October 24, 2019  |  Purdue Global  |  Updated March 17, 2021

LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool. It’s the primary social media site for job seekers, recruiters, and people who want to expand their professional networks. Almost 740 million people are members of LinkedIn, and, according to the site’s About page, members live in more than 200 countries. Every month, tens of thousands of companies use LinkedIn to recruit talent; in fact, more than 95% of recruiters say they use LinkedIn regularly.

“As a former recruiter myself, I can tell you that LinkedIn is one of the first places many recruiters go when searching for candidates for their open positions,” says Jennifer Katz, director of career services at Purdue Global. “Using LinkedIn effectively can help job seekers make valuable connections, increase knowledge and visibility in their field, and open doors to new career opportunities.”

The power of LinkedIn comes from its ability to match individuals with companies, groups, and other individuals who share interests, experience, knowledge, and education. For anyone looking to hire or get hired, it’s important to have an optimized LinkedIn profile.

How to Create a LinkedIn Profile

Let’s start with your headline. This may be the most important piece of content on your profile. It’s the first thing recruiters see, and it’s searchable. So, not only do you need to include keywords that hiring managers search for, but you also want to use a click-worthy headline. (If you don’t customize your headline, it defaults to your current job title.)

A screenshot of a LinkedIn member's headline that reads: Content Marketing - 5X Author - Keynote Speaker - Entrepreneur - Founder, Orange Effect Foundation

You have about 100 characters to tell prospective employers who you are, what you’ve done, and what you can do for them. In the example above, the LinkedIn member (Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi) managed to pack five facts about himself into his headline.

Tips for Writing Your Headline

  • Think of it as your short elevator pitch—you have only seconds to tell the reader what you do and why they should keep reading your profile.
  • Avoid jargon and cutesy terms such as “chief happiness manager.”
  • Use titles and job descriptions that are familiar to your industry (“client relations manager” might fit better than “chief happiness manager”).
  • Consider using statements instead of titles: “I make sure clients are satisfied with our service and products.”
  • Include measurable facts, if you can: “Manage a portfolio of $5 million+.”
  • Include accolades your employers, coworkers, and clients have shared with you in the past, such as, “I deliver results ahead of time.”
  • Read your headline out loud. How does it sound? Does it roll off the tongue, or do you stumble with some phrases? Massage the message until it sounds smooth as you read it aloud.

Katz says it’s important to optimize your LinkedIn profile to make sure it gets noticed by the right people.

She adds that it’s important your profile is filled out as completely as possible and tailored to the type of position you seek. Using relevant keywords and transferable skills will ensure your profile shows up when recruiters search for candidates with experience similar to yours.

This is also a great opportunity to highlight special projects, involvement with student or professional organizations, volunteer work, and other accomplishments that speak to your commitment to your field.

Your LinkedIn Profile Photo: Dos and Don’ts

Your LinkedIn profile photo should be current, professional, and show you in a positive light.

  • Do appear approachable in your photo.
  • Don’t take a selfie.
  • Do touch up the photo if it needs to be lightened, darkened, or sharpened.
  • Don’t distort or over-stylize your photo using Photoshop or filters. Keep your photo real.

What about the large image in the background of your LinkedIn profile? Use this area to show other LinkedIn members who you are as a professional. Unless you’re a photographer, save the sunsets, family photos, and vacation pictures for your other social media accounts.

Your background image should represent who you are and what you do. Look at the profiles of other people in your profession—what do they do that catches your attention (in a good way)?

  • Find a stock image that relates to your field, such as an image of a computer for an IT professional or medical supplies for a health care provider.
  • Use an image of you on the job interacting with customers, clients, or coworkers. If you show others’ faces, make sure you get their permission to use their likeness online.
  • Browse free texture, wallpaper, and pattern images and use one as a placeholder until you find the ideal image that says who you are.

Unsplash is a great website that has beautiful images you can download and use without restrictions. Browse their collection of free stock photos, wallpapers, textures, and patterns.*

A gray and white photo of a stethoscope.
An image of a stethoscope could be a good fit for a nurse or other health care service provider.

An image showing a Dow Jones stock graph.
A financial advisor might want to use an image of stocks or financial reports.

An image showing code on a computer screen.
An IT specialist might use this picture of code for their background image.

Best Practices for Writing Your LinkedIn Summary

Writing about yourself is no easy task, whether it’s a cover letter, author bio, or your LinkedIn summary. These tips can make the process easier.

Leave out adjectives and adverbs and stick to the facts. Summarize your resume and include numbers and data to back up facts. Can you say you’ve reduced costs by 10%? Were you the highest-earning sales associate?

Summarize your experience and areas of expertise. Be honest—the internet makes it easy to fact check claims of years of service or experience. Use a formula similar to this: “I have _________ years of experience in ___________________. I’m trained in ________________ and am an expert in ____________________.” 

Highlight areas of interest. Your areas of interest can be specific industries (health care, manufacturing, or travel and tourism, for example) or they could be categorical, such as retail, B2B, or tech startups. If you are open to a broad range of opportunities, be careful not to pigeonhole yourself with interests that are too narrow.

