The saying, as it goes, is that you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. Most people in the job market barely even get a first chance.
According to an eye-tracking study by The Ladders, recruiters spend six seconds on average looking at a resume. LinkedIn profiles get even less time. According to Heather Whaley, a principal with Hunt Executive Search, these six things stand out when scanning through profiles to fill positions:
1. Are You Smiling In Your Photo?
Though it's not mandatory for your profile photo, a smile will help more than it hurts. "I definitely recommend smiling in a photo," says Whaley. Flashing some teeth can make you seem more approachable, and that, after all, is the name of the job hunting game.
But don't worry about getting professional headshots done, she says. Whaley's own profile photo was taken using an iPhone while on a date a couple years ago. But it's key that you still look like your image. "Don't use a military photo from 15 years ago," she says.
2. Write a Meaningful Headline
In many ways, the profile's headline is its most important element, because it's the one piece of information, other than your photo and current position, that shows up on LinkedIn searches.
"It should say something about who you are professionally," says Whaley. That means it shouldn't say "actively seeking opportunities," even if you are. Instead, it should say something like "an experienced warehouse manager in the beverage industry."
3. Treat Your Career History Like a Resume, Sort Of
Whaley points out that LinkedIn is actually not a job hunting or recruiting site — it's a professional networking site. So, not only should you not worry about being there, you should also populate it with your most current job history. That said, keep in mind that it's a public forum, so if there's information in your CV that should remain private (like how much revenue a department you managed brought in), simply leave it out.
Also unlike your resume, you don't have to sweat over formatting very much. And if you're unsure of how to word your profile or if you should even be on the site, just look up your boss. Whaley almost guarantees he or she is on there.
4. Who Are Your Connections?
Who you connect with on LinkedIn can be a challenging thing to wrap your head around. On the one hand, users may be reluctant to connect with people that they hardly know (or don't regard well) because they feel that their professional reputation is tied to it. On the other hand, the more connections you make on LinkedIn, the more opportunities may flow your way.
Whaley looks at people's connections on the site for a couple of reasons. "I would never discredit somebody because they don't have any shared connections of mine, but there is an instant level of confirmation or comfort when I see that we share a first- second- or third-degree connection," she says. "If I know that they are in my circle of connections . . . that tells me that if I really cared to, I could check them out." Also though, if she does share connections with a person, it's a great icebreaker when striking up a conversation, either online or in person.
5. Keep Your Education Up to Date
Here's a behind-the-scenes LinkedIn hack that worth taking note of. When searching for prospective job candidates on LinkedIn, recruiters can ask the site's search engine to only return results of people with certain educational degrees. So if you typically lop off that M.A. in Art History, you might want to put it (or any other educational information) back in. Otherwise you risk losing out.
6. Endorsements Versus Recommendations
There are two ways that people can praise your work on LinkedIn. Endorsements are quick hits, something that LinkedIn prompts users to do on the site. Whaley says endorsements tend to have more weight in filling the lower- and mid-level jobs, because HR generalists are using LinkedIn exclusively to fill open positions. It's easier to find people with the necessary skills when they've been endorsed for them.
Recommendations, meanwhile, take a little more initiative to attain — either someone will write one for you because they are so impressed with your work, or they'll write one for you because you asked them to (and hopefully they were also still impressed with your work). Because recommendations take more effort, they carry more weight with recruiters, says Whaley. "A recommendation is synonymous with a reference," she says.