THE JOBSEEKER’S GUIDE TO THE LINKEDIN GALAXY
Recruiters have one simple aim: to reject you. Think about it. They have a sea of candidates to choose from and limited time in which to do it. Finding the best candidate boils down to 2 processes: search then reject. They want a strong shortlist and though the basic recruitment process is unchanged, the method now is efficiently modern. Better search tools, tons of data, all available at their fingertips. LinkedIn’s Recruiter Package costs $8,500 per year per seat (per user). You don’t need special training to use it. That seat is usually filled by an entry level HR Coordinator who will pass on the search results to someone else to take a second glance. It’s therefore more than likely that your professional future is in the hands of someone who recently left college. Why should the jobseeker care? Because – by understanding how you’re found and what factors into the decision-making beyond that, you can tip the balance in your favor and survive the initial cut. You want to be on the only short-list that matters: the interview list.
SHOULD YOU SPELL IT OUT?
Many jobseekers ask me if they should add “seeking” “currently available” “looking for a new challenge” in their Headline or job title. I say no. Why? Because – the vast majority of people who are browsing your Profile daily are totally uninterested in your status as a candidate. Ask yourself, what do you do when you see “seeking” “currently available” “looking for a new challenge” close to a stranger’s name? You make a split-second judgement call, don’t you? It’s not favorable, is it? When people see that plaintive statement right up there before they’ve even had a chance to glimpse the rest of your spiel, they scent the desperation/panic and get turned off. They inevitably stop reading and do something more interesting instead. It’s rude to ask for something up front and shows a lack of sophistication. There’s both art and science to engaging online and in real life. That famous line from Jerry Maguire at the end of the movie, when Jerry expresses his love in a long-winded speech to Dorothy, Dorothy’s reply was the simple phrase: “You had me at hello.” Well adding “seeking” “currently available” “looking for a new challenge” results in the majority of your Profile audience thinking “You lost me at hello” and walking away. While it’s true that adding “seeking” “looking” “opportunity” all have SEO value (people could find you by focusing on these terms when they search) it’s more likely that the entry level HR Coordinator will be running searches on specific Skill keywords and favoring the 80% of LinkedIn users who recruiters classify as ‘passive candidates’ (not actively looking for a job). That $8,500 Recruiter Package has 25 search fields, they can find great candidates without your help. The smarter strategy if you’re currently on the market is to provide a clever and unique Headline (i.e “Eagle-eyed Project Manager with International Experience. Never late, ever.”) and add a warm call to action (at the end of your thoroughly engaging Summary) which may appeal to some people reading your Profile and neutralizes the risk of turning any of them off (i.e “If you are in the Project Management field or know of any great opportunities, please get in touch. I’m always happy to talk shop“.).
THE POWER OF ENDORSEMENTS
Launched in September 2012, 2 billion given so far, 50 million granted weekly, clearly not a fad. If you dismiss LinkedIn Endorsements and complain that people who you “don’t know” are giving you Endorsements for your Skills, you’re missing the bigger picture. LinkedIn is powerful precisely because its users share data willingly and often. Self-curated current data is why LinkedIn can charge $8,500 for their Recruiter Package. LinkedIn rewards those users who share data and punishes those that don’t. 2 examples: if you complete your Profile and attain “All star” status, you’ll show up in search results. If you’re not an “All star”, you’ll never appear in search. If you don’t have a bevy of Endorsements warranted or otherwise, you’ll appear lower in search results (i.e buried). Though LinkedIn does not currently offer Recruiters or anyone else for that matter a way to search on Endorsements per se, we now know for a fact that Endorsements factor into the LinkedIn search algorithm.
Donna Svei’s blog post “LinkedIn Takes Endorsements Very Seriously for Search Results“. Says “The number of times you’ve been endorsed for the key word MATTERS”.
Brad Mauney, Group Product Manager, LinkedIn in an article by Sharlyn Lauby “LinkedIn Endorsements. Why They’re Important and How To Use Them.” Says “LinkedIn’s algorithms do take your skills and endorsements into account.”
MarginHound blog “You know what those one-click endorsements smell like? Links. The skills are the keywords. Once you have started accumulating this data, you can rate the authority / credibility of a profile for a given skill. It looks like Linkedin may be trying to adapt Google’s Pagerank algorithm (or something similar) to ranking candidates for specific skillsets.”
