LinkedIn: The Definitive 4-Step Approach to Maximizing Your Profile, Network & Visibility

LinkedIn: The Definitive 4-Step Approach to Maximizing Your Profile, Network & Visibility

Most job seekers tend to approach their LinkedIn presence in a haphazard way. You may have a profile but haven’t necessarily optimized its content or aligned it with your career management or job search positioning. You may have a network but might not have ensured you have the right network in the right industries and the right geographic areas. You may not know how to build relationships with your connections or how to leverage those relationships to get your foot in the door of target organizations.

In other words, to avoid the if-I-build-it-they-will-come pitfall and make the most strategic use of your LinkedIn profile and network, you need a multi-layered plan that addresses each of these elements. This is all the more important when you consider that LinkedIn content ranks higher on Google than any other social network.

14 Ways to Get Your Profile in Order

Before you can take advantage of all that this social networking platform has to offer, you must brand your LinkedIn presence and complete your profile. But beware – if you do not do so to the degree that LinkedIn wants you to, your profile, presence, and visibility will suffer. If, on the other hand, you complete your profile 100%, you are dramatically more likely to show up in recruiter and hiring manager search results.

To avoid the if-I-build-it-they-will-come pitfall you need a multi-layered LinkedIn plan that addresses your profile content, your network-building, your relationship-building, and your target penetration.

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Here, then, are the steps you’ll need to complete along with the visibility boost each offers (according to LinkedIn):

