You're not the only one toying with the idea of switching jobs. According to the 2017 State of the American Workplace report from Gallup News, a whopping 51% of employees are actively searching for new job opportunities. But this doesn't come as a surprise to recruiters—especially because they know that January and February are the busiest months for job hunters.
Don't be deterred by the torrent of applicants, though. According to LinkedIn Career Expert Blair Decembrele, there are a few quick and easy ways to ensure your profile stands out. She shares that the most visited LinkedIn profiles follow a formula. According to her, ideal LinkedIn profiles include a clear and cropped profile picture, highlighted "soft skills," volunteer experience, strong professional recommendations, and a career summary. But don't worry—it doesn't take long to make these five changes to your profile. (Trust us—the payoff is worth it.)
They Showcase "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. "57% 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," she says.
Unsure of what skills to list in your profile? Tap Résumé Assistant, a new Microsoft Word tool that pulls powerful insights from LinkedIn. "[It] provides the top skills other professionals in your desired role and industry have, as well as job requirements from real job postings," she explains. According to Decembrele, "You can then think about how your applicable skills can be transferable for the role you want, then tailor your résumé and LinkedIn profile accordingly."
They 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."
This is the winning formula, she says:
Use a simple background: "The focus should be on you, not what's behind you. Avoid complex patterns or busy backdrops. A plain white background is best, as it helps minimize any potential distractions."
Keep it cropped: "Make sure your face fills up at least 60% of the frame. No dangling arms of your college buddies or distant photos from that hike you took this summer."
Try photo filters: "Use LinkedIn photo filters 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. If they're wearing a button-down shirt and a blazer, it may be good to follow suit."
They List Volunteer Experience
Volunteer experience might sit at the bottom of your LinkedIn profile, but it's still an important section for recruiters. "41% of recruiters consider volunteer experience equally as valuable as paid experience when evaluating candidates," says Decembrele. Yes, it 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. In fact, a LinkedIn study found "almost 90% of professionals say success isn't just about what you accomplish, it's about what you inspire others to do," says Decembrele.
They Have Strong Industry Recommendations
Asking an employer or client to provide a written recommendation can be awkward, but Decembrele says it's certainly 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, she 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 too, 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," she says.
They 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. At the very least, ensure 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. It doesn't take much, but these minor changes could bridge the gap between you and your next dream role.