Written by Asif Akbar, author of The Agile Student, who gratefully acknowledges the input of others’
The world of recruitment has dramatically changed, from social media platforms in sourcing candidates to Automated Tracking Systems (ATS) software to screen candidates. If you have recently graduated, or you are seeking work experience (in terms of placements, part-time or voluntary work), LinkedIn is a great resource for you.
People have the common misconception that LinkedIn is a place just for professionals. However, this isn’t the case: undergraduates, graduates and apprentices can utilize this platform to their advantage. Over the past ten years, LinkedIn has grown in popularity and use in the professional world, particularly when it comes to recruitment for talent recruiters and hiring managers seeking candidates, across various business industries.
Five Steps to writing a stellar LinkedIn profile
Some employers reject candidates if they do not have a LinkedIn profile, and the same applies if your LinkedIn profile is basic and bland. Quartz explains that organisations often overlook candidates if they seem disinterested in networking. Many companies prefer to hire graduates who have taken it upon themselves to start networking early and have developed a small network before entering the world of professional employment.
As I said earlier, depending on your course you may have already been made aware of the importance and value that LinkedIn can provide when you start your journey into the professional world. You may have already been asked “do you have a LinkedIn profile I can look at?” So, if you apply these five steps below, I am confident they will assist you in crafting an eye-catching profile. Let your content work for you by giving you the best possible advantage of being discovered by a pool of talent recruiters in industry.
Step 1: Upload a professional photograph
Yes, LinkedIn is a social media platform, but it is a professional platform. Therefore, the first step is to upload a professional and appealing photograph. You do not want to introduce yourself to 364 million LinkedIn members with a Snapchat filter picture. Ask a friend or family member to take a clear headshot of you wearing an interview outfit or business attire. If you have graduated recently, you might consider using a photo from your graduation. Or why not take a picture of you ‘in action’ e.g. doing some task relevant to your degree or the industry you’re hoping to enter. For example, I have some ‘action shots’ of myself helping other business professionals on my LinkedIn profile. Browse through the LinkedIn profiles of people working in your chosen industry to see what sort of photographs they have chosen, and what style you prefer.
Step 2: Write a compelling headline
You only have 120 characters to introduce yourself as a professional candidate who can make a difference in the eyes of potential employers. It is worth bearing in mind when talent recruiters use searches to locate potential candidates that you will only be visible in the search if you have included industry buzz-words or business terms in your headline (also known as a ‘tag-line’). Moreover, if you do appear in a recruiter’s search, and your tag-line is not appealing, then you may well be disregarded. So, it is essential you can make your tag-line readable, understandable and inspiring.
Many people make the mistake of writing “graduate” and no more. However, you have been studying for three or four years and should have other things to say about yourself to make yourself visible to the professionals in your industry. For example, “Innovative Business Honours Student seeking a marketing position to deliver new practices for business growth.” In this example, there are three industry keywords that will improve your chances of being discovered in this vast network of professionals. Ensure that you have the industry-specific buzzwords included. If you are unsure, I recommend having a look at some recent job postings, as you will find these under the “skills” section.
Step 3: Provide key facts in the ‘summary’ field
This section is like your professional summary on your CV. It is important not rush this section because if your headline has captured the attention from a recruiter, this is where they will be looking next. Describing yourself can be difficult, but it is essential that you sell yourself by crafting a compelling case of key skills, industry knowledge and work experience that add value in your chosen industry. For example, if you undertook a placement or other form of work experience, get it in there to stand out from your competition. Your summary should include:
- Work Experience*
- Qualifications & Achievements
- Industry Knowledge
- Career Goals & Future Aspirations
*Work Experience. You might not have had an industry placement, or any experience other than your studies. Do not worry: you still have experience! You can mention your modules, your dissertation subject, what skills you developed as an individual or within a team, highlighting your strengths. Showcase your knowledge and demonstrate that you can offer innovative approaches and new ideas to their company. Paint a picture of what they view as the perfect candidate. When you have completed the summary section, ask a careers advisor to review it in terms of its structure, reader impact, spelling and grammar.
Although I have touched on this in step two, it is essential to continue using industry-specific words. Remember that employers may well use an ATS, or Boolean searches to source appropriate candidates based on keywords related to the role and industry. Therefore, integrating keywords organically throughout your LinkedIn profile is recommended. However, if you do not possess a specific skill, don’t pretend to have it. If it is a core skill for the job, you will soon be found out in the interview; and if it is not a core skill for the job, there is no benefit to you in mentioning it.
Step 4: Recommendations and Endorsements
For those of you who have undertaken work experience, ask your line manager or another colleague to add a ‘Recommendation’ to your profile. This is like a short appraisal or testimonial that can showcase things like your character, team spirit and other skills for future potential employers to read. Another little hack that you can utilize to your advantage is ‘Endorsements’ When it comes to the ‘Skills and Endorsements’ section other LinkedIn members can endorse you, so ask fellow graduates to endorse you, and vice-versa.
Step 5: Join Industry Groups and Network
The best way to build a network of professionals is by joining Groups dedicated to a specific field or industry. Within these groups, members can post topics for discussion, which you can respond to and follow. Customers might post problems with their product and request advice from others. In one situation I was able to provide guidance on best practices in order to help a company. This can lead to ‘connecting’ with them and working together on future projects. Furthermore, other people within the customer’s network may be able to see my profile and connect with me, or the customer themselves may recommend me to other businesses suffering from the same issues. It is very rewarding when you can actually help toward or even fully solve business problems faced by others in your industry, and this will help people will remember your name as a ‘go-to’ person in their connections list.
This step is my favourite part of LinkedIn and I believe the most valuable and rewarding element in terms of networking, where you can also share and comment on posts for others to see This is a positive sign from the eyes of a recruiters where they can see you are pro-actively using LinkedIn and engaging with others in a professional network.
Would you submit a half-filled CV? The same principle applies when it comes to your LinkedIn profile. If you apply the five steps listed above, then you are closer to having an eye-catching profile and building a professional network. It is an invaluable tool where you can showcase your personality, networking skills and gain recognition in a specific industry to capture the attention of talent recruiters, and get your foot in the door of employers offering industry placements or graduate/apprentice roles.