MONEY job search

10 Ways to Speed Up Your Job Search

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Want to land a new gig in 2015? Then you'd better launch a personal marketing campaign, career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine says.

The start of the new year is traditionally a good time for hiring.

Yes, this means that job seekers should refine their résumés. But your C.V. is just one of multiple ways job seekers should market themselves. I can think of 10 more off the bat.

I know what you’re thinking: 10 tools, in addition to a resume, sounds like a lot of work

However, many of these build on each other and support the answer to “Why should an employer hire you?” And that’s a question job seekers must answer confidently and convincingly.

Here are the 10 things you’ve got to work on to help propel your search:

1. Social Media Profile

More companies are using social media to find candidates. When you update your resume, update your online profiles as well.

2. Social Media Activity

Don’t just change the details on your profile. Update your status, post an interesting article related to your line of work, make a comment that showcases your professional expertise. If you are looking for a job that requires social media savvy, having a static profile—however, updated—will not be enough without regular and relevant activity.

3. Headshot

You don’t need a professional to take your photo, but you do need a professional-looking photo. A photo on your social profiles makes you seem more personable. Also, from a practical standpoint, a picture can help you with networking—some people won’t remember your name after having met you once or a while ago, but they might remember your face.

4. Cover Letter

A cover letter is not a rehash of your resume. It enables you to highlight your most relevant and compelling facts. It helps you smooth over a story that includes employment gaps and/or career changes. It is a chance for you to make the case for why your dream employer should hire you.

5. Cover Email

You can’t just copy and paste your cover letter into the text of an email. It will be too long and too formal. A cover email is like a cover letter in that it highlights the best, explains away any red flags and makes a compelling case—but it has to do this in a fraction of the space.

6. 20-second Pitch

When you meet someone, you need to introduce yourself. What you say is part of how you market yourself. Keep in mind that your new connection ideally can introduce you to others, including possible employers. So what you say needs to be memorable and repeatable.

7. 2-minute Pitch

You also need to be able to talk about yourself in more than a 20-second sound bite. You may book a networking meeting over coffee and have the chance to share more about your background. Aim for two minutes. This is enough time to give the arc of your career, as well as highlight key accomplishments.

8. Your Pitch for Someone Else to Use

Your friend offers to help and will forward your resume or make an introduction at an event. What do you want your friend to say? Using your cover email and 20-second pitch, be ready with a version in the third person that someone can use to introduce you.

9. Portfolio

Of course, a writer should have clips, and a designer should have samples. But a software developer can showcase programs, a marketer can share a campaign, a consultant can share a slide presentation that summarizes the business case developed. Every professional can showcase their work in some way. A visual, tangible example is so much more powerful than a wordy explanation.

10. Personal website

You can pull all of these items together—social profile, social updates, headshot, short introduction, portfolio, and resume—in a personal website branded with your name. You can list your URL on your business card and résumé to point employers to additional information. A recent survey of over 15,000 job seekers by branded.me and The .ME Registry showed only 4% had personal websites, which implies just having a personal website would be one point of differentiation.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column appears weekly.

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This Is the Absolute Perfect Way to Describe Yourself

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Know these four points and you're well on your way

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It’s been scientifically proven that talking about yourself makes your brain happy. Then why is it always so hard to write a professional bio for yourself?

That blinking cursor can be a nemesis when you have lots to share but you don’t know where to begin and you don’t want to bore anyone away by saying too much.

Don’t sweat it! You can write a bio that sends the right message and sounds like the true “you.” Here are four things to keep in mind.

1. Know Your Audience

When you’re writing your bio, you’re likely thinking about, well, you. But a better starting point is to think about who will be reading it.

Imagine a specific individual who will read your bio, and write for her. For instance, let’s say you’re on an alumni panel for your college. Student attendees will want to know what they should be doing now to get the career you have. In this case, your bio should reflect less of your day-to-day work responsibilities and more of the past campus activities and classes that helped you get the job.

The same applies for the bio on your company’s website. If you’ve been asked to write your own, think of a client who will visit the office. What should he know about potentially working on a project with you?

When you approach the process from the standpoint of what people will want to know about you—not how to condense your life story into two paragraphs—things tend to get a whole lot easier.

2. Know Yourself

Your bio shouldn’t be a laundry list of accomplishments; that’s what your resume is for. Instead, use it to show the person behind the accolades. You are more than your job role (especially if you have a trendy startup title; I’m looking at you ninjas and rock stars), so think about the strengths that make you good at what you do.

For example, in all of my jobs since college, I’ve been responsible for writing PowerPoint decks and documents to persuade others about ideas. “Strategy” has been in my job titles, but since that word has so many different meanings, I decided to focus on “story” when I talk about what I do. While “story” is also a general term, I’ve found that it connects better with the kind of help my clients and potential clients are seeking. The person who is thinking “my company’s story needs some work” is exactly who I want to reach.

Knowing yourself also means knowing your voice. Be authentic. Write about what you know best and write the way that you talk. If your bio readers ever meet you in person, they should feel as if they already knew you. One note of caution though: unless you are a comedian on the side, avoid using humor in your writing. If you can confuse tone when reading text messages, missing tone when reading a joke can be just as bad. (See Key & Peele for Exhibit A.)

3. Know Your Limits

Just as your resume is best when it fits on just one page, the person requesting your bio will also require a certain length. Whether it is two sentences, two paragraphs, or 200 words, respect the limit and challenge yourself to write just 50% of what is asked.

Why? Two reasons.

First, because your bio will be listed alongside others. If yours is noticeably shorter than the others but still packs a punch, it is more likely to get read (and remembered). Not to mention that event organizers may chop your bio down arbitrarily if you don’t follow their rules.

Second, because everything needs a second draft. Don’t just throw something together and send it off. Write it, sleep on it, then come back to it and ask: “Would I want to meet me?” Your bio should sound as close to your voice as possible (note: ask your organizer if it is appropriate to write in the first person) and leave room for intrigue. And when you catch yourself listing your fifth award, cut it short and write “Ask me about being a Rhodes Scholar” (if you’ve been one, of course!).

