Part of every do-it-yourself home improvement kit is duct tape. And why wouldn’t it be? Duct tape is easy to use. It’s versatile. And with a little creative thinking, it can be used in other ways than the obvious. So is there a virtual equivalent on the Internet just for job seekers?
Sure there is. It’s called LinkedIn. That’s right; LinkedIn is job search duct tape. It sticks a lot of information all in one place. On the site you have easy access to people, companies, industry groups and professional associations. You can use this information to conduct an effective job search campaign.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the data at your fingertips. It can be difficult to figure out where to start and what to do. Do you copy your resume word for word when you create your LinkedIn profile? Do you dig up that old glamour shot and use it for your picture? What is the right number of recommendations?
Before answering those questions, it is good to step back and examine the big picture first. What is LinkedIn? The site is a way for you to manage your professional brand. It allows you to present who you are to fellow business professionals at a specific moment in time.
The concept of time is important to remember because use of the site will change depending on current needs. If you are a jobseeker, the site is a business intelligence tool that allows you to find information about people and opportunities. If you are not looking for a new or next opportunity, then the site is a way to keep yourself visible to your industry.
For either category LinkedIn offers a level of control that will best fit your current situation. Change your headline to say that you’re looking for work. Include your email address in the header to make it easier for recruiters to reach you. And of course, make sure to check the box career opportunities under contact preferences.
Next, determine whether you’re an open networker. An open networker connects with anyone. The idea is to increase the chance of being connected to someone who has information that can help in your job search.
Talking with someone who can provide insight into the hiring process is why you network, right? So having as many connections as possible makes sense if you are looking for work…or does it?
To answer that question, stop and think about what networking really means. The simplest answer is that people want to do business with people they know and trust. If your network has people that you don’t know, then how likely are they to share information or refer you to someone that has the information you need?
An optimist might say, “Come on it’s a networking site, it is designed for people to share information.” And a lot of the time that’s right.
However the true strength of any network is never measured in the number of connections, but rather the quality of those connections.
Does that mean you should only connect with people you know? No it doesn’t. It means you should be realistic about the value of being an open networker. Sometimes it will pay off. And other times it may not. As a job seeker it makes sense to take that gamble. Even if it pays off just once, then being an open networker was the right move.
So now that you’ve wrestled with whether to be an open networker of not, it’s time for you to turn your attention to those detail questions that were asked earlier.
Do you copy your resume word for word when you create your LinkedIn profile?
Much like being an open networker, there is some debate about how to create an effective eye-catching profile. You want to be noticed. So some LinkedIn members upload their resume and use it as their profile. Others have a shorter profile and simply provide a link to their resume at a personal website or some cloud based software like Google docs. And then there are the radical few, who don’t utilize their resume at all. Instead they provide brief highlights of their accomplishments and invite the reader to contact them.
No doubt you are starting to get the feeling that the right move will depend largely on your personal preference. Do you present your resume in some fashion and risk the recruiter screening you out? Or do you tease the recruiter and give them just an appetizer?
Are you still unsure of what to do? Perhaps considering the viewpoint of a recruiter will help you decide. If a recruiter needs to identify candidates quickly, then having your information easily accessible is best. It doesn’t mean that you will get contacted, but it means that it is more likely that your profile will be reviewed.
What if you share too little? Does that mean a recruiter will just skip your profile completely? Not necessarily. In some cases, a position may not have the number of candidates applying that a recruiter wants. If that happens, then a recruiter needs to search for candidates. A clever profile that shares just enough could get the recruiter interested in learning more. The value here is the chance to potentially speak to the recruiter.
To be clear though, your LinkedIn profile and resume should not differ on facts. So things like job titles and dates of employment should be the same between both. Recruiters will spot such inconsistencies in a heartbeat. That doesn’t mean that you can’t emphasize your candidacy in different ways.
For example, your LinkedIn profile could focus on one set of accomplishments and your resume another set. The advantage is that you are providing more data for the recruiter to chew on. The risk of course, is choking the recruiter with information overload. If you decide to go this route it may take some practice to find that right balance. Be prepared to monkey with your profile some.
The bottom line is that your LinkedIn profile should clearly articulate the value you bring to any employer. How much you share, whether it’s more or less, should be a decision based on how you want to present yourself to the marketplace.
Do you dig up that old glamour shot and use it for your picture?
Does it feature you in soft lightning with a hair style that you can’t believe you ever had? Is the photo an avant-garde Fran Lebowitz character study? Or is it a cartoon, logo, or some other picture of something that isn’t you. If the picture falls into any of these categories, then the answer is a resounding no.
So what should it be? It should be a simple picture, ideally a headshot, where the reader can clearly see your face. Wait just a doggone minute, you say! Didn’t having a picture on your resume go the way of cheap gas? Oh you bet it did. But LinkedIn is a social networking site and not a job board.
The photo helps those people looking at your profile who remember faces more than names. And if you have a common name like John Smith, then having a picture allows you to reclaim your individuality. But posting a picture is not without risk.
The concept of using a picture gives many HR folks more cows than a dairy farm because of possible discrimination based on your photo. Could it happen? Maybe. And if that is of real concern to you, then you should not post a profile picture.
Is lack of a profile picture is an absolute deal killer in the eyes of a recruiter? Nope. No Way. Good recruiters are focused on the content of your profile. A recruiter wants to understand what you’ve done in the past and how it can translate to the present. A profile with a photo is for the networker on LinkedIn, not the recruiter.
What is the right number of recommendations?
Recommendations are like frosting on a cake. Most people would agree that you can’t have too much frosting. But you need to resist the temptation to get frosting all over your face and be strategic in managing your recommendations. It’s less about the right number of recommendations and more about a systematic way of connecting the recommendations you use on LinkedIn to the professional references you give during the interview process.
Alright now you’re thinking is there really a difference between a recommendation and a reference? You betcha! A recommendation is just like those sound bites on a movie poster. While LinkedIn provides the space to be more substantive on the recommendation, the communication is just one way. There is no way for the recruiter to learn anything more than what was written.
Now if you compare that to a reference, the difference is substantial. A reference is a real-time dialogue between the recruiter and the person who volunteered to vouch for you. As a job seeker, your references are the proverbial ace in the hole that you should only share when you think you have a winning hand.
Is it awful if your recommendations and references are one in the same? Not in the slightest. However you are missing a chance to truly elevate your candidacy. References very often tend to be managers you reported to and the co-workers that knew you best. Use LinkedIn recommendations for co-workers from other groups, managers you interacted with outside your team, and even customers.
Solid recommendations demonstrate to a recruiter that you are able to make lasting connections across the breadth of a company. The fact that you understand the value of building and maintaining relationships will help set your candidacy apart.
Clearly, LinkedIn is a valuable tool. It is a platform that helps your organize your network and can provide information useful to your job search. The site also allows you to brand yourself. Your profile shows what you’ve done and what you can do. If the message is compelling, enough it could attract the attention of a potential employer.
Sites like LinkedIn and other tools that you may use to help you in your job search act as force multipliers. They can make you more organized, more efficient, and expand your reach to opportunities that you may not even know existed.
There is a clear and present danger, however, that you need to be keenly aware of as a job seeker. Looking for that next opportunity is about connecting with people face-to-face. The Internet can create the illusion of networking. After all, you have over 1,000 connections on LinkedIn, so surely when you need something you will get what you want. It doesn’t work that way.
Networking relationships aren’t formed at Internet speed. Like anything else, quality relationships take time. LinkedIn is truly job search duct tape. But remember, what the tape is really connecting is people.