I am always keenly interested in how different people use LinkedIn and I routinely ask clients, candidates, friends and peers for their perspectives. The results may surprise you. Here is what I have learned over the last few years:
- Most of my clients look at a candidate’s profile on LinkedIn before he or she comes in for an interview. Their intent is to gain insight into the more personal side of the candidate as well as to check for resume inconsistencies. Don’t let this scare you! Sharing the right personal information just might give you the edge you need to land the position.
- A number of my friends in professional services utilize LinkedIn to research their client prospects and gain a competitive advantage by being well informed. The ability to discuss different aspect of a person’s professional and personal history adds depth and distinctiveness to the conversation. Candidates often do the same with prospective employers.
- LinkedIn is becoming an excellent way build a personal brand. Be deliberate in how you use this channel to market yourself and your particular areas of expertise. You should consider adding a link to your LinkedIn profile at the bottom of your e-mail signature. This is becoming very common and I think it is a great idea.
- Corporate recruiters and executive search firms, including my own, have realized over the last few years that LinkedIn is a rich source of high-quality candidates and use it as a primary recruiting source.
- Corporate leaders are frequently looking at their own employee profiles to learn personal information for a variety of reasons. They also look to see if employees are job hunting, so use caution when checking the box that says you are interested in “Career Opportunities!”
- LinkedIn is a great channel for sharing content-your own writing, interesting news stories, etc.
- LinkedIn User Groups are exploding in popularity and are transforming into “mini-communities.”
There are likely countless others, but these are the shifts I’m hearing about most frequently. Just to reiterate, there are no secrets on the Internet and you have complete control over the content you share on LinkedIn. You must simply exercise good judgment.
In general, aren’t we interested in learning a better way of doing things? Adopt that strategy with LinkedIn. Nobody has all the answers, so an open mind and willingness to innovate will serve you well as you turn this into an effective tool.
Here is a sample of the best LinkedIn practices I have observed.
- Look at LinkedIn daily, especially the Home page to track movement in your network that may benefit you—job changes, promotions, new connections, etc. Because LinkedIn is continually refreshed throughout the day, it is a good idea to keep an eye out for new names that may be of value to you. You can also see if anyone from your school (s) has joined LinkedIn and look at the people who have viewed your profile that day. If you don’t have time to look each day, you can have a daily or weekly recap of all activity in your network sent to you from LinkedIn.
- Upgrade your account. The entry (free) level of LinkedIn is tedious if you are using it to make a large number of connections. Pay for at least the first upgrade level so you can connect to people in your network directly through InMail, and not wait weeks for a referral.
- Have a transparent profile that will attract broad interest. You are screening in and not screening out on LinkedIn and it is important to connect with as many people as possible in the network. A broader sharing of your background is likely to gain more contacts for you and allow you to connect with others with similar backgrounds. Also, list personal and business accomplishments that will help showcase your achievements.
- Post your picture on your profile. Your picture humanizes the connecting process and facilitates relationship building. I always tell people “I have a face made for radio and if I can put my picture on there, so can you!”
- Have at least 5 recommendations on your profile. Recommendations are analogous to a good Seller rating on eBay—you are viewed as credible and more likely to get a call back if a viewer sees that people think highly of you. You can recommend people in your network and they will be prompted to recommend you in return. This is a good “pay it forward” strategy.
- When looking for people, run Boolean searches for prospects by keywords relevant to your background. My examples include “University of Georgia,” “Cub Scouts” and “Catholic.” Search any key words relevant and important to you that will help build a connection to someone who shares these words in their profile. Keep playing with key words and companies you are interested in until you find people you would like to meet. This is called affinity based connecting.
- Focus on contacts who can help you get to the right person. Don’t focus exclusively on finding the decision maker, you’ll only be disappointed. Look for people in the target organization who share common interests, schools or LinkedIn connections with you. They are more likely to want to help you and make a friendly introduction to the right person—it’s so much more effective than a cold call. However, if you can’t establish common ground with someone in a target company, the cold contact may be necessary.
- Always offer to help someone BEFORE asking for help. When reaching out via InMail (assuming you now have the upgraded LinkedIn account), never state your desire/need in the opening sentence. You’re not likely to get anywhere fast. I’ve had success with this approach:
“John: I came across your background on LinkedIn and noticed that we both are UGA alums and involved in Cub Scouts. I run an executive search firm here in Atlanta and am always looking to grow my network. Would you be open to a call this week and perhaps a cup of coffee? I would like to see if there are ways I can help you and maybe we can share stories of our college days! You can check out my firm at www.belloaks.com and I can be reached directly at (678) 287- 2000. I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks, Randy Hain”
- Invite every person you meet to join your network. This will help build your list of direct connections and expand your searchable pool. Mention when you meet that you will connect with them on LinkedIn to increase your chance of an accepted invitation. Also, if you click on the Add Connections button at the top right corner of the home page, you will see Import Contacts at the top of the new screen. Click on that and LinkedIn will search your Outlook (or Yahoo, Google, etc.) address book and bring up a screen which shows which of your email addresses have LinkedIn profiles. You can invite them as a group (they receive individual invitations) to join your network. This is a way to grow your network with people you know.
- Join Groups to enhance your searches and help you be strategically identified. You can join affinity Groups on LinkedIn in almost every category ranging from Alumni Associations to HR Executives to Faith Groups. Groups become “safe havens” where you can easily gain new connections, share in discussions, etc. Choose wisely because your profiles are visible to everyone in that network and your choices should not raise eyebrows (like Recovering Shopaholics!).
- Start your own User Group on LinkedIn. If you have a business, non-profit or group you would like to promote, this is an effective method. As the Group “owner” you will load a logo, mission/purpose statement and invite people to join. You will also be able to moderate very useful discussions and share news of interest to the members.
- Review the “People You May Know” section on your homepage each week. LinkedIn frequently refreshes a list of people that are in your extended network who you may want to know. Caution! Always send a personal message along with any invitation to someone you don’t know personally which explains the reason for your request.
- Utilize the “Share an Update” feature at the top of your profile. This is a great way to let your network know what you are working on and share links to great articles. Reminder: another good reason to do this is because every change to a LinkedIn profile shows up on the home page of the people in your network. This keeps you on their radar.
- The Reading List is an important feature on LinkedIn which allows you to share the books you recommend on your profile. This is another great way to share insight into how you think and what you like.