Few things matter more in a contemporary job search than your LinkedIn profile. When hiring managers need candidates for an open job, they often turn to LinkedIn and its more than 700 million monthly active users worldwide.
If you’re searching for a new job—particularly in a white-collar field—you will likely find an appealing role on LinkedIn. You need a top-notch LinkedIn profile to put yourself in the best position to land a job. Here’s how to make one.
What is LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is a social networking platform that focuses on professional and business connections. Whereas platforms like Facebook and Instagram are designed to showcase your personal brand, LinkedIn is designed to present your professional brand. Founded in 2002 and launched to the public in 2003, LinkedIn helps you build and maintain your professional network, showcase your skills and achievements, and connect with potential employers, colleagues, clients, and partners.
LinkedIn shares many features with other leading social networks, including user profiles, a newsfeed, posts with commenting, private messages, and paid advertising. Both individuals and organizations can create a LinkedIn page. On LinkedIn, the term “connection” refers to the virtual relationship you establish with another user on the platform, similar to the concept of "friends" or "followers" on other social media platforms.
Users can request recommendations from colleagues and share relevant content about their industry and career journey. Companies can post job openings, highlight business achievements, and reap as much value from LinkedIn as individual users.
Why should you have a LinkedIn profile?
- Networking opportunities
- Access to job opportunities
- Skills showcase
- Referrals and recommendations
- Professional branding
With so much of the business world now online, LinkedIn stands out as an indispensable tool for networking and career advancement. The benefits of maintaining a LinkedIn profile include:
LinkedIn brings the timeless practice of networking to the digital realm. Whether you're a freelancer, consultant, or business owner, you can use LinkedIn to connect with colleagues, peers, mentors, industry experts, and potential clients.
Building a robust network can open doors to new opportunities, collaborations, and allies within your industry. Large companies can win business-to-business (B2B) contracts by connecting with corporate workers who have purchasing authority.
Access to job opportunities
Hiring managers and recruiters use LinkedIn to find potential candidates. An effectively crafted LinkedIn profile can distinguish you from other applicants.
Your LinkedIn profile page functions as an online resume, letting you showcase your education, work history, job titles, certifications, and achievements. You can add new skills to your profile at any time to catch the attention of hiring managers.
Referrals and recommendations
Colleagues can visit your LinkedIn profile to endorse your skills or provide recommendations. This adds credibility to your professional qualifications and may convince a potential employer to highlight your application.
Your LinkedIn profile goes beyond your resume and referrals—you can also post content that spotlights your personality and interests. You can feature posts from other LinkedIn users, colleagues, or industry thought leaders.
Sections of a LinkedIn profile
- LinkedIn summary
- An “Open to” section
- Work experience
- Licenses and certifications
- Honors and awards
- Volunteer experience
- Test scores
- Contact information
A robust LinkedIn profile features numerous distinct elements. These include:
A LinkedIn summary is an introductory summary that includes a profile photo, an optional background photo, and a headline description of yourself. You can also add an About section with one or two paragraphs summarizing your work and career goals.
An “Open to” section
An “Open to” section indicates the potential connections you seek, whether you’re a job-seeker or an employer.
The Education section lists where you were educated and the degrees you hold.
Experience is the meat of many LinkedIn profiles. Here, you provide information about your past and current employment, including job titles, company names, job descriptions, and accomplishments while employed in these roles.
Licenses and certifications
The Licenses and Certifications category includes professional licenses, certifications, and qualifications you’ve obtained. You can also list training courses relevant to your work.
The Skills section lists all skills relevant to your industry and expertise. LinkedIn provides an extensive list of skills tags, which helps its algorithm match you with the right potential colleagues.
The Recommendations section features written testimonials from colleagues, supervisors, or clients about your work and character. You can ask folks in your network to write testimonials on your LinkedIn profile.
Honors and awards
Populate the Honors and Awards section with prizes and honors earned for your professional achievements.
LinkedIn offers a Languages section to list the languages you speak. You can indicate your levels of fluency, from elementary proficiency to native or bilingual proficiency.
Publications is the section where you can list articles, books, papers, or other publications you’ve authored or contributed to.
The Patents section is helpful if you want to provide details about any patents you hold for inventions or innovations.