  1. Include a photo for 21X more profile views and 36X more messages. Use a good quality headshot that includes a full smile as studies show that smiling in social media photos yields a more positive impact on the viewer. If you use a selfie or photo taken by a spouse, partner, or amateur photographer, make sure you do not stand parallel to the camera. Failing to do so will cause your photo look like a mugshot (seriously!).
  2. Customize your profile banner. Your banner is the colored rectangle that sits behind your photo. Blue by default, you can upload a personalized version by using the pencil editing icon next to your photo. While you can design a banner on your own, the quickest and simplest way to customize yours is to use the built-in and preformatted templates available on sites such as or Here’s a quick tutorial. As a reminder, use a .jpg, .png, or .gif file with dimensions of 1400 x 425 pixels.
  3. Devise a brand-driven headline. By default, LinkedIn will list your current job title as your headline, but this is a waste of critical branding real estate since your headline is one of the top three locations in your profile from which the platform’s search algorithm draws keywords. Use the allotted 120 characters wisely by including a mix of your current or desired title(s), achievement highlights, credentials, expertise, or geographic focus. Which of these elements you use will depend on your career management or search goals for the current and next phase of your work life.
  4. Add your location & industry. Even though you may elect to list your preferred geographic location in your headline, it’s still important to select your current or prospective location in the pertinent spot in your profile header. Since more than 30% of recruiters search for candidates on LinkedIn using a location filter, doing so helps increase your ranking in those searches. Selecting a current or prospective industry is likewise important to help recruiters find you among the ~600 million members of this social networking platform.
  5. Include your preferred contact methods. Most folks on the platform only include an email address, but you have the option of including a phone number as well. If you’re not in an active job hunt, using only an email may be fine, but if you want to prepare for a full-fledged search, take the time to give recruiters and hiring executives at least two ways to communicate with you beyond InMail. And please, please, please check your LinkedIn messages at least weekly for career management purposes and daily when in a passive or active job search.
  6. Secure a custom LinkedIn URL. By default, the platform assigns you a URL when you sign up that includes random letters and numbers whose significance is known only to LinkedIn. You can alter URL to a memorable and meaningful address by following these simple instructions – doing so demonstrates to your readers that you’re serious about networking and recognize its power. It also makes your profile address easier to remember when you’re asked for it.
  7. Build out a branded summary. Your summary, now known as your About section, is your opportunity to introduce yourself to your readers and is the second of the top three most important places your profile from which the platform draws keywords. I recommend using first-person “I” language to give your profile a warm, informal feel that will help your visitors to feel a sense of kinship with you given that 40% of recruiters are looking for a sense of your personality. You have 2000 characters to work with here, so take your time to showcase your brand, credentials, career pedigree, experience, and achievement history using at least 40 words to make your profile more likely to show up in search results. Also make sure you include a list of your strongest skills in your About section to increase your profile’s keyword count. Check out these tips for writing a branded About section.
  8. Keep your Experience section up to date, including listing your current or most recent job. You’re likely to be discovered 18X more in searches if your profile includes your recent employment, so it’s ensuring your profile reflects your most recent role. If you’re unemployed, though, try to avoid giving an end date to your most recent job or list a volunteer, consulting, or board position as your current job in order to rank higher in searches (the LinkedIn search algorithm favors the employed unfortunately).
  9. Include your relevant education, credentials, organizations, professional development, languages, and presentations, publications, or patents. Between the built-in education section and the optional additional sections available to you, list all the relevant information that documents these aspects of your brand. Note the word “relevant” – there’s no need to list every credential or educational achievement unless it relates directly to your current career or job search goal. And please leave off your high school education once you have completed any college coursework and omit your unfinished educational efforts once you attain a degree. For an added visibility boost, insert your degree-related coursework. And, to ensure the platform recognizes your candidacy when recruiters search for folks with degrees, make sure you use the language “Associate-level” or “Bachelor-level” coursework if you have some college classes under your belt but no degree.
  10. Age-proof your profile. This is vital to do if you possess more than 15 years of work experience in your field. The issue is that the LinkedIn search algorithm is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and ATS systems filter candidates according to how much experience each recruiter or hiring manager search is targeting. If the amount of experience listed on your profile, showcased in your summary (e.g., “offering more than 20 years of experience in …”), or listed in any other section of your profile includes dates or amounts of experience larger than 15, yours will likely be automatically eliminated from searches, which may prevent recruiters or hiring executives from ever finding you on the platform.
  11. Max out your Skills section. LinkedIn allows you to list a maximum of 50 skills in your profile and since this section is the third of the sections from which their search algorithm draws the most keywords it’s imperative that you include no fewer than that amount. The social networking platform indicates that members who list five or more skills are contacted 33X more frequently by recruiters and receive up to 17X more views by other members. List your skills in order of strength to override the default prioritization by input order or number of endorsements. Speaking of endorsements, it’s still important to seek them out by providing them to others, since endorsements also help your profile to rank higher, thus capturing more visibility.
  12. Solicit at least two to three recommendations. Recruiters read your recommendations, so it’s well worth the effort to collect at least two to three of them, particularly from your more recent roles. I suggest identifying two to three people you most want recommendations from and first offering to write one for them. Make it meaty by sharing details of key projects or initiatives accomplished together – doing so will likely add keywords to their profile. Ask them which ones they want you to focus on and this will coach them to do the same for you when they reciprocate. If they don’t automatically write you a recommendation after you write one for them, circle back and ask them if they’d like you to make any edits to the one you wrote. Then add, “by the way, may I ask you to write me a recommendation when you have a moment?” Feel free to suggest initiatives or keywords you’d love for them to include if possible. They’ll thank you for shortcutting their work for them.
  13. Join 25+ LinkedIn Groups. You’re able to join 100, but there’s no need to do so all at once. Start by targeting groups in four categories (none of which are job search-related). First, join alumni groups for your past employers and academic institutions. Regarding the latter, note that these days many universities have multiple alumni groups you can join: the university-wide alumni cohort and those associated with your college, major, and focus areas of study. Also join geographic groups that align with your preferences for your next job. While these two categories together may only produce two to eight or so options, invest the rest of your group memberships in functional and industry options that relate to your preferred job titles, skills, or sectors. Groups are much more powerful than most job seekers recognize because they open new communications pathways with fellow members, deepen your penetration of target industries and companies, and give you additional ways to boost your visibility with recruiters and hiring executives. It’s also important to note that to reach an “All-Star” rating on LinkedIn (meaning that your profile is 100% complete) you’ll need to join a minimum of two to three groups. Don’t overlook them!
  14. Add supplementary materials to your profile. In some ways your profile is like a mini portfolio in that you can attach key documents, graphics, images, or slideshows. And to the degree that what you attach is relevant to your career or job search goals, this is a very important thing to do. Note, however, that uploading your resume to your profile is not at all advantageous since once done you will not be able to tailor it for specific positions. I suggest adding other kinds of content to your profile instead such as a bio or marketing brief, case studies, articles/blog posts you’ve written or been quoted in, or slide decks that showcase your experience. The sky’s the limit, but don’t go overboard as you don’t want to overwhelm or distract your viewers from your experience.

