You're not the only one struggling to figure out how to fill out your LinkedIn profile. From deciding what photo to put on LinkedIn, to deciphering which accomplishments, experiences, and general bits of information about yourself you should display on your profile in order to get the most attention from recruiters, it's much more of a challenge than building out a basic resume.
Don't be deterred by the process, though. According to LinkedIn Career Expert Blair Decembrele, there are a few quick and easy ways to ensure your profile stands out. The most visited LinkedIn profiles follow a formula, and it doesn't take long to make the five changes to yours. Trust us—the payoff is worth it.
1. Showcase Your "Soft Skills"
"Professionals today are not just in it for the title—almost 90% feel that skills are even more important than job titles," says Decembrele. Recruiters often look beyond titles and search for skillsets, which are crucial if you want your profile to stand out.
Hard skills—specific, teachable abilities, like the ability to use software programs—are certainly important, but she points out that recruiters also look for less tangible, learned skills that offer insight about your experience and character. "Fifty-seven percent of leaders say soft skills are more important than hard skills. Traditional soft skills like leadership, communication, and time management are crucial for career success across all industries," Decembrele says.
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"[It] provides the top skills other professionals in your desired role and industry have, as well as job requirements from real job postings," Decembrele explains. "You can then think about how your applicable skills can be transferable for the role you want, and tailor your résumé and LinkedIn profile accordingly."
2. Have a Clear, Cropped Profile Picture
First impressions count, especially when it comes to job hunting. Decembrele likens your LinkedIn photo to a "virtual handshake" and says forgoing one puts you at a serious disadvantage. "Members with a profile photo receive up to 21 times more profile views and 36 times more messages."
Use a simple background. "The focus should be on you, not what's behind you," Decembrele says. A plain white background will help minimize any potential distractions.
Keep it cropped. You need to make sure your face fills up at least 60% of the frame, so crop accordingly.
Try photo filters. Did you know LinkedIn has photo filters? Decembrele advises using them to edit the brightness, contrast, saturation, and more.
Dress for the job you want. "Every industry is unique, [so] a good rule of thumb is to look at what the big names in your industry are wearing in their profile picture," Decembrele says. Basically, if they're wearing a button-down shirt and a blazer, you might want to consider dressing up.
3. List Volunteer Experience
Volunteer experience might sit at the bottom of your LinkedIn profile, but it's still an important section for recruiters. "Forty-one percent of recruiters consider volunteer experience equally as valuable as paid experience when evaluating candidates," says Decembrele. Meaning, this could be the difference between you and another candidate with a similar career history. When editing this section, think about what your volunteer work says about your personal and professional identity. A LinkedIn study found that almost 90% of professionals say success isn't just about what you accomplish, but about what you inspire others to do.
4. Have Strong Industry Recommendations
Asking an employer or client to provide a written recommendation can be awkward, but Decembrele says it's absolutely worth it. "A recommendation serves as that seal of approval from your connections and offers credibility to your professional brand."
When asking for a LinkedIn recommendation, Decembrele says clarity is key. "The easier you can make it for the writer, the better your recommendation will be. Give thought to what you would like the person to write, and from there, send a personalized message explaining exactly what you're hoping to get and what qualities you'd like for them to highlight," she explains.
Choose these people thoughtfully, as their title and industry reputation can speak volumes. "Only approach people who you've worked closely with who can speak to your accomplishments, skills, and professional goals," Decembrele says.
5. Tell a Narrative
The most effective LinkedIn profiles and résumés go beyond facts and figures—they tell a narrative about who you are, both as a person and professional. Cast an eye over your page and make sure it reflects your character and achievements in equal measure.
"Your LinkedIn profile summary is a great place to show off your personality and illustrate your professional brand and career goals," says Decembrele. And at the very least, make sure your summary meets the word count to be seen. "I recommend making your summary 40 words or more, as this makes your profile more likely to turn up in a future employer search," she recommends.