With more than 100 million job applications submitted through the platform per month, LinkedIn has become the premier professional social media site for recruiters and job seekers alike. But with such an influx of users, it can be easy to get lost in the crush. This year, it's all about standing out from the crowd.
Look at your profile – does it say you're creative? Experienced? A strong leader? If so, you're in good company – the majority of LinkedIn's 500 million other profiles say the same thing.
LinkedIn released its top 10 buzzwords found on user profiles in March 2018, and it turns out writing that you're skilled, passionate or motivated may not leave a very memorable impression on potential employers.
"With applicants fighting for limited job opportunities, LinkedIn users must do more than offer carefully worded statements and bullet points about their skills," said Cameron Clark, legal fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center and academics and professions consultant at RepresetED.
And with the rolling out of LinkedIn's new Intelligent Hiring Experience in late summer of 2019, it is more important than ever to make sure your LinkedIn profile is serving you to its fullest potential.
1. Tell a story.
For many, LinkedIn serves as an online resume. But LinkedIn allows users to do more than just copy and paste their existing resume text. What do we use all that space for?
Begin with your headline. Think about how to represent yourself in the best way possible, but be succinct.
Your summary is your opportunity to share insight on what drives you and makes you different. This is the only place where this information belongs. Write this section in first person to seem approachable, human and unique.
"Your profile should tell your story," said Meghan Duffy, career coach and facilitator. "Including a solid summary that contextualizes where you've been and where you [want to go] can explain gaps or pivots along the way. Connecting the dots for a recruiter or HR makes a big difference."
It's also important not to start your summary with common buzzwords like "results-oriented leader." A quick LinkedIn search reveals 445,190 users with that term on their profiles.
LinkedIn's layout will only show the first three lines of your summary, which means users will need to click "show more" to see the rest. Make sure your initial lines include critical information and entice readers to look at the rest of your summary.
2. Supplement your experiences.
Your LinkedIn should be a narrative of your academic and professional passions.
"You can use your profile to write broadly about past experiences, adding details and context that would not normally be found on a resume confined to two pages," said Clark. Include anything you feel describes you, your skills and any value you can add to a workplace.
If you're a recent grad without significant work experience, you can build and add detail to your academic endeavors. LinkedIn's profile tools allow you to upload media files, which you can use to exhibit your skills in a direct manner. Clark recommended using class presentations, research papers and other assignments as examples of your work product.
When LinkedIn's Intelligent Hiring Experience rolls out, recruiters will have access to a Recommended Candidates tab that shows the most relevant candidates to their openings.
"This [new change will make] filling out your skills section and optimizing your profile for searches vitally important," said Steph Cartwright, professional resume writer and LinkedIn profile specialist at Off the Clock Resumes.
3. If you don't create, curate.
After you've determined what your professional presence should be and set the parameters of your expertise and areas of interest, start talking. Post regularly – a few times during the workweek is fine. Today's skill is being a curator, said Marilyn V. Santiesteban, assistant director of career services at The Bush School at Texas A&M University.
"LinkedIn … isn't a bulletin board," she said. "It's social media, and social media is all about interaction."
Follow organizations and industry leaders that interest you, and repost their updates with your own comments to add value. Show employers and colleagues that you're passionate about your career path and you know your stuff.
With your LinkedIn profile, you're creating a professional portfolio that anyone can see. If you created your profile years ago and have never touched it again, recruiters won't be interested.
"Show that you're learning new skills and tackling more complicated assignments by refreshing your job description and skills," Santiesteban said.
4. Know your competitors.
Your profile is updated and relevant to your field. Now what?
Linda Pophal, consultant for Strategic Communications, tells students in her marketing and business management classes to establish their LinkedIn profiles using common marketing principles – "most notably, positioning their profile against identified competitors."
You should also utilize LinkedIn's search to find people with specific criteria. A job seeker could use this tool to identify other people in their geographic area with the background and credentials to compete against them. Once you identify the competition, review their profiles to see how these individuals are positioning themselves.
"You're looking for any gaps that would allow you to claim a relevant position among these people," Pophal said. "You want to position yourself in ways that are different from the competition but still valued by your target audience."
Figure out who you're competing with and be better. Build a narrative, support your experiences, and recognize LinkedIn for what it is – a social media platform with the potential to be a robust, powerful professional portfolio.
Additional reporting by Carlyann Edwards. Some interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.