it to ensure the tense and tone is consistent throughout. If you were recently promoted or moved to a new job, make sure to change your previous experience to past tense. Cleaning up this section is an easy task that will have a big impact on how people perceive your level of professionalism and attention to detail.
LinkedIn provides the perfect platform to showcase the expertise and skills you possess now, while sharing your vision for leading at the next level. Make it a habit to post blog posts, videos, and articles that show people what you are interested in. Using all these tools will help others see what you can bring to the table.
LinkedIn is also a place where you can build a strong professional network. Look at who the connectors are in your industry, and cultivate a network that backs up what you’re about. Also, be sure to connect with people who could be useful to you in your next career move, including people who currently hold the position you want next and peers who could refer you to positions in the future.
Join industry groups, follow influencers and thought leaders, comment on discussions, and engage with updates that are posted by your connections — and their connections. Curating your newsfeed will not only make you more active on LinkedIn, but it will expose you to more material that you can repost and react to.
3 Additional Tips for Executive Job Seekers
Have time for a few extra LinkedIn pointers? Keep these three easy tips in mind.
Use the appropriate zip code. Recruiters who are looking for candidates often search by zip code. If you want to relocate, consider using the zip code of the location you want to relocate to. Only do this, however, if you’re not keeping your job search confidential.
Get a minimum of three to four recommendations. Try to have some variety in the people who recommend you — clients, direct reports, co-workers, former supervisors (or your current one if appropriate). When you request recommendations, let those people know what you’d like them to focus on in their recommendations. If you know they have limited time, you can even offer to write a recommendation from their perspective, which they can simply edit.
Join appropriate job search groups. Job search groups related to your industry, job role (current and desired), and locations where you’d like to work can all be helpful in getting yourself seen by the right people. If you’re currently employed, and don’t want your employer to know you’re looking for a new opportunity, you’ll want to disable the option of having groups visible on your profile.
Bottom line: A neglected profile is not going to get you hired or take you to the next level in your career. Instead, you need a vision and a strong game plan for making the most of LinkedIn.