4. Know Your Clichés

When you spend nearly a third of your life at work, it’s easy to forget that the rest of the world doesn’t speak your industry’s language.

Use your bio to share facts and impact in plain English. Instead of saying you “managed multiplatform brand extensions to increase reach among P12-17,” say that you helped a brand reach a bigger audience of teenagers by being an effective project manager.

To be safe, before sending your bio to publish, double check to make sure none of your copy sounds like you wrote it in Corporate Ipsum, Startup Ipsum, or Social Good Ipsum.

If you’re still having trouble after trying these tips, give the Twitter Bio Generator a spin. You may not be a “Future teen idol” or “Freelance bacon nerd,” but you can get some good inspiration (or pretend to be one and get folks interested that way!).

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How to Show Off Your Promotions On Your Resume

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Moving up at a company shows that you’re a high performer, you achieve results, and you’re a loyal and dedicated employee

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

I think we’d all agree that there’s nothing bad about getting promoted or landing a better position at your company.

Except, well, figuring out how to list it on your resume.

When you’ve moved from a position at Company A to a new position at Company B, fleshing out your “Experience” section is pretty straightforward. But if you’ve moved up in your department or switched roles within your organization, there are a couple options.

The good news? If you can show your advancement right, you’ll get a gold star in the eyes of a hiring manager. Read on for a super-quick guide for how to showcase your experience in the best possible light—and land that next big thing.

If the Jobs Were Similar in Nature

If two or more of your jobs were very similar in nature (e.g., you were promoted from associate editor to editor, but your overall job duties pretty much stayed the same), stack the job titles together under the company header, like this:

The Walt Disney Company, Los Angeles, CA

Editor (January 2012-Present)

Associate Editor (January 2011-January 2012)

  • Bullet 1
  • Bullet 2
  • Bullet 3

The bullets you include should describe your most high-level and impressive accomplishments during your tenure at both of these roles combined—not each individually. Remember our #1 resume tip: “Think of your resume not as a comprehensive list of your career history, but as a marketing document selling you as the perfect person for the job.” In other words, even if your duties slightly shifted when you changed positions, it’s more important to highlight your best work than to spell out all of your job duties in those early days.

You can also include a bullet that expands upon the accomplishments that led to your promotion (for example, “Promoted within 12 months for exceptional client relations and leadership skills”). This makes it clear to the hiring manager that your move wasn’t just a matter of happenstance (or someone else leaving)—you earned it.

If the Jobs Were Pretty Different

On the other hand, if the jobs you’ve held at your company were in different roles (e.g., you moved from marketing coordinator to associate editor), list the company once but break out the job titles, treating them like two different positions:

The Walt Disney Company, Los Angeles, CA

Associate Editor (January 2012-Present)

  • Bullet 1
  • Bullet 2
  • Bullet 3

Marketing Coordinator (May 2011-January 2012)

  • Bullet 1
  • Bullet 2
  • Bullet 3

Again, for each position, you’ll want to describe your biggest accomplishments and experience that most relates to the positions you’re applying for. And if the new role was a step up, rather than a lateral move, be sure to make that clear, saying something like: “Promoted within company because of demonstrated project leadership skills.”

You’ll also want to use this format if you’re applying in an online system, where you’re asked to include a description of your experience for each role. In this case, you may have to input the company’s information each time—but that’s OK. Even if it’s repetitive, the hiring manager will see that you’ve moved up within the same company (and be impressed).

Moving up at a company shows that you’re a high performer, you achieve results, and you’re a loyal and dedicated employee. Make sure your resume tells that story—and you’re bound to land an interview.

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7 Things To Remove From Your Resume Right Now

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Be brutally objective and cut the fat

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

We all talk a fair game about what needs to be on your resume, but there’s also plenty of stuff that should be removed. The fluff. The blabber. The full-on oddities. And even some of the details you think are important.

Here’s the thing: If you want a shot at grabbing your target audience and showing them what you’re made of, every section of your resume needs to be thoughtfully constructed, and every word carefully placed.

So, let’s all get out our big red markers; we’re going to start marking that baby up. Here are seven things that you absolutely must drop-kick from your resume.

1. An Objective

The vast majority of objectives say nothing. Oh, so you’re seeking a challenging position with a growing corporation that will allow you to make a positive contribution, are you? How groundbreaking.

Instead

Craft an executive summary or “Who I Am” section that showcases your overarching value proposition (or, as I call it, your “So what?”) and speaks directly to the stuff you know the target audience is going to care the most about. This is your chance to make it clear you’re a strong fit.

2. Weird or Potentially Polarizing Interests

Do you practice witchcraft, preside over your local gun club, or spend endless hours practicing your extraordinary mime routine? Terrific. But unless you are applying for jobs that will specifically value these interests (or they’re flat-out amazing conversation starters), leave them off. Decision makers will judge the heck out of you if they spot hobbies that fly in the face of their own personal beliefs or seem odd.

Instead

Include interests only if you feel they support your overall professional message and brand. If you’re a dietician who maintains a recipe blog for fun, yes. If you’re an accountant who enjoys photographing people’s feet, absolutely not.

3. Third-Person Voice

The fastest way to sound like a pompous goof is to construct your resume in the third person—à la “John raised more than $70,000 for the organization.” Every single time I read a resume in which the author does this, all I can think of is someone sitting around in a smoking jacket, with a pipe, pontificating on and on about himself. Don’t do it.

Instead

When you write a resume, your name and contact information are at the top of the page. For this reason alone, the receiver will most assuredly deduce that the document he or she is receiving was, indeed, from you. So write the resume in the first person, minus the pronouns (e.g., “Raised more than $70,000”).

4. An Email Address From Your Current Employer

Nothing says, “I job search on company time” quite like using your current work email address on a resume. Unless you own the company, it’s poor form to run your job search through your company’s email system.

Instead

Easy–use your personal email for all job search business. And, ideally, your own time.

5. Unnecessarily Big Words

Why “utilize” when you can “use?” Why “append” when you can “add?” It’s not “analogous;” it’s really just “similar.” Using non-conversational words doesn’t make you look smart; it makes you look like someone who spends too much time in a thesaurus.

