I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up (still don’t!), so I took the LSATs, went to law school and became an attorney. I quickly realized I would have been a great lawyer if it wasn’t for all that darned fine print!
I’m guessing I’m not the only headhunter with thousands upon thousands of LinkedIn connections. Deciding to go through my list, I discovered that about half of them were not directly related to my legal and compliance practice. I had friends, family, all kinds of people who had asked me to connect, as well as candidates and hiring managers related to jobs I had worked on that were outside of my usual routine (legal, compliance, audit). In the course of culling my list, I began noticing that not all profiles are created equally. Scrolling down the list, I saw that some titles gave me all of the important information, while others left me in a cloud of confusion.
People have their reasons for doing what they do. Sometimes I get it, sometimes not so much. Why go to a party and not engage in conversation? Maybe you just want to sit on the sidelines and watch the parade. Perhaps you’re just shy. The same might be said for LinkedIn. It is primarily a business networking platform, so why would you not network? For many reasons, I suppose. Maybe you are not seeking work, but just want to read the feed or see who’s on the site. I’ll save those of you some time: this article is directly targeted to job seekers looking to gain the attention of hiring managers and recruiters.
The observations and advice presented here for free are similar to what LinkedIn experts (and there are many) charge $100+/hour for. So PAY ATTENTION! You might pick up some helpful tips.
When you click on a profile, you will first see a picture (or an empty circle where a picture could be inserted). Some people prefer to not have a picture, presumably because they would like some degree of privacy, they are lazy, or maybe they simply don’t like the way they think they look. For those who do post a picture (and I heartily recommend that you do, as it can create a strong impression), remember- this is the first impression and it should be a good one. I know we live in a “business casual” world, but you should pick something to wear that is appropriate to the work environment you hope to be in. No torn shirts, sloppy, greasy hair, please. Smiling is optional, but I’ve seen pictures that would be more appropriate on a post office wall (“wanted for arson”). Good lighting is important; I’ve seen far too many shots where the facial image was almost completely shrouded in darkness. Some folks like to be a bit creative. I’ve seen lots of shots on the beach, on the boat, on the golf course, even in the bar. To each his own, but please think about the impression you are projecting. I also, bizarrely, (and predominantly with the younger crowd) see a lot of pictures with people holding coffee cups and phones (taking selfies or just lovingly staring at the screen). DON’T EVER DO THIS, PEOPLE! Starbucks does not need the free advertising. In my opinion, the best shot is a simple one with your face pointing directly at the camera, maybe at a slight angle. Never completely sideways (it strikes me as a bit mysterious). Finally, unless you literally just graduated high school or college, PLEASE LEAVE THE CAP AND GOWN OUT OF THE PICTURE! If you are currently working, why in the world would you want to give a potential employer the impression that you are still in, or just left, school? (Note to self: Calm Down, Dave).
BEFORE YOU CLICK OPEN THE PROFILE, YOU WILL SEE TWO THINGS:
1. YOUR NAME
Underneath your picture is where your name and title should be. I would suggest that if you go by “Kathy,” for example, then “Kathy” should be what you put on your profile (some folks like to say “Kathleen (Kathy)” to indicate that they enjoy being called by their diminutive name. This is fine. Sheldon (Bud) Kelly is fine. Generally, if you prefer to be called one thing or the other, put it out there.
2. YOUR TITLE
Underneath your name comes your title. This is the single most important line in your entire profile. Hiring managers, talent acquisition teams and recruiters are working frantically and relentlessly to find the needle in the haystack that is you. Job descriptions are detailed and focused. Nobody is looking to hire a “financial professional.” That is not a job description. We are seeking a “Junior Fixed Income Surveillance Analyst.” We who hire do not have time to scan each and every profile in order to find out what exactly it is that you do. Make it easy for us and we will show you the love. I see a lot of “John Smith-Associate.” Associate WHAT? You could be an associate in a compliance department, a law firm, or a Walmart. If I can get a good sense of what your general skill-set is, I WILL open your profile. If I’m pressed for time and I don’t get even a clue as to what you do, I just might move on without ever opening your profile.
BAD: John Smith-Associate
GOOD: John W. Smith-Associate, Equity Compliance, Retail Division at Morgan Stanley (note the “W”. If you have a very common name, try using a middle initial, assuming you have one. This will distinguish you from the 10,000 other John Smiths in your region).
AFTER YOU CLICK OPEN THE PROFILE
Underneath the “connect” button is a space where you can insert information. This is a great place for you to “advertise your brand.” You can talk up your strengths, your work history, insert some personal anecdotes, talk a bit about your passions, hobbies, family, whatever. This is the place to state your case! That’s why I have to wonder (1) why so many people leave this space blank, and (2) why so many people use this space to insert generic, boilerplate company cheerleading. You know what I’m talkin’ about: “Company X is a leader in so and so, and has been leading for 150 years”, blah blah blah. Let your company do its own advertising; this is YOUR advertisement. (There may be an exception for talent acquisition workers; they have a vested interest in making their firm attractive to potential hires).
THE EXPERIENCE SECTION
This is similar to the “title” section under your name. Here’s a case study. I’ll call her “Jane Doe.” She lists her title as “Assistant Vice President.” She lists the titles of her last three roles as “Compliance Officer,” for a registered investment advisor, “Compliance Officer,” for a major international financial institution, and “Compliance Officer” for a well-known investment bank. What types of compliance did she do? Was it the same at all three firms? Was she ever promoted? Were these all lateral moves? Combined with the fact that her blurb space was completely empty, we know surprisingly little about her and her job experiences. But she did have a nice picture! (Ms. Doe, please feel free to call me at (914) 693-9165 for a free consult).
SOME FINAL ANCILLARY OBSERVATIONS
The profile contains places for “skills and endorsements,” “recommendations,” “interests,” and published articles. I recommend taking advantage of these spaces. List your specific skills and ask people to endorse them. Ask people if they would be willing to recommend you for this or that skill. Adding your interests and followings will give readers a sense of what you are all about, inside and outside of work. Finally, take an hour or so, write and publish one article based on your particular expertise. This lets people know that you have something to say and are able to express it articulately.
I guarantee that, if you take my advice, your profile WILL be seen and read by hiring managers and recruiters seeking to fill roles that require your skill-set. Happy hunting!
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David L. Reitman, Esq.