10 Strategies for Building Your Network

When your profile is both complete and branded, you’re ready to aggressively build out your network. While LinkedIn used to warn against connecting with people you don’t know, they have come to realize the importance, and indeed necessity, of doing so. In fact, the number of first-level and second-level connections you have is directly related to how high your profile ranks in searches and how easily you find the groups, companies, and people you look for on the platform. A smaller network will artificially restrict your results which in turn will erroneously convince you that the social network isn’t worth your time. Not true!

To lay the groundwork for taking full advantage of your network you should:

  1. Expand your network by connecting directly to as many relevant professionals as possible.
  2. Promote your second- and third-level connections to first-level ones.
  3. Identify potential connections in target industries and invite them to connect.
  4. Identify potential connections in target companies and invite them to connect.
  5. Identify potential connections in target geographic areas and invite them to connect.
  6. Import your connections from your email accounts.
  7. Peruse the list of connections LinkedIn recommends you consider.
  8. As you join groups, introduce yourself to cultivate invitations from peers in those same groups.
  9. Invite folks who have viewed your profile to connect with you.
  10. Notice trend-setters in your stream/notifications and reach out with an invitation to connect.

Remember that the goal here is not just a huge network but a relevant one and the key to a relevant network is tying your new connections to your target companies, industries, and locations.

10 Ways to Forge Relationships with Your Network & Boost Your Visibility on LinkedIn

Always, always, always invite connections with a customized message and always, always, always thank them for connecting with you. This is easy peasy if you create a simple set of message templates that you can reuse as needed. For example, I suggest personalizing templates for:

  1. Inviting people to connect with you.
  2. Promoting your second-level connections to direct connections.
  3. Promoting your third-level connections to direct connections.
  4. Thanking people for connecting with you.
  5. Thanking people for inviting you to connect with them.
  6. Requesting recommendations from folks who know the quality of your work.
  7. Asking people what focus they want you to use when giving them a recommendation.
  8. Asking for an introduction to a key influencer, recruiter, or hiring executive.
  9. Sending an information resource to a key contact, recruiter, or hiring executive (see below for why you want to do so).
  10. Introducing your candidacy to recruiters and hiring executives.

Once you establish a connection with someone whose attention you want to capture, your next step is to forge a relationship with that person. Connecting with them is like saying “hello” while building a relationship is like having a conversation with them. Your task is to try to break through the social networking noise and help yourself to stand out from the crowd. While other job seekers are pushing their resume at key influencers right off the bat, your approach will be to give valuable information before asking for time, energy, favors, or feedback.

I suggest sending two to four information-rich messages to a new contact whose attention you are trying to capture. Space these a few days to a week or more apart, depending on whether you’re facing a time constraint. With each message you send, include a link to a resource of interest such as an article, interview, blog post, white paper, news item, trends report, industry update, webinar, slide deck, or product, book, or service review. But don’t just share the resource – also interact with it to share a brief insight. You can share a comment, ask a question, or offer an opinion and then ask the key influencer for his or her insights. They may not reply to you, but they’ll likely notice your information offering which is half the battle.

2 Ways to Leverage Your Relationships with Your Network

Repeat this process a few times before you send message #10 mentioned above to introduce your candidacy to your contact. If they’re an employee of a target company, for example, your message may ask them to refer you for an open position, for example. Or, if they are a hiring executive, you can use your #10 message to alert them to the fact that you’ve already applied for a specific position. In that instance, you can attach your tailored resume and note that you look forward to an interview for the role.

You can also use this relationship-building structure to share your bio, marketing brief, or one-page resume if you’re not applying for a specific role. This approach may help you to open exploratory doors which may catalyze a co-created career opportunity that may turn out to be a great option for your growth.

Both approaches serve as examples of ways you can leverage your network relationships once you build them. Most job seekers race to this step right after connecting with a key contact which is definitely a case of putting the cart before the horse. The whole point of this four-step relationship-building process is to create an effective platform from which you can leverage your networking relationships. If you leap into your “ask” too soon, it will fall flat most of the time which is a waste of your social networking capital.

Besides, following the approach outlined in this post is just about guaranteed to help you stand out from the crowd. And isn’t that one of the key things you’re after?

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About Cheryl Lynch Simpson

Cheryl is a Career, Job Search & LinkedIn Coach and Master Resume Writer. She has helped clients in >35 industries on 6 continents and has earned 24 global resume writing nominations and awards.


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