Instead

Run the “would I ever say this in real life?” test on every phrase and sentence in your resume. If you find words or statements that don’t read like something you’d say? Change ’em up.

6. Tiny, Unimportant Jobs From 15+ Years Ago

Your resume is not an autobiography of every job you’ve held since you graduated; it’s a marketing document. So, unless something you did more than 12-15 years ago is vital for your target audience to know about, you don’t need to list the entry-level job or internship you held in 1994. It’s totally OK to leave some of the life history off.

Instead

For each former job, think about what you did or achieved that will be required (or will hold significant value) in your next role. Showcase only that stuff. If your first job out of college does nothing to support this overall message? It’s probably not needed.

7. Lies

If you’d like me to, I’ll launch into the story about the field engineer I worked with who was this close to landing a great job—until the employer conducted a degree verification and discovered that, while he’d taken courses at that university, he didn’t graduate. The kicker? He didn’t even need a degree to qualify for that job. But because he got caught in a lie, he didn’t get it.

Instead

Strategize. (In this case, I would have suggested that this engineer load his education section with professional development courses and certifications, which would have made an equally great impact.) Whatever you do, do not lie.

Editing a resume can be tough. People tend to be quite attached to the things they’ve done or accomplished professionally, and passionate about their outside interests. But the bottom line is this: You need to have everything working for you on your resume. Be brutally objective, cut the fat, and for goodness’ sake, leave off all details of your vast collection of clown figures.

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How Following Up Can Help You Land the Job

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Follow-up e-mail scripts are available for your use

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

“I don’t want to put a potential offer in jeopardy.”

“I don’t want to be a pest.”

“I’d rather just wait and see what happens.”

These are three of the most common responses I get when I advise job seekers to follow up with a potential employer about a job they’ve interviewed for. We’ve probably all had these thoughts, and you may have said these things yourself, but I’ve got news for you: If done right, following up shouldn’t hurt your chances of getting a job. In fact, in some cases, it can really help.

Here are three reasons you shouldn’t be afraid to send a follow-up email to a hiring manager you’re itching to hear back from—and sample scripts that will make your message as effective as possible.

1. It Can Give You Peace of Mind

A recruiter or hiring managers tells you that you’ll hear back by a certain date—but that date has passed and you’ve heard nada. It’s easy to start overanalyzing what this means, but know that it probably speaks more to the recruiter’s schedule than your chances as a candidate. There could be competing priorities, someone out of the office, or other interviews going on. There’s even a chance the recruiter simply forgot to update you (it’s more common than we’d like to admit). And once you know what’s up, you’ll be able to relax a bit.

I suggest first waiting four or five business days after the date you were told to avoid being annoying. Then, there’s no harm in shooting over a quick note.

The Script

Dear [hiring manager’s name],

I hope all is well. I just wanted to check in and see if there’s an update on the timeline or status for the [job title] position I interviewed for on [date of interview]. I’m still very interested and look forward to hearing back from you.

Why This Works

You respectfully ask for the update you want without putting the employer on the defensive by calling attention to the missed “deadline” or by demanding an answer. (That never goes well.)

Note: If you still receive no response, I suggest giving it another one to two weeks. Then, forward along your previous note (to show the hiring manager that you did reach out and care about the opportunity) and say, “Just wanted to follow up on my previous note. Please let me know when you have a moment. Looking forward to an update!”

2. It Gives You a Chance to Strut Your Stuff (a Little More)

Sometimes you leave an interview, send a thank-you note, then realize days later that you have a great idea, something else you should’ve asked, or another example that demonstrates your abilities.

When this happens, a follow-up note is the perfect time to show that the company is still on your mind and you’re really mulling on how you can help. Lead with asking for an update, as suggested above, and then go into your business question or suggestion.

The Script

Since we last spoke, I couldn’t stop thinking about our conversation about [business challenge you discussed]. I wondered if the team has considered [your idea for a solution]? I faced something similar at [previous company name] and this [explain positive result, with numbers if possible].

Why This Works

Not only does this type of note show that you’re still interested and excited, it showcases (and reminds the hiring manager) just how great you’d be for the job. Additionally, reaching out to offer a business solution is something most candidates don’t do—so it can set you apart and demonstrate your ability to take initiative without being asked.

3. It Can Move Things Along or Give You Closure

You’ve received a good offer that you think you’d be happy with, but you’re still waiting to hear back from your first choice employer. You don’t want to lose the possibility of a good job when it’s in your hands, but you also aren’t ready to give up hope for a position at your dream company.

In this scenario, following up can nudge the hiring manager at the job you’d really like to get and push the process forward. Or, at the very least, it can give you closure and help you focus your energy on the opportunity at hand.

The Script

Dear [hiring manager’s name],

I hope all is well. I wanted to check in on the status of the [job title] position, as I’ve received an offer from another company. I’m still very much interested in joining the team at [company name], and wanted to get an update on my candidacy and the timeline before making a decision. Please let me know when you have a moment. Thanks!

Why This Works

It’s short, it’s to the point, it demonstrates your honesty, and it reaffirms your interest in moving forward. Also, it’s the nice thing to do. Often times, a recruiter (myself included) will follow up with a candidate on next steps, and hear back that the person has already accepted a job. It’s frustrating for both parties, and usually something we remember if we ever run across you again in the future (hey, people do change jobs).

Sure, following up too much can certainly get you labeled as over-eager. But, if done in the right way, a simple follow-up note could be exactly what seals the deal.

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What to Tell an Interviewer Who Says You’re Overqualified

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Honesty is the key to many doors yet to be opened

Answer by Jason Ewing on Quora.

Be honest. If you’re looking for a job that’s lower in stress level and easier to manage while you go back to school, then say that.

If you’re applying for a position with a company you would be interested in working for post graduation then explaining that could help as well. “Ultimately, once I finish my degree, I’d love a chance to do X kind of job here, but for right now…”

If you aren’t interested in staying on longer than it takes to finish your program of study, be honest about that. You may get a follow up about how far in the future that is, but if it’s far enough out to pass the company’s reasonable expectation of an employee’s tenure there, there’s no reason not to say this.

