There are 277 million users on LinkedIn, according to the company’s latest results, and many of them — though not all — are probably competing for the same jobs. To improve your chances of scoring the next great gig, it helps to know how recruiters use the site.
Recruiters scour the world’s most popular professional networking site looking for the perfect candidate, but there’s a lot they do before they even get to your profile page. Some 93% of hiring managers search LinkedIn for recruits, according to a 2013 survey by career website Jobvite; 65% search Facebook, and 55% consult Twitter accounts. Another 18% of recruiters search Google+ and, in case there are any homemade videos lurking about, 15% will type your name into YouTube. Rule No. 1: “Your LinkedIn profile should be public,” says Jenny Foss, president of the Ladder Recruiting Group in Portland, Ore.
Most people spend so much time crafting their pitch, they forget about how they appear in a search result. “It’s the first thing that recruiters look at,” says Nicole Greenberg Strecker, managing director of recruitment agency STA Worldwide in Chicago, Ill. Your bio should include title, industry and location. “If you want to work in Silicon Valley and live in Kansas, change your location to Silicon Valley on LinkedIn. Recruiters search zip codes.” And the title should be razor-sharp. “Don’t write senior analyst at Ernst & Young, write hedge fund financial analyst at Ernst & Young,” says Jeremy Roberts, editor of Sourcecon, a blog and conference series for recruiters.
Recruiters punch in keywords, not buzzwords. When fine-tuning their initial search to find high-performing candidates, for instance, they’ll look for terms like “won,” “sold,” “achieved,” “built” and “president’s club.” No software is too old to mention. Technology recruitment consultants look for people who are proficient in WordPress because many companies don’t have the latest programs, Roberts says. And if you use in-demand open-sourced software like Ruby on Rails, say so. “It will save you a lot of spam,” he says; recruiters also recoil at buzzwords like “maven,” “guru,” “prophet” and “ninja” (unless you’re a black belt or a mutant turtle).
Leave a trail of virtual crumbs that lead to your profile. Hiring professionals lurk within LinkedIn industry groups and blogs, says Tamryn M. Hennessy, a vice president of career services at Rasmussen College. “Join them, especially if you want to change industries,” she says. “It’s a tremendous way to get smart about an industry and get on a recruiter’s radar.” Take part in the conversation, Hennessy adds, but only if you have something to say. Beware of criticism, says Piera Palazzolo, senior vice president for marketing at Dale Carnegie Training. “Never complain or express sour grapes,” she says. “It’s not Facebook (FB), it’s a professional network.”
Once they arrive on your page, you want to keep them there. “LinkedIn is speed dating for professionals,” says Grace Killelea founder and CEO of Half The Sky Women’s Leadership Institute. Recruiters are looking for reasons not to court you and anything that appears odd will be a red alert. “If there are gaps in your work history, fill that in, otherwise recruiters are going to get nervous,” she says. “Many people who were laid off are not comfortable filling in those gaps, but they absolutely need too.” Include details of volunteer work or, if it’s true, add “consulting,” she adds. Killelea’s golden rule for LinkedIn (and life): “If you can’t hide it, decorate it.”