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If You're a Job Seeker, Don't Make These Common Mistakes on LinkedIn

by Maggie Graham, MEd, CPCC

LinkedIn tends to a dormant tool for many people until they find themselves in need of a job. It's a bit like the esoteric kitchen tools you have in your kitchen cabinets. They sit in the back of a drawer, and you might encounter them when you’re rifling through your kitchen looking for something else, but you really don't use them that often. Until suddenly, there’s a big occasion that takes you out of your usual patterns, and you wonder, "How does this thing work?"

If you're turning to LinkedIn as a job seeker who hasn't been on the market in quite some time, you've come to the right place because this new job search terrain can be disorienting now that everything's electronic and there's a massive amount of data swirling around you. LinkedIn might keep cropping up as the go-to tool for a job search as you talk with friends and colleagues, but that doesn't make it easy to use, especially when you're scrambling to get your bearings in every dimension of this process.

Let's focus on some typical practices that job seekers may be tempted to use on LinkedIn, and explore why it's best to steer around these potholes on the road to your next position.

Don't use your LinkedIn headline to broadcast your need for a new job

When my clients come to me seeking support for their job search, I often see something like "seeking new opportunities" in their LinkedIn headline, and it's one of the first things I suggest they change. Here's why:

  • Your LinkedIn headline is best used to describe your brand, whom you serve and what you do well. The fact that you're looking for a job isn't the most important thing about you, especially from the perspective of a potential employer or a recruiter. They want to know what you're capable of doing.
  • Readers of your profile will decide about whether to click on your name and read more about you when they're viewing lists of people on LinkedIn. Often the only data point they have is your LinkedIn headline. Don't waste this valuable real estate to broadcast that you're in a job search.
  • In the fall of 2016, LinkedIn rolled out a new feature that allows you to communicate privately to recruiters and potential employers that you're in a job search, so if you use that setting, there’s no need to use your headline to communicate that you're in a search. (See video for details.)
  • Often, LinkedIn trolls (people who want to sell you something) will search on LinkedIn using terms such as "seeking new opportunities" and then approach you to sell you a service or product that you likely don't need.
  • If an employer or recruiter contacts you because they've seen that you're in a job search on LinkedIn, watch out. They're like bargain shoppers, often making decisions based on price (your salary) not quality. You don't need to hide that you're in a job search. In fact, it's important for you to be able to speak succinctly and with ease about why you're in a job search, just don't lead with this fact on LinkedIn.

Other mistakes that I often see job seekers make on LinkedIn include:

  • Duplicating the content of their resume into the appropriate fields on LinkedIn. I often see people copy their Summary and Experience sections from their resumes into their LinkedIn profiles. That's a missed opportunity to communicate in depth who you are. If someone's taken the time to look you up on LinkedIn, reward that person with some additional details so that they think their time researching you was well spent. Plus, LinkedIn doesn't have the space constraints and sparse language conventions that exist with resumes. By using first person in your LinkedIn profile, it seems more like a conversation (and hence the start of a professional relationship) with the reader than the stilted third person language in a resume.
  • Missing key places to invite others to engage with you. What do you want people to do after they read your LinkedIn profile? It's important to be able to answer that question because it drives your strategy as you're writing it. Are you writing the first two sentences in your LinkedIn Summary in a way that engages your readers and makes them want to click to read more? At the end of your Summary, are you offering them a suggestion about what to do next (connect with you via LinkedIn or email, for example)? The use of first person language can be an asset in your Summary, Experience section and through your entire profile if your goal is to have the reader know you better and feel more drawn to you than they did when they started reading.
  • Not offering a reason for connection invitation request. When someone sends you a LinkedIn connection request that has generic ("I'd like to join your LinkedIn network") language in it, what's your reaction? For most of us – unless we recognize the person immediately – we think, "Who ARE you? And why would I want to connect with you?" Give people a reason ("I saw an article you wrote that intrigued me" or "I noticed that we’re both members of X group here on LinkedIn" or "I see we're both alums of Y university"). Tell them something about why you're reaching out to them.
  • Letting some key settings on LinkedIn sit unattended. See the video for an explanation. These settings, if they're incorrect, can put up barriers to people getting a sense of who you are or, conversely, they may share more than you intend.
  • Being passive and waiting for people on LinkedIn to notice them. Building a strong LinkedIn profile is just part of robust job search strategy on LinkedIn. Join groups (you can be in up to 100!), comment on discussions, post articles, invite others to connect with you. Follow companies, view others' profiles, apply for jobs! There are many places to get involved on LinkedIn. (See video for details.)

LinkedIn is a wonderful tool for job seekers, and it doesn't take long to optimize it so that it works for you in landing the position you covet. So, don't give up on it. Just follow these suggestions, and you'll be far ahead of many people in the candidate pool for positions that you're pursuing.