Tell the interviewer what you’re looking to get out of the position. Hopefully, there is something you want more than a pay check. If you present yourself in a way that says “I’m just here for the money…” Well, that’s nice. Everyone comes to work for the money. Tell me why else you want to be here, and why else you want to be doing this specific job. Employees who only want a paycheck are hard to keep motivated and engaged because the job is just a paycheck and anyone can give them a paycheck.

There are tons of things we can do to put food on the table and pay the light bill. Tell the interviewer why you have chosen to do this specific job to accomplish those things. If you come off as someone who will “take anything” then don’t expect to go far. But if you have reasons that you feel the job would be good for you and that you would be good for the job, then focus on those positives.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How do I respond when an interviewer tells me I’m overqualified for a job and asks why I want it?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

How to Gracefully Turn Down a Job Offer

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Turning down a job offer doesn't feel great, but it's an inevitable part of starting the job of your dreams

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

So, you’re looking for a new job like a mad man or woman, you apply for who-knows-how-many positions, and you interview at a few different places. And you find yourself in the enviable position of having more than one job offer on the table.

Awesome, right?

Well, except for that you have to turn at least one of them down. And that’s not always easy.

Whether you’re faced with an offer that you’d never accept in a million years or one that you’d consider (if not for the other, better offer you also received), here’s how to craft a gracious “thanks but no thanks.”

Step 1: Show Your Appreciation

First and foremost, it’s important to thank the hiring manager for the offer and for and his or her time. Yes, interviewing potential candidates is part of the job, but this person likely spent several hours reading your resume, trolling your social media profiles, and sitting down with you for interviews. He or she also may have gone out on a limb to talk you up to other members of the team.

So, a heartfelt—and specific—thank-you for that time and effort will go a long way. For example:

  • Thank you so much for the offer for the Marketing Manager position. I so appreciate you taking the time to consider me and for answering so many of my questions about the company and role.
  • Thank you again for the interview last week—it was great to meet the team and see the offices. I enjoyed learning about the Operations Director position, and I appreciate this generous offer.

Step 2: Give a Good, Brief Reason

Especially if you’ve spent a lot of time interviewing, it’s the right and respectful thing to do not to leave a hiring manager in the dark about why you’re declining the position. That said, there’s also no need to go into detail about the red flags you saw in your would-be-boss, spill about the amazing perks at the job you did accept, or moan that you’ve spent the past week agonizing over your decision.

The best approach is to be brief but honest about your specific reason for not accepting the position, saying something like:

  • After careful consideration, I’ve decided to accept a position at another company.
  • After much thought, I’ve decided that now is not the best time to leave my current position.
  • While this position seems like a great opportunity, I have decided to pursue another role that will offer me more opportunities to pursue my interests in marketing and social media.

You can elaborate to the extent that it makes sense—for example, at one point, I had been referred to a company by a friend and gone through three interviews before getting an offer and felt that I owed the hiring team a thorough explanation. I expressed how much I enjoyed getting to know the group and why the position was so interesting to me, but shared that I had another offer that would ultimately point me more in the direction of my career goals.

But if the position seems terrible and the only real reason you have is that you’d rather stand in an unemployment line than accept it, a simple, “It’s not quite the right fit for my career goals at this time” will suffice.

Step 3: Stay in Touch

The job search world—especially in certain industries—is small. So offering some small pleasantries before you sign off is always a good idea. If you can reference something you discussed, like an event or conference you’re both attending, do so. Otherwise, you can make a simple mention that you wish this person all the best in the future.

  • I hope to see you next month at the conference we’re both attending.
  • It’s been a pleasure getting to know you, and I hope that we cross paths in the future.
  • Again, thank you for your time and support, and I wish you all the best.

Turning down a job offer—no matter how sure you are that you don’t want it—never feels great. But remember, it’s an inevitable part of starting the job of your dreams.

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How to Answer the 31 Most Common Interview Questions

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Here's the study guide for your next interview

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Wouldn’t it be great if you knew exactly what a hiring manager would be asking you in your next interview?

While we unfortunately can’t read minds, we’ll give you the next best thing: a list of the 31 most commonly asked interview questions (and, of course, some expert advice on how to answer them).

While we don’t recommend having a canned response for every question (in fact, please don’t), we do recommend spending some time getting comfortable with what you might be asked, what hiring managers are really looking for in your responses, and what it takes to show that you’re the right man or woman for the job.

Consider this your interview study guide.

1. Can you tell me a little about yourself?

This question seems simple, so many people fail to prepare for it, but it’s crucial. Here’s the deal: Don’t give your complete employment (or personal) history. Instead give a pitch—one that’s concise and compelling and that shows exactly why you’re the right fit for the job. Start off with the 2-3 specific accomplishments or experiences that you most want the interviewer to know about, then wrap up talking about how that prior experience has positioned you for this specific role.

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2. How did you hear about the position?

Another seemingly innocuous question, this is actually a perfect opportunity to stand out and show your passion for and connection to the company. For example, if you found out about the gig through a friend or professional contact, name drop that person, then share why you were so excited about it. If you discovered the company through an event or article, share that. Even if you found the listing through a random job board, share what, specifically, caught your eye about the role.

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3. What do you know about the company?

Any candidate can read and regurgitate the company’s “About” page. So, when interviewers ask this, they aren’t necessarily trying to gauge whether you understand the mission—they want to know whether you care about it. Start with one line that shows you understand the company’s goals, using a couple key words and phrases from the website, but then go on to make it personal. Say, “I’m personally drawn to this mission because…” or “I really believe in this approach because…” and share a personal example or two.

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4. Why do you want this job?

Again, companies want to hire people who are passionate about the job, so you should have a great answer about why you want the position. (And if you don’t? You probably should apply elsewhere.) First, identify a couple of key factors that make the role a great fit for you (e.g., “I love customer support because I love the constant human interaction and the satisfaction that comes from helping someone solve a problem”), then share why you love the company (e.g., “I’ve always been passionate about education, and I think you guys are doing great things, so I want to be a part of it”).