Volunteer Experience lets you describe your volunteer work, including organizations, roles, and contributions.
If you have test scores you wish to showcase, include them in the Test Scores section.
Under Organizations, list your organizational affiliations, including professional societies and advocacy groups.
Provide as much contact information as you choose, from email addresses to phone numbers to mailing addresses. This is especially important if you want potential employers to be able to reach you easily.
How to optimize your LinkedIn profile
- Consider your target audience
- Update your profile picture
- Turn paragraphs into bullet points
- Show how your work benefited your organization
- Seek more recommendations
- Share content and engage
- Provide regular updates
- Network with others
Whether you’ve just joined LinkedIn or have been on the platform for years, here are actionable steps to optimize your profile and, over time, find more business opportunities:
1. Consider your target audience
The primary purpose of your LinkedIn profile is to generate helpful business connections. When crafting your profile, consider the types of people you want to work with and create your page with them in mind.
If you’re a software developer, mention the programming languages you’re fluent in. If you’re a manufacturer, bring up the equipment, capabilities, and space your company offers. A focused LinkedIn profile can produce more relevant leads from your target audience.
2. Update your profile picture
Use a professional and clear headshot that represents you. Dress appropriately for your industry and ensure the photo is properly lit and in focus. Avoid overly casual or distracting backgrounds and consider hiring a professional photographer if you’re concerned about image quality.
3. Turn paragraphs into bullet points
Many recruiters and hiring managers review dozens of LinkedIn profiles for a single position and may not spend much time on yours. Make it easy for them to glean relevant information about you by presenting your work and accomplishments prominently. Write brief paragraphs—such as in your About section—and look for opportunities to condense ideas into bullet points.
4. Show how your work benefited your organization
It’s essential to describe the work you’ve done in the past and how it’s shaped you, but you can also benefit from showing how this work improved your former employers’ fortunes.
For instance, if you participated in a total overhaul of your company’s ecommerce website, it might help to explain the positive financial impact that the overhaul had on sales.
5. Seek more recommendations
Word-of-mouth recommendations can significantly enhance the perception others have of you. Ask colleagues, supervisors, and clients for referrals highlighting your strengths and contributions.
Take care to only solicit referrals from people who know you in a business context—LinkedIn is not the right platform to highlight endorsements from friends and family members.
6. Share content and engage
LinkedIn is a social media site, and like other platforms, it rewards users who post content routinely. With your target audience in mind, post articles, insights, or industry news that you consider useful or interesting. Engage with other professionals’ posts and articles by leaving thoughtful comments. You never know: A LinkedIn comment thread could catalyze a new, meaningful business connection.
7. Provide regular updates
Regularly update your profile to reflect your latest achievements, new skills, and career advancements. Frequent updates can improve visibility in your connections’ feeds and search results. Research shows the best time to post on Linkedin is early in the week, to get the most engagement.
8. Network with others
LinkedIn allows you to contact users you may have never met in real life. Send personalized connection requests with a brief introduction explaining why you want to connect. You might contact professionals in your industry, school alumni, and potential mentors.
LinkedIn profile FAQ
Can everyone see your LinkedIn profile?
No, not everyone can see your LinkedIn profile. Like other social networks, LinkedIn offers various privacy settings that allow you to control who can view your profile and the information you share.
Is it necessary to customize my LinkedIn URL?
No, it is unnecessary to customize your LinkedIn URL—but it may be helpful, particularly if you plan to print it on business cards or feature the URL on your website.
Are skills and endorsements valuable on LinkedIn?
Yes, skills and endorsements are integral components of a LinkedIn profile. Noting skills can help the LinkedIn algorithm match you with relevant jobs, and endorsements can serve as social capital and impress recruiters who review your profile.
Should I include my complete work history on my LinkedIn profile?
You should include all experiences directly related to the type of work you seek. If, for example, you’re applying to be a CFO, list all past jobs related to finance and accounting—not your high school summer job as a lifeguard.
Can I list my volunteer experience on my LinkedIn profile?
Yes. LinkedIn offers a section to list volunteer experience. Many recruiters and hiring managers view volunteer work as a positive attribute; including this information may boost your candidacy.