In the absence of real-world work experience, emphasize classroom skills. Employers know that college students, interns, and recent graduates will lack real-world experience in their chosen fields. Don’t discount the customer service experience you gained while waiting tables in your younger years. Highlight coursework, group projects, and even your GPA to show employers that you’re ready for their workforce.

Use keywords in your summary. After you’ve written, edited, and rewritten your summary, review it and look for keywords that are relevant to your profession. Were there keywords you weren’t able to include in your title that you can work into your summary description? Are there synonyms for those keywords that you might be able to work in naturally?

Build Out the Experience Section

Include keywords that are relevant to your profession. Review job postings that you’re interested in to find commonly used words and phrases and, if you have those skills, incorporate them into your profile. 

Don’t limit your experience to paid work, and don’t underestimate the work you did early in your career. Waiting tables, working retail, telemarketing, and other entry-level jobs are valuable training grounds for soft skills such as handling difficult people, solving problems, meeting deadlines, and working on teams.

Highlight volunteer work, internships, clubs, and student organizations you’ve participated in. Describe what your roles were with those organizations and highlight transferable skills. 

Claim Your Custom URL

LinkedIn lets you claim a vanity URL, which looks like this: linkedin.com/in/yourfullname. You can change your LinkedIn URL up to five times in six months. LinkedIn recommends choosing a URL that is a combination of your name and profession, such as linkedin.com/in/janedoeengineer. You can use 5 to 30 characters for your URL, but symbols and special characters aren’t allowed.

Add Your Skills

LinkedIn allows you to highlight 3 top skills and then list up to 50 subskills. Again, it can be helpful to review the descriptions of open job postings to help you identify skills.

As you expand your network, your connections will be able to endorse you for the skills they know you to have. The jury’s out on whether this helps you show up in search results, but the list of skills will help prospective employers understand what you could bring to their organization.

A screenshot of the Skills & Endorsement section of a LinkedIn profile.

A screenshot of the Industry Knowledge section of a LinkedIn profile.

Do You Need Recommendations on LinkedIn?

The difference between endorsements and recommendations is that endorsements are keywords that your connections can click to endorse a skill you have. The issue with endorsements is that anyone can click them, and there’s really no validation process to ensure the LinkedIn profile aligns with the endorsed skill.

Recommendations, on the other hand, tend to carry more weight, especially if they’re well written and from someone who’s worked with you. The career advice blog Vault surveyed 10 hiring managers to ask their opinions about LinkedIn recommendations: Do they matter? Do they make or break a candidate? Some managers said recommendations are a plus, some said they hold some weight, and some said they don’t matter.

The bottom line: Make sure recommendations are well written and reflect who you are as a professional.

Other Best Practices for Using LinkedIn

As more job seekers and hiring directors look to LinkedIn to make a connection, there are a few things you should be doing to get yourself noticed. Especially in the age of COVID-19, when people have spent months working from home or looking for work from home, there are new techniques that savvy users can employ.

Use Hashtags to Raise Visibility

Hashtags were introduced to LinkedIn in 2017, but have only recently taken off. Hashtags can help users search for and find topics and subjects. If you’re looking for work, you could try hashtags in your field, such as #marketing or #realestate, or look for #careers, #hiring, #job, #jobs, #jobsearch, #recruiting, #recruitment, or #training.

If you want to make a point about your current work-from-home situation, try hashtags such as #homeoffice, #opentowork, #remotework, #wfh, #workfromhome, or #workingfromhome.

Hashtags also help others find your content. According to LinkedIn, adding the right hashtags can:

  1. Establish your credibility and expertise
  2. Reach people who value your insights
  3. Jumpstart meaningful conversations over shared interests

The Top 10 LinkedIn hashtags for 2021 so far, according to The B2B House, are:

  1. #covid19
  2. #coronavirus
  3. #marketing
  4. #leadership
  5. #realestate
  6. #business
  7. #hiring
  8. #jobs
  9. #digitalmarketing
  10. #kudos

Post About What You Know, Even Now

LinkedIn suggests posting about what you’re going through as you’re working or looking for work. Here are some best practices for your own posts:

Be yourself and offer your own perspective. LinkedIn doesn’t always have to be about work. Some successful posts come from professionals about lessons they’ve learned, their appreciation for their team, or even about staying positive. Share and comment on those posts, and offer up similar ones.

Discover and comment on relevant conversations. Use hashtags to find things of interest to you and share. Find what people are talking about and join in.  Discover a relevant new tip about job hunting and share it. You can follow and join conversations by following hashtags.

Share your experiences. Let people know what you’re thinking and what you’re doing. Share the struggles of looking for work, interviewing remotely, and even what your home office setup looks like. There are many people out there who can relate. Be sure to hashtag your post.

Get Started Today—Career Services Can Help

From the day you start your online degree program at Purdue Global to the moment you graduate—and beyond—our Career Services team is here to support you. Career planning is part of our curriculum, and we partner with instructors and advisors to ensure your education prepares you for the real world.

Some of the services we offer:

  • Resume review and advice
  • Referrals to career-related resources
  • Social media profile review (including LinkedIn)
  • Coaching on how to articulate your skills and experience

Take our interactive career assessment to discover your career path, and then request more information about our online programs.

Filed in: Careers

About the Author

Purdue Global

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Learn more about online programs at Purdue Global and download our program guide.

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