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5. Why should we hire you?

This question seems forward (not to mention intimidating!), but if you’re asked it, you’re in luck: There’s no better setup for you to sell yourself and your skills to the hiring manager. Your job here is to craft an answer that covers three things: that you can not only do the work, you can deliver great results; that you’ll really fit in with the team and culture; and that you’d be a better hire than any of the other candidates.

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6. What are your greatest professional strengths?

When answering this question, interview coach Pamela Skillings recommends being accurate (share your true strengths, not those you think the interviewer wants to hear); relevant (choose your strengths that are most targeted to this particular position); and specific (for example, instead of “people skills,” choose “persuasive communication” or “relationship building”). Then, follow up with an example of how you’ve demonstrated these traits in a professional setting.

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7. What do you consider to be your weaknesses?

What your interviewer is really trying to do with this question—beyond identifying any major red flags—is to gauge your self-awareness and honesty. So, “I can’t meet a deadline to save my life” is not an option—but neither is “Nothing! I’m perfect!” Strike a balance by thinking of something that you struggle with but that you’re working to improve. For example, maybe you’ve never been strong at public speaking, but you’ve recently volunteered to run meetings to help you be more comfortable when addressing a crowd.

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8. What is your greatest professional achievement?

Nothing says “hire me” better than a track record of achieving amazing results in past jobs, so don’t be shy when answering this question! A great way to do so is by using the S-T-A-R method: Set up the situation and the task that you were required to complete to provide the interviewer with background context (e.g., “In my last job as a junior analyst, it was my role to manage the invoicing process”), but spend the bulk of your time describing what you actually did (the action) and what you achieved (the result). For example, “In one month, I streamlined the process, which saved my group 10 man-hours each month and reduced errors on invoices by 25%.”

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9. Tell me about a challenge or conflict you’ve faced at work, and how you dealt with it.

In asking this question, “your interviewer wants to get a sense of how you will respond to conflict. Anyone can seem nice and pleasant in a job interview, but what will happen if you’re hired and Gladys in Compliance starts getting in your face?” says Skillings. Again, you’ll want to use the S-T-A-R method, being sure to focus on how you handled the situation professionally and productively, and ideally closing with a happy ending, like how you came to a resolution or compromise.

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10. Where do you see yourself in five years?

If asked this question, be honest and specific about your future goals, but consider this: A hiring manager wants to know a) if you’ve set realistic expectations for your career, b) if you have ambition (a.k.a., this interview isn’t the first time you’re considering the question), and c) if the position aligns with your goals and growth. Your best bet is to think realistically about where this position could take you and answer along those lines. And if the position isn’t necessarily a one-way ticket to your aspirations? It’s OK to say that you’re not quite sure what the future holds, but that you see this experience playing an important role in helping you make that decision.

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11. What’s your dream job?

Along similar lines, the interviewer wants to uncover whether this position is really in line with your ultimate career goals. While “an NBA star” might get you a few laughs, a better bet is to talk about your goals and ambitions—and why this job will get you closer to them.

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12. What other companies are you interviewing with?

Companies ask this for a number of reasons, from wanting to see what the competition is for you to sniffing out whether you’re serious about the industry. “Often the best approach is to mention that you are exploring a number of other similar options in the company’s industry,” says job search expert Alison Doyle. “It can be helpful to mention that a common characteristic of all the jobs you are applying to is the opportunity to apply some critical abilities and skills that you possess. For example, you might say ‘I am applying for several positions with IT consulting firms where I can analyze client needs and translate them to development teams in order to find solutions to technology problems.’”

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13. Why are you leaving your current job?

This is a toughie, but one you can be sure you’ll be asked. Definitely keep things positive—you have nothing to gain by being negative about your past employers. Instead, frame things in a way that shows that you’re eager to take on new opportunities and that the role you’re interviewing for is a better fit for you than your current or last position. For example, “I’d really love to be part of product development from beginning to end, and I know I’d have that opportunity here.” And if you were let go? Keep it simple: “Unfortunately, I was let go,” is a totally OK answer.

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14. Why were you fired?

OK, if you get the admittedly much tougher follow-up question as to why you were let go (and the truth isn’t exactly pretty), your best bet is to be honest (the job-seeking world is small, after all). But it doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker. Share how you’ve grown and how you approach your job and life now as a result. If you can position the learning experience as an advantage for this next job, even better.

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15. What are you looking for in a new position?

Hint: Ideally the same things that this position has to offer. Be specific.

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16. What type of work environment do you prefer?

Hint: Ideally one that’s similar to the environment of the company you’re applying to. Be specific.

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17. What’s your management style?

The best managers are strong but flexible, and that’s exactly what you want to show off in your answer. (Think something like, “While every situation and every team member requires a bit of a different strategy, I tend to approach my employee relationships as a coach…”) Then, share a couple of your best managerial moments, like when you grew your team from five to 15 or coached an underperforming employee to become the company’s top salesperson.

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18. What’s a time you exercised leadership?

Depending on what’s more important for the the role, you’ll want to choose an example that showcases your project management skills (spearheading a project from end to end, juggling multiple moving parts) or one that shows your ability to confidently and effectively rally a team. And remember: “The best stories include enough detail to be believable and memorable,” says Skillings. “Show how you were a leader in this situation and how it represents your overall leadership experience and potential.”

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19. What’s a time you disagreed with a decision that was made at work?

Everyone disagrees with the boss from time to time, but in asking this question, hiring managers want to know that you can do so in a productive, professional way. “You don’t want to tell the story about the time when you disagreed but your boss was being a jerk and you just gave in to keep the peace. And you don’t want to tell the one where you realized you were wrong,” says Peggy McKee of Career Confidential. “Tell the one where your actions made a positive difference on the outcome of the situation, whether it was a work-related outcome or a more effective and productive working relationship.”

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20. How would your boss and co-workers describe you?

First of all, be honest (remember, if you get this job, the hiring manager will be calling your former bosses and co-workers!). Then, try to pull out strengths and traits you haven’t discussed in other aspects of the interview, such as your strong work ethic or your willingness to pitch in on other projects when needed.

