How to Create a Strong LinkedIn Profile

How strong is your LinkedIn profile? A powerful profile can increase your visibility online. You may or may not know that when your profile is 100% complete, you will get a higher search ranking. Your LinkedIn profile is key to your online success, because potential partners, clients, recruiters, and employers use LinkedIn as one of their first stops to assess you. It’s important to have as much of your profile completed as possible, because it helps with your personal branding. Recruiters are known for searching through LinkedIn to fill positions, because it’s an amazing resource, and it’s free. Passive job seekers and those not looking for employment should also have a profile that is 100% complete if possible, because you want to make a good first impression if anyone “googles” your name. One which is 85% complete is also acceptable, but anything less than that, and you have some work to do. Below are some tips on how to create a strong LinkedIn profile. The sections necessary to finish in order to have a 100% complete profile, are highlighted in red.

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Resume – You MUST upload your résumé to complete your profile. Doing so also automatically fills in the information in most of the sections, and brings you to about the level of 75% complete. You might have to tweak it and check for spelling before saving changes. If you choose not to upload your résumé, and manually complete all information, your LinkedIn profile will be at 85% complete (without recommendations). There will still be enough details on it to make a good impression.

Photo – Besides your name, the first thing people will notice is your photo. Not having one is a mistake. You should use a sharp, well-lit portrait with a solid or blurred background, and have it on most networking sites, i.e. Facebook. This consistency helps brand you online. Consider uploading your photo to Gravatar which is an image that uniformly identifies you on various sites.

Professional Headline – This is located just below your name, and is usually your current position, but it’s better to have a headline that describes what you do, rather than just stating a job title. Click edit near your name, and make your change where it states Professional Headline. The use of strong keywords is wise.

Employment – You need to add your current and previous two positions. If you’re just starting out or have been out of the job market for a while, the positions can be part-time jobs, internships or volunteer work. If you are unemployed and need help completing this section, read this post for further advice.

Education – List your highest levels of education. You don’t necessarily need to have a degree (yet) to list your college or university. You just can’t claim a degree for it. The same goes for high school. If you are working on your G.E.D. you can list your high school, but you can’t claim having your diploma. You can now add school activities and societies, so add whatever you have participated in.

Websites – Instead of keeping the default settings of Company Website, Personal Website, and Blog, the actual names of the sites should be listed. This gives a more polished look, which you can achieve in a minute. Choose to edit your profile, then in the section for websites, click edit for the first site listed. Where it lists the type of site, click to get a menu and choose “other”. Fill in the name of your site in the box to the right, and the URL in the box below “other”. You can do this for up to three sites, and then click “Save Changes” at the bottom. If you don’t have a company or personal website, or even a blog to share, you can add your Facebook, Flickr or YouTube accounts if you’d like. Be careful what you share on these sites, especially if you list them. Never say or upload photos or videos that you wouldn’t want a future employer to see. Consider fine tuning your Facebook URL or WordPress blog posts with these tips.

Twitter – Not everyone has a Twitter account, so this is not necessary to add, but if you have one or two accounts, please list them. Also remember to keep your tweets as professional as possible if you list your account(s). Check here for Twitter tips.

Public Profile – You can edit your LinkedIn Public Profile URL to customize it to contain your actual name, i.e. http://www.linkedin.com/in/johndoe.  Also, to improve your SEO (Search Engine Optimization), select “Full View” to increase your ranking.

Summary –  This should be a concise version of your employment history and specialties. It’s perfect for people to get an overview of your skills before having to scroll down to view your detailed experience.

Specialties – Use as many keywords as possible to describe your capabilities. Consider using Google Keyword Tool to find appropriate keywords that have the most search hits. This section can really boost your LinkedIn SEO by providing essential words recruiters are searching to locate you.

Experience – The more details you give, the better recruiters can find you via search engines. Tip: At the end of each position’s description, skip a space and write a string of all of your keywords for that position for improved LinkedIn SEO.

Applications – Add third-party applications, which can be found at the top bar. Click on “More” and the drop down menu will give you choices, i.e. SlideShare, WordPress or Box.net to share your work from other sources right on your profile page. Events and TripIt are both great apps for sharing upcoming events and travel. I sometimes find out about panel discussions or seminars by viewing the schedule of others. These applications help to customize your profile.

Groups – It’s a good idea to join as many groups in your industry as you can keep up with. It’s a great place to exchange ideas. or help one another with obstacles.

Recommendations – It is suggested to have three recommendations. You actually need them to achieve 100% completion of your profile.

Personal Information – This is optional, and many people feel uncomfortable listing this. If you have a Google Voice or a business number you don’t mind listing, it will give people another option of how to contact you.

Contact Settings – Here’s where you can add an e-mail address if you’d like. Where it asks: What advice would you give to users considering contacting you? You can add any contact information including your e-mail address, which can be your company e-mail, or web-based address, i.e. gmail or hotmail. FYI, some might be skeptical of a web-based account due to the fact that spammers use them.

Profile Layout – You can rearrange your sections in the edit mode by dragging the section to where you want it to be. This gives you a chance to customize the order of your profile.