During a job search coaching session today, my client noted that he always thought LinkedIn was just a way to connect online with people he already knew. He had no idea LinkedIn has so many rich tools to offer job seekers. Let’s take a look at 10 of the most critical ways LinkedIn can benefit your executive job search (in no particular order):
Boost Your Brand’s Visibility:
- Optimize your profile: Job search success via LinkedIn begins – but doesn’t end – with your profile. Make sure it’s complete, make sure it’s key-word-rich, and make sure it targets the right audience(s). To complete your profile in LinkedIn’s eyes, you need  to complete all primary sections;  add a photo;  add a tagline/title;  join 2-3 groups minimum; and solicit at least 2 testimonials. In addition, benchmark your profile’s key words against others with similar backgrounds and position yourself to attract the types of audiences you are seeking to interest.
- Add extras to your profile: Think of LinkedIn not just as an online profile, but also as a mini portfolio. Use LinkedIn’s built-in apps to expand your profile’s content to include documents (white pages, case studies, resumes), media (video or audio interviews), and presentations (a slideshow detailing your achievements or leadership approach). These extras are particularly helpful in cases where you are trying to pursue multiple job search targets at the same time – include content that profiles your candidacy in multiple types of roles or industries.
- Create a LinkedIn signature: Every time you use LinkedIn’s communication system or InMail process, make sure you add a signature at the bottom. Unfortunately, LinkedIn doesn’t make this easy (i.e., they don’t automate the process for you). But don’t let that stop you. Create your preferred signature line content (full name, custom LinkedIn profile address, target market(s), signature skills) in Notepad or Wordpad, and save the file to your hard drive. Keep the file open when responding to LinkedIn communications and copy/paste your signature into the text box. No formatting options are available, but at least you’ll be making every possible use of your brand content.
- Blog & Twitter Feeds: If you do blog or tweet, and you focus on brand-related, career-appropriate topics, then by all means import your relevant feeds into your LinkedIn profile. This not only adds more Brand You(TM) content to your profile – it also updates it. Why does this matter? Databases time-stamp the information they contain (and LinkedIn is a database, after all) so they can preferentially focus on fresh data. Hence, updating your profile at least weekly, whether manually or automagically, will drive your profile closer to the top of the search results.
- Get linked in with Groups: LinkedIn allows anyone to start their own group, and many individuals, organizations, companies, and associations do so. Each group features a discussion board for members; many also include a listing of relevant job postings. Because executive recruiters join industry-specific groups as a way of sourcing new candidates, you should consider not only joining a few, but becoming an active contributor. I suggest joining a mix of 25 to 30 groups and posting a discussion or comment to each at least 1 to 3 times weekly. Group memberships are one of the best ways to quickly expand your network reach and gain access to contacts you otherwise might not be able to connect with.
- Get seen on LinkedIn Answers: Answers is LinkedIn’s career-driven FAQ system. Members ask all kinds of questions of other members on a wide range of career topics, and LinkedIn categorizes the questions. Sift through the categories to find several you have experience in, and answer questions when you have something relevant to say. Always stay on brand, because your answer is linked back to your profile (and your profile is linked to your answer). Aim to answer or ask a question once to twice weekly, thereby making yourself visible to the executive recruiters who sift through Answers looking for subject matter experts.
- Get found on Signal: Your LinkedIn profile includes a small update text box underneath your photo on your Edit Profile page. This little gem allows you to add short bursts of content to your profile on a periodic basis. This function is a bit like Twitter, but specific to LinkedIn only. It also allows slightly more content than Twitter does, including the ability to embed links. Link to an article you found online, comment on it (insightfully, of course), and post this to your status update. Your comments and article posting will be cited in LinkedIn Today – a roundup of content by industry topic – and Signal – a Twitter-like trending stream of industry themes – thereby gaining you visibility among one of your probable target audiences: executive recruiters.
Penetrate the Hidden Job Market:
- Find new recruiters: Need to source more recruiters? Who doesn’t? LinkedIn can help! Ask your contacts for suggestions, join some of the LinkedIn groups executive recruiters hang out in, and conduct people or company searches for them via the search box on the upper right of any page. Remember to specifically seek out retained recruiters in particular, and to broaden your recruiter search geographically. Focus instead on their industry specialties.
- Find new potential contacts: Many job seekers actually over-focus on this piece, but since your LinkedIn search results depend in part on the size of your network, it is important to connect with at least 50-100 people at first and to nurture the growth of your network to several hundred over time. Don’t just look for recruiters, though – also seek out hiring managers. Let’s say you’re a national sales manager. Conduct a search for VPs of Sales in your target industry and/or geography. LinkedIn will suggest people for you to consider, and will also tell you how you are already connected with someone you may not actually know. Don’t get caught up in those deadly applicant tracking systems – network your way around them (you may still get caught up in the ATS, but that’s another post).
- Find new companies: Most job seekers focus on looking for jobs rather than employers, but the company search function of LinkedIn is one of its best features. Search for companies based on your industry focus or preferred geographic location and examine their profile for rich business intelligence: who’s just been hired; who used to work there; job openings; and company news. LinkedIn will tell you if you already have any connections to the organization and if so, via whom. This is invaluable insight that will likely go unnoticed otherwise. Don’t forget to “follow” target companies to stay on top of their news. And check their company profile regularly for new connections – LinkedIn is growing exponentially fast and you don’t want to miss possible new contacts.
As you can probably see, all this takes time, so if you’re not already hanging out on LinkedIn, you should. In fact, I suggest 2-3+ hours weekly for passive or employed job seekers and 3-4+ hours daily for active or unemployed job seekers.
Here’s to linking in to your next challenging role!