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21. Why was there a gap in your employment?

If you were unemployed for a period of time, be direct and to the point about what you’ve been up to (and hopefully, that’s a litany of impressive volunteer and other mind-enriching activities, like blogging or taking classes). Then, steer the conversation toward how you will do the job and contribute to the organization: “I decided to take a break at the time, but today I’m ready to contribute to this organization in the following ways.”

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22. Can you explain why you changed career paths?

Don’t be thrown off by this question—just take a deep breath and explain to the hiring manager why you’ve made the career deicions you have. More importantly, give a few examples of how your past experience is transferrable to the new role. This doesn’t have to be a direct connection; in fact, it’s often more impressive when a candidate can make seemingly irrelevant experience seem very relevant to the role.

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23. How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations?

“Choose an answer that shows that you can meet a stressful situation head-on in a productive, positive manner and let nothing stop you from accomplishing your goals,” says McKee. A great approach is to talk through your go-to stress-reduction tactics (making the world’s greatest to-do list, stopping to take 10 deep breaths), and then share an example of a stressful situation you navigated with ease.

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24. What would your first 30, 60, or 90 days look like in this role?

Start by explaining what you’d need to do to get ramped up. What information would you need? What parts of the company would you need to familiarize yourself with? What other employees would you want to sit down with? Next, choose a couple of areas where you think you can make meaningful contributions right away. (e.g., “I think a great starter project would be diving into your email marketing campaigns and setting up a tracking system for them.”) Sure, if you get the job, you (or your new employer) might decide there’s a better starting place, but having an answer prepared will show the interviewer where you can add immediate impact—and that you’re excited to get started.

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25. What are your salary requirements?

The #1 rule of answering this question is doing your research on what you should be paid by using sites like Payscale and Glassdoor. You’ll likely come up with a range, and we recommend stating the highest number in that range that applies, based on your experience, education, and skills. Then, make sure the hiring manager knows that you’re flexible. You’re communicating that you know your skills are valuable, but that you want the job and are willing to negotiate.

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26. What do you like to do outside of work?

Interviewers ask personal questions in an interview to “see if candidates will fit in with the culture [and] give them the opportunity to open up and display their personality, too,” says longtime hiring manager Mitch Fortner. “In other words, if someone asks about your hobbies outside of work, it’s totally OK to open up and share what really makes you tick. (Do keep it semi-professional, though: Saying you like to have a few beers at the local hot spot on Saturday night is fine. Telling them that Monday is usually a rough day for you because you’re always hungover is not.)”

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27. If you were an animal, which one would you want to be?

Seemingly random personality-test type questions like these come up in interviews generally because hiring managers want to see how you can think on your feet. There’s no wrong answer here, but you’ll immediately gain bonus points if your answer helps you share your strengths or personality or connect with the hiring manager. Pro tip: Come up with a stalling tactic to buy yourself some thinking time, such as saying, “Now, that is a great question. I think I would have to say… ”

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28. How many tennis balls can you fit into a limousine?

1,000? 10,000? 100,000? Seriously?

Well, seriously, you might get asked brainteaser questions like these, especially in quantitative jobs. But remember that the interviewer doesn’t necessarily want an exact number—he wants to make sure that you understand what’s being asked of you, and that you can set into motion a systematic and logical way to respond. So, just take a deep breath, and start thinking through the math. (Yes, it’s OK to ask for a pen and paper!)

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29. Are you planning on having children?

Questions about your family status, gender (“How would you handle managing a team of all men?”), nationality (“Where were you born?”), religion, or age, are illegal—but they still get asked (and frequently). Of course, not always with ill intent—the interviewer might just be trying to make conversation—but you should definitely tie any questions about your personal life (or anything else you think might be inappropriate) back to the job at hand. For this question, think: “You know, I’m not quite there yet. But I am very interested in the career paths at your company. Can you tell me more about that?”

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30. What do you think we could do better or differently?

This is a common one at startups (and one of our personal favorites here at The Muse). Hiring managers want to know that you not only have some background on the company, but that you’re able to think critically about it and come to the table with new ideas. So, come with new ideas! What new features would you love to see? How could the company increase conversions? How could customer service be improved? You don’t need to have the company’s four-year strategy figured out, but do share your thoughts, and more importantly, show how your interests and expertise would lend themselves to the job.

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31. Do you have any questions for us?

You probably already know that an interview isn’t just a chance for a hiring manager to grill you—it’s your opportunity to sniff out whether a job is the right fit for you. What do you want to know about the position? The company? The department? The team?

You’ll cover a lot of this in the actual interview, so have a few less-common questions ready to go. We especially like questions targeted to the interviewer (“What’s your favorite part about working here?”) or the company’s growth (“What can you tell me about your new products or plans for growth?”)

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More from the Muse:

MONEY salary negotiation

The 10 Commandments of Salary Negotiation

The Ten Commandments of Salary Negotiation graphic treatment
MONEY

Thou shalt be paid more! Tech recruiter Elizabeth Morgan takes to the mount to offer some wisdom on squeezing money from a stone.

This is the first in a series of six posts on salary negotiation published in partnership with PayScale.com.

1. Never accept the first salary offer.

2. Remember that you can negotiate more than just salary. A sign-on bonus and stock options are also major components of your offer that can be negotiated.

3. Work with your recruiter. Recruiters are your friends. But they are friends who have a budget. Ideally, they want you to accept the offer they are extending to you. Provide concrete data (see #10) to support why you are asking for a different compensation package.

4. Role-play the salary-negotiation conversation. Practice, practice, practice.

5. Utilize time as your golden trump card. Let’s say you found your dream job, but still aren’t happy with the salary that is being offered to you. It’s okay to put a timer on the offer after negotiations. Suggest a short turnaround time (i.e. “I will accept this offer by 5pm today if you can deliver the offer I am asking for”) to your recruiter to provide you with the salary criteria you requested.

6. Don’t be the first to disclose a number. Always let the recruiter or hiring manager be the first to share salary ranges or an offer post interviews.

7. Keep emotion out of the process. Remember: Business is business, and you can’t count on karma or other magical thinking. Sorry.