Endorsements will undoubtedly become much more useful over time, there’s no cap beyond the 99 that are initially shown on your Profile. So when someone has the choice of deciding between a candidate with 84 Endorsements for “Project Management” and another with 804, who do you think they will choose to sit down with? Accruing Endorsements is one of the smartest strategies available for jobseekers on LinkedIn right now. There’s no better way to be proactive, appear in search, look capable/admired and know with certainty who your supporters and allies are. My proven method for getting Endorsements in a hurry? Ask for them (i.e “John, I’ve decided that Endorsements are good to have and I’d be very grateful if you could take a few moments to endorse me for those Skills you know I have. Many thanks, Andy.”).
In May 2013 LinkedIn users were given the power to engage visually, via “Rich media”. It was a huge change and transformed a text-heavy resume site overnight into a multi-dimensional career portal. Jobseekers in particular can stand out from the crowd by adding compelling visuals (slides, video presentations or links to blogs) which attract browser attention and buy additional precious seconds of consideration. In February a French jobseeker (Philippe Dubost) advertised his availability by building an Amazon page as his resume, replete with product dimensions, five-star ratings and world-wide shipping. His page earned him 27,000 Facebook likes, over 1.5 million views, 800 messages and a dream job all within weeks. Milton Berle said “If opportunity doesn’t knock, then build a door”. Philippe built a truly remarkable door. His innovative creativity was duly rewarded and you have a similar opportunity to get people knocking. He understood the power of personal branding and found a clever and unique way to stand out visually. Jobseekers should add at least 5 visually compelling and relevant “Rich media” files to their Profile. 2 good examples:
The Ladders conducted a fascinating study in August and shared some key findings related to how recruiters navigated resumes. They found that recruiters spend an average of 6.2 seconds browsing a resume. This is the initial look to decide whether to take a deeper dive later. Recruiters look at 6 specific areas on a resume in a very specific order:
(2) Current job title & company
(3) Current position start & end dates
(4) Previous job title & company
(5) Previous position start & end dates
Recruiters also looked at a resume top to bottom, down the middle of the page. How did The Ladders get this information? They tracked exactly where recruiters looked by using a heat map.
Though this study was specifically geared to resumes, there are lessons here for the jobseeker’s LinkedIn Profile. You’ve got approximately 6 seconds to impress. Most of the key data recruiters want can be found at the top of your Profile, near your photograph. Education’s default position on your Profile is near the bottom. Though you can move all of your LinkedIn Profile sections, I would keep Education towards the bottom of your page. Why? Because it forces recruiters to scroll through your other sections (Summary and Endorsements/Skills in particular). The final takeaway is that unlike the resume which usually has to get through an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) trawling exclusively for select keywords, your LinkedIn Profile needs a set of human eyes to make a decision. You should therefore ask yourself a fundamental question: Is your LinkedIn Profile a tightly co-ordinated, highly engaging advertising campaign? Or a shopping list of multiple bullets, specialties and other boring thickets of text? You need to show that you’re great and qualified at what you do but that you also know how to brand yourself via Social Media. Recruiters will be looking at your message and method. Make every word and image count, don’t make silly mistakes and don’t give that time-poor, harassed and busy human a reason to reject you.
You can follow 1,000 organizations on LinkedIn (many limits on LinkedIn are seemingly arbitrary) and why wouldn’t you go nuts? There’s absolutely no downside, following all of the organizations you admire or have an interest in is a no-brainer. Follow a company before you apply for a role they have open, maybe the hiring manager will choose to interview you because you followed. Maybe he/she has a policy of only interviewing folks who follow his/her organization. Kind of like a corporate version of the Endorsement. Easy to give, nice to have, looks good on your Profile and lots of potential upside for both parties.
In my experience, very few people enjoy writing about themselves. Ask what makes them special and they really struggle. We find it difficult to self-edit, we are not all wordsmiths, we can’t be objective about our strengths; there are many reasons for this kind of writer’s block. But you really need to write that bestseller. Your LinkedIn Summary is what the seasoned recruiter will look at after you’ve survived the initial cut. I’ve written a post about what makes a “Stunningly Good” LinkedIn Summary. I’m available to write yours. In this sense I’m a jobseeker too.
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That’s all from me for this week. If you found this post useful, don’t keep it all to yourself. Go ahead and share this article with your own network (see those buttons on the sliding thing on the left?).
By Andy Foote
[postscript]: Fans of the fabulous and highly original “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” book will hopefully appreciate my nod to this great work of fiction. It’s interesting to note that a few of the more famous quotes have a career/work theme:
”Come on,” he droned, “I’ve been ordered to take you down to the bridge. Here I am, brain the size of a planet and they ask me to take you down to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction? ‘Cos I don’t.”
”To summarize: it is a well known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.”