This article is Part 2 of a post called Stressed, Blessed, and LinkedIn Obsessed which focuses on building a great LinkedIn profile. In order to get the most out of this post, we recommend you read that one first.
Now that your LinkedIn profile is ready to go, it's time to start using the platform strategically! Being competitive on LinkedIn isn't just about having a great profile. You need to pay equal attention to which companies you are following, who you are connecting with, what you are posting, who you are messaging, and how you're optimizing your profile.
First things first, it's important to understand how recruiters use LinkedIn. Recruiters have an entirely different LinkedIn platform than we do. It's called LinkedIn Recruiter. Pretty good name, huh? Anyway. This platform is basically the ultimate social media stalking tool. We normal people only have access to public profiles and the people we're connected with. But recruiters have access to profiles of over 500 million LinkedIn members. They can search for candidates faster than we ever could due to search filters and recommendations from the site, as well as find candidates simply by narrowing profiles down to ones that match the criteria for the positions they're looking to fill. Recruiters also have the ability to reach out to hundreds of candidates quickly through InMail (LinkedIn DMs), and they can easily build, track, and mange their talent pipeline on LinkedIn alone. Long story short - this blog post is going to teach you how to strategically use LinkedIn in order to get your profile noticed by recruiters.
1. Turn on your "Career Interest" button. Go to your profile, scroll down to the light blue box right below the About section, and click on the small white box that says "Career interests." Click the little button so that it says "on." This will let recruiters know that you're looking for opportunities. LinkedIn will then walk you through the rest of the steps you need to complete. Steps will include selecting what kind of opportunities you're interested in, identifying the locations you'd consider, and writing a message to recruiters explaining who you are and what you're looking for. All of this will take no more than 5 minutes, tops.
2. Follow companies that you're interested in working for. When recruiters are searching for candidates, one of the filters they use to narrow down profiles is based on who is engaged with their company. In order to be "engaged" with the company, you have to follow the company. If you follow the company, you will appear in the recruiters' filtered search results as "engaged." In order to follow a company, simply go to the company's main LinkedIn page and click the big blue "+Follow" button. An additional benefit to following the company is that their posts will show up in your LinkedIn news feed. This is a great way to stay up-to-date on what is currently happening at the company, what initiatives they're working on, and the company's latest job openings. This information will definitely come in handy when applying for and landing an interview with said company.
3. Be intentional about who you connect with. It's always a good idea to connect with people from your school. Being an alumn of the same school is a special bond that can't do anything but help you. Connect with peers, professors, and alumni. Also don't be hesitant to connect with people you come across who have really cool jobs. It never hurts to send a message asking for a quick, informational phone call because you want to learn more about what they do. Who knows? It might lead to an interview or an internship or another connection! You'll also definitely want to connect with anyone and everyone who works at any company you intern for. These people have invested in you and will want to see where you end up. And once again, maintaining a relationship with them could lead to a job down the road or another important connection.
4. Post about your real-work experiences, on-the-job learnings, current events of interest, and other relevant engaging content. One thing I always hear from people is that it's hard to figure out what to post on LinkedIn, or if you even should post at all. Your content does not have to be the most profound thing in the world, it just has to be engaging. So what's engaging? A re-cap of your internship experience is a good place to start. Your connections will congratulate you on where you were working this summer, and it shows that you've reflected on what you learned and got out of the experience. Maybe you have a specific story from your internship experience - like something you observed about the culture that stuck out to you or maybe something someone in leadership said that really made you think. These kinds of stories can spark conversations and engagement on your post, as well as demonstrate that not only were you paying attention to these things, but that you took the time to process it. You could also write a brief reflection on something currently happening in the professional world. For example, let's say a big company like Google or Apple comes out with a press release about culture and diversity at their company. Reposting this article and briefly stating your thoughts and reactions (keep it professional and tactful) is another great way to spark conversation and show that you're engaged with what's going on in the world around you.
5. Don't be afraid to reach out to people you want to learn from. Normally I wouldn't encourage anyone to DM a stranger, but on LinkedIn it's welcomed. Let's say you come across the profile of another student who interned at the company you want to work for. Why not reach out to them and see if you could get more information? Or let's say you come across someone's profile and they literally have your dream job. Why not reach out and see if they would be willing to do a quick 30 minute phone call? You never know what it could lead to. They might say no, but don't sweat it. That's okay. Someone eventually will say yes. And that conversation will help you solidify a connection with this person that could potentially open doors for you someday at their company or in their field. It's definitely worth it to at least try and see what happens. Just make sure your message to them is sent with the utmost professionalism and intentionality. They will be more likely to say yes if it's clear you have reason and purpose for contacting them, and they can trust that you will behave professionally and not waste their time. If you do land a phone call, be sure to do your research and prepare some really good questions. Don't waste this opportunity to make a good impression.
6. Optimize your profile. In today's world, optimization is the key to literally everything. Optimization is what helps your profile get filtered into search results and noticed by recruiters. As previously mentioned, recruiters have the ability to filter profiles based on certain criteria they're looking for. For example, a recruiter might type in a specific skill-set or certifications needed for a job they're looking to fill. The profiles who have those skills and certifications prominently listed are the ones that the recruiter will most likely end up viewing. So what does that mean for you? Think about the kinds of jobs and internships you're applying for. Now put yourself in the recruiter's shoes. What kinds of things will the recruiter be looking for? Any certain certifications? Any specific trainings? Any specific skills? Even soft-skills? Make sure that the things you come up with are listed on your profile - as long as you truthfully have those things. And pay attention to wording. Make sure you word it in the way it's going to be searched for. For example, let's say your academic program has a nickname that only Purdue students know about for a well-known programming tool used in the field. You probably shouldn't use that nickname on your LinkedIn profile, or your resume for that matter. Use the title that the rest of the world uses and recognizes. A recruiter won't be putting Purdue's nickname for that tool in the search filter; they'll be using the title that the rest of the work-world is familiar with. The same is true for professional fields that have a variety of names. For example, talent acquisition and recruiting are basically the same thing, and each company chooses which name they use for it. If I were you, make sure that both "talent acquisition" and "recruiting" are listed on your profile so that no matter which title the recruiter utilizes, your profile will still come up either way. *Here's a sneaky tip: if you already know a specific job you're applying for, go back and read the job description for that role. Then plug-in the specific words and phrases they have listed into your profile. Only plug them in if it's appropriate, however, because you definitely don't want to over do it and make it too obvious.*
These suggestions are just scratching the surface when it comes to strategically using LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a complex platform and has so many cool features - it would truly take days to explore all of them. But use these suggestions as a starting place. Between building a great profile and maximizing your use of the platform, you're sure to reap results. It truly is one of those things where you'll get out of it what you put into it. But no matter what, we promise it's worth it.