8. Always prepare a counter offer.

9. Remember that the negotiation process revolves around two factors: what you are worth and what they are willing to pay for you.

10. Always research your value and the company prior to interviewing for a job. Data is key to effective salary negotiating. Payscale.com is a great resource to leverage when doing research to determine your professional worth and how much you should be getting paid.

Elizabeth Morgan has over 15 years of technical recruiting experience, with companies that include Microsoft, Google, Amazon and LinkedIn. Currently, she is building LinkedIn’s Engineering Leadership team and helping launch LinkedIn’s Women in Tech program.

More on salary negotiation from PayScale.com:

 

TIME Careers & Workplace

The 31 Best LinkedIn Profile Tips for Job Seekers

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Here's everything you need to know about tricking out your LinkedIn profile—from crafting a stunning summary to selling your accomplishments

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

When you’re not looking for a job, it can be easy to ignore your LinkedIn profile. Sure, you add people you meet at networking events as contacts and accept requests as they come in, but everything else? Eh, you’ll get to it when you need to.

While we definitely don’t recommend this approach (hey, the recruiter from your dream company finding you and offering you a job? It could happen), we get that there are times you need a total LinkedIn profile overhaul. And for those times? We’ve got you covered!

Here, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about tricking out your LinkedIn profile—from crafting a stunning summary to selling your accomplishments, projects, and skills—in one place. Read on for expert-backed ways to make your profile seriously shine—and start getting noticed by recruiters.

1. Put in the Time to Make it Awesome

Simply put, the more complete your profile, the better the odds that recruiters will find you in the first place. So, completeness is important from that standpoint. It’s also important after a recruiter has found you and decided to click on your profile: He or she wants to know what your skills are, where you’ve worked, and what people think of you. So, don’t get lazy—fill out every single section of your profile. The good news? LinkedIn will actually measure the “completeness” of your profile as you work and offer suggestions on how to make it stronger.

2. Get a Custom URL

It’s much easier to publicize your profile with a customized URL (ideally linkedin.com/yourname), rather than the clunky combination of numbers that LinkedIn automatically assigns when you sign up. How to get one? On the Edit Profile screen, at the bottom of the gray window that shows your basic information, you’ll see a Public Profile URL. Click “Edit” next to the URL, and specify what you’d like your address to be. When you’re finished, click Set Custom URL.

3. Choose a Great Photo

Choose a clear, friendly, and appropriately professional image, and pop that baby up there. Not sure what “appropriately professional” means? Take a look around at what the people in your target company, industry sector, or business level are wearing. Match that. (Pro tip: “If you can show yourself in action, do it,” says a blogger who experimented with multiple LinkedIn photos to see which garnered the most attention. “A photo can go a long way to convey passion, energy, charisma, empathy, and other soft skills that are hard to write about.”

4. Write a Headline That Rocks

Your headline doesn’t have to be your job title and company—in fact, especially if you’re looking for jobs, it shouldn’t be. Instead, use that space to succinctly showcase your specialty, value proposition, or your “so what?” The more specific you can be about what sets you apart from the competition, the better.

5. Use Your Target Job Descriptions to Your Advantage

Take a look at the job descriptions of the positions you’re after, and dump them into a word cloud tool like Wordle. See those words that stand out? They’re likely what recruiters are searching for when they’re looking for people like you. Make sure those words and phrases are sprinkled throughout your summary and experience.

6. Don’t Waste the Summary Space

“Ideally, your summary should be around 3–5 short paragraphs long, preferably with a bulleted section in the middle. It should walk the reader through your work passions, key skills, unique qualifications, and a list of the various industries you’ve had exposure to over the years.” Career Horizons

7. Use Numbers Right Up Front

“Much like the rest of your resume, you’ll want to highlight past results in your summary. When possible, include numbers and case studies that prove success. Social media consultant and speaker Wayne Breitbarth, for example, quickly establishes credibility with his audience by stating in his summary’s second sentence: ‘I have helped more than 40,000 businesspeople—from entry level to CEO—understand how to effectively use LinkedIn.’ Never underestimate the power of a few key stats to impress a reader.” American Express OPEN Forum

8. Be Warm and Welcoming

“The summary section is your primo opportunity to showcase the good stuff about you, with your target audience in mind. Give ’em a little chance to get to know you. So what do you think the first impression is going to be if you craft your summary like some long, pompous speech? Or worse, craft it in the third person? They’re going to think you’re pretentious. And it’s going to be hard for that reviewer to get a feel for your personality and style. Be you here. Keep the brand message in line with all of your other professional marketing materials, but realize that LinkedIn is a platform designed for interaction.” JobJenny

9. Avoid Buzzwords Like the Plague

What do the words responsible, creative, effective, analytical, strategic, patient, expert, organizational, driven, and innovative have in common? They’re the most overused buzzwords on all of LinkedIn. Come on—we know you can be more creative!

10. Treat Your Profile Like Your Resume

Your resume isn’t just a list of job duties (or, at least, it shouldn’t be)—it’s a place to highlight your best accomplishments. Same goes for your LinkedIn profile: Make sure your experience section is fleshed out with bullet points that describe what you did, how well you did it, and who it impacted.

11. But Use the First Person

You shouldn’t use the first person on your resume, but it’s actually fine to do so on LinkedIn (think “I’m a passionate development officer who raised $400,000 for cancer charities last year,” not (“Jackie Stevens is a passionate development officer…”).

12. Get Personal

“Your profile is not a resume or CV. Write as if you are having a conversation with someone. Inject your personality. Let people know your values and passions. In your summary, discuss what you do outside of work. You want people to want to know you.” Forbes

13. Show Your Achievements

Recruiters spend countless hours scouring LinkedIn in search of the high performers. And when they find them, they contact said high performers. Knowing this, you’ll serve yourself well to market yourself as a high performer in your summary and experience section (think action words, accomplishments, talking about times you’ve been promoted or hand-picked for projects).

