With 2019 right around the corner, it’s time to think about what the new year holds for your executive career. If it’s time to make a change, or at least prepare for one, it’s not about just brushing up your resume and having it ready for executive recruiters.
It’s also about polishing and optimizing your LinkedIn profile to make sure it attracts opportunities and supports your candidacy for right-fit leadership roles and serves as a tool to build and track your network—an important part of any executive job search strategy.
As a LinkedIn profile strategist, I see a lot of profiles in their un-optimized format and have compiled a list of what to avoid doing on LinkedIn, that in fact, most of my clients were doing before coming to me.
1. Using LinkedIn’s default headline
By default, your headline is your current job title. But the headline is a very important field in terms of how your profile is ranked, and thus a targeted and keyword-rich headline will help you to appear in more relevant searches.
Instead of: “SVP Marketing, Personal Care Products Line”, think: “Marketing Executive–Consumer Packaged Goods ► Capturing Market Share Through Digital Strategy and Product Innovation”.
The latter is rich in keywords and communicates expertise and business value.
2. Offering your audience a distant and unfocused 3rd person summary (often a copy and paste of the resume summary)
Going back to our marketing executive example, if you were recruiting for a consumer packaged goods company looking for a marketing leader who is strong in digital, which summary introduction do you think would be more likely to make someone want to reach out and make contact?
Candidate #1: 20+ years of experience in Marketing, Advertising, and Communications. Proven track record of launching successful campaigns across industries through analytical thinking, leadership, and results orientation.
Candidate #2: As a Senior Marketing Executive, I take pride in driving iconic consumer brands to record levels of market share through award-winning digital campaigns that reach millions.
The latter is more specific to the target audience’s needs and invites connection through a warmer personal account.
3. Not telling a story of transformation
All too often, I see LinkedIn profiles that focus on responsibilities and duties rather than achievements. To encourage someone to connect with you and reach out about opportunities, they have to be convinced that you have been a key figure in driving radical change with dramatic balance-sheet impact. Although you have to be careful what information you divulge on such a public platform, you still need to convey that you have been a positive change agent in every role you’ve held.
4. Assuming that LinkedIn can’t be used effectively when the job search is confidential
It is possible to position yourself for new roles and showcase your expertise and unique abilities on LinkedIn without raising red flags that you are job searching. It’s important to show that you are a proud representative of your company, knowing that your boss, the team members you lead, and key customers or suppliers may be reading it. Consider the following excerpt:
As SVP of Marketing at XYZ Corporation, I care deeply about our customers and my people. I am committed to building brands for products that improve lives while creating a working environment where my colleagues can thrive and develop ...
5. Keeping information too brief
While it’s true that most people skim profiles and they need to be crafted with this in mind, keep in mind that if your profile doesn’t rank high enough in LinkedIn’s search engine, it won’t be seen at all. LinkedIn works in much the same way that website SEO works—and more content and keyword richness is rewarded in LinkedIn’s search algorithm.
6. Having <500 connections
The more connections you have on LinkedIn, the greater your chances of being found because your profile will only be visible to someone searching if they are either a 1st or 2nd degree connection. This makes it imperative that you connect with recruiters in your industry, individuals in target companies, and as many people in your network as possible.
7. Having a weak skills profile
LinkedIn allows you to choose up to 50 skills for your profile. For best results, make sure you use all 50, even if some of the terms are repetitive. Our marketing executive might choose Brand Development, Brand Strategies, and Brand Management. You never know exactly which terms a recruiter will be searching for, and thus your skills repertoire should include as many relevant keywords as possible.
8. Not aligning your top 3 skills with your job target
Just because everyone thinks you are an Excel wiz and you’ve been endorsed for this hundreds of times, it doesn’t mean that you want this as one of your top skills. Generic terms such as Leadership and Strategy don’t help much either. Our marketing executive would be much better positioned if Brand Strategy, Digital Marketing, and Product Innovation were chosen as the top 3 skills.
Your LinkedIn profile is a critical piece of your career portfolio. It must attract attention for right-fit opportunities, eschew wrong-fit ones, communicate passion, establish an emotional connection with your reader through a warm, first-person, storytelling approach, and possibly protect your current role (if employed).
But none of this matters if no one is reading it, and you will attract readers only if your profile is optimized for searches. Thus, as you refresh your LinkedIn profile for 2019, consider both what will help your profile rank higher in searches and what will keep your reader interested when they view it.