14. Include a Current Job Entry, Even When Unemployed

“If you’ve only listed the past positions you’ve held in the experience section but show nothing current, you’ll probably get missed in most searches. Why? Because most recruiting professionals exclusively use the current title box to search for candidates; otherwise they’d have to sort through thousands of candidates who held a certain role (for example, graphic designer) as far back as 20 or more years ago. The simple workaround, if you’re unemployed, is to create a dummy job listing in the current section that includes the job title(s) you’re targeting—‘Full-Time Student/Financial Analyst in Training’—followed by a phrase like ‘In Transition’ or ‘Seeking New Opportunity’ in the Company Name box.” University of Washington

15. Add Multimedia to Your Summary

“A picture truly is worth a 1,000 words, especially when it comes to showcasing your work. LinkedIn lets you add photos, videos, and slideshow presentations to your profile summary. So instead of just talking about your work, you can show examples. Or show yourself in action. Or share a presentation. Click ‘Edit profile,’ scroll down to your summary, then click on the box symbol, then ‘add file.’” Business Insider

16. And Your Work Experiences

You can do the same thing for each of your work experiences. So, use this to your advantage: Add your company websites, projects you’ve worked on, articles you’ve drafted, or anything else that can provide a more multimedia look at your work.

17. Add Projects, Volunteer Experiences, or Languages

Do you speak Mandarin? Have a project management certification? Volunteer for Dress for Success every weekend? Adding these “additional” profile features (listed on the left when you’re editing your profile) is a great way to showcase your unique skills and experiences and stand out from the crowd.

18. Request One LinkedIn Recommendation a Month

When someone says, “You did a great job on that project!” ask him or her to take a snapshot of that success by writing a recommendation on LinkedIn. And don’t be afraid to specify what you’d like the recommender to focus on. Getting generic recommendations that say, “Lea was great to work with” aren’t very helpful—but something specific, like “Lea’s contributions on the project enabled us to increase forecasted savings by 5% over our original plan” will really showcase your strengths.

19. But Make Them Strategic

“Make a strategic plan for your recommendations,” says Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s career expert. “Approach different people and suggest particular skills or experiences you would like them to highlight.”

20. Don’t Be Afraid to Cut a Recommendation

“Ever get a recommendation you didn’t ask for? Or one that isn’t something you’d want to showcase on your LinkedIn profile? If you get a recommendation that’s poorly written or is unsolicited and don’t feel comfortable reaching out to the writer and asking for some revisions, no biggie. You can easily hide the recommendation instead. Select Profile > Edit Profile and go to the position with which the recommendation is associated. Click Manage. Uncheck the box next to the recommendation that you want to hide, and click Save Changes.” 12Most

21. Manage Your Endorsements

Endorsements can be a great way to show off your skills—as long as your profile isn’t overloaded with too many to really send the right message. The secret to making them work for you is keeping your skills updated: As you transition between careers, develop new skills, or take on new responsibilities, drop outdated skills from your profile and add the ones you really want to be known for. Now, when connections land on your page, they’ll only see the most relevant skills.

22. Update Your Status

Just like on Facebook, you can update your LinkedIn status as often as you wish. So, do! Update it professionally and strategically (share the article you just wrote, not what you ate for lunch today), ideally once a week. Your entire network will see your updates, both in their news feeds and in the weekly LinkedIn network updates emails they receive.

23. Become an Author

LinkedIn’s newest feature? Allowing all users to write and publish their work on the platform. Share your perspective about what’s going on in your field, weigh in on a recent industry development, or show off your skills as a writer. It’s a great way to get noticed.

24. Or Add Your Blog

“If you have a WordPress blog, we highly recommend feeding your blog into your LinkedIn profile (unless, of course, the content isn’t appropriate for a LinkedIn page.) To enable this setting, Select More in the main nav bar and Select Applications. From there, choose the WordPress application and enter the link to your feed. The blog will then appear in your profile and will update each time a new post is added.” 12Most

25. Be a Groupie

LinkedIn Groups are an incredible resource—and they can do wonders for your job search. By joining groups relevant to your profession or industry, you’ll show that you’re engaged in your field. But more importantly, you’ll instantly be connected to people and part of relevant discussions in your field—kind of like an ongoing, online networking event.

26. Have at Least 50 Connections

Having 50 or fewer connections on LinkedIn tells recruiters one of three things: 1) You are a recluse who knows very few people, 2) You’re paranoid about connecting with others, or 3) Technology and social media are scary to you. None of these are good. We’re certainly not suggesting you need to be one of those weirdos who wears your “abnormally large number of connections” like a badge of honor, but you really should have at least 50-100 people with whom you’re connected as a starting point.

27. But Don’t Add People You Don’t Know

If enough people reject your request and say they don’t know you, LinkedIn can shut down your account. True story.

28. Don’t Go Overboard

With all the bells and whistles LinkedIn has to offer, and without being limited by the 8.5×11″ confines of your resume, it can be tempting to, well, go nuts. And while details are good, there’s certainly a thing as too much. Step back, take a look at your profile, and see how it looks to an outside person. Is it enticing—or overwhelming? Edit accordingly.

29. Keep Your Job Search Under Wraps

“Many people don’t realize that LinkedIn does have privacy settings—for a reason. ‘When you’re out looking for a new job, and are actively engaged in your current job, you want to be discreet,” Williams explains. ‘A telltale sign to an employer that you’re leaving is that you overhaul your profile, connect with recruiters, and have an influx of new people. You can tailor your settings so that your boss doesn’t see that you’re looking for opportunities.’ The privacy settings are easy to find: Just sign in, and then select ‘settings’ from the drop-down menu, where your name appears in the upper right-hand corner.” LearnVest

30. Make Sure People Can Find You

Don’t forget to add your email address (or blog, or Twitter handle, or anywhere else you’d like to be found) to the contact information section of your resume. You’d be surprised how many people leave this off!

31. Be Excited

At the end of the day, the most exciting people to hire are the people who are the most excited about what they do. So, make sure your LinkedIn profile shows your enthusiasm. Join and participate in groups related to your field of expertise. Use your status line to announce stuff you’re doing related to your field. Share interesting articles or news. Connect with the leaders in your industry. Fly your cheerleader flag.

More from The Muse:

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