On April 8th, 2015, I received an email that changed my life.
The subject read: ‘Confidential from It’s Academic’.
The email was being sent via LinkedIn. I opened it and read the following:
I am the Managing Partner at It’s Academic; a Canadian-based academic recruiting firm. I came across your profile and wanted to reach out to you about an exciting, unique opportunity that we have available.
We have been working with an excellent American International school in Beijing, China for the last five years and they have an opening for an Activities Coordinator for the 2015/2016 academic year. This position is a great way to take your activities coordinating experience to a whole new level.
Our client is a progressive international school that is known for its positive and professional working environment. We have placed many teachers and administrative staff and they have all loved working at the school and have benefited from what it has to offer professionally and personally.
The package includes a very competitive salary, accommodation, airfare, professional development, medical, and a settling allowance. If you are interested in learning more about the opportunity, I would be happy to set up a time when we can discuss this opportunity by phone or by Skype.
I couldn’t believe it. I wondered; how am I being headhunted?
I was 26 years old at the time, and in my opinion, did not have much experience. At least not the kind I assumed attracted recruiters on LinkedIn.
But of course, I was interested!
I followed up with the recruiter and a few months later I was working in China.
The one-year opportunity turned into five years abroad and career growth I never imagined.
LinkedIn says that every 15 seconds, someone gets a job on their platform – Amazing.
In 2022, I still wondered what it was about my profile that had caught the attention of that recruiter in 2015.
I wanted answers to know how to keep my profile attractive as I progressed in my career and to share the knowledge with others so, they could reap the benefits too.
I reached out to the recruiter for more information.
When I didn’t get a response, I turned to Andrew McCaskill for answers instead. As LinkedIn’s Sr. Director of Global Communications and a Career Expert, Andrew is a trusted source for all things related to LinkedIn and careers. I also asked several professional recruiters to weigh in.
Here are the experts’ tips on making your LinkedIn profile attractive.
Have a great profile picture
“First impressions always matter,” Andrew says. He equates a LinkedIn profile picture to a virtual handshake and notes that it’s a form of engaging with peers. “Members that include a profile photo, get up to 21 times more profile views,” he adds.
But there’s a caveat.
“No beach selfies, unless you’re a surf instructor,” he says.
He doesn’t mean that you need to go out and buy an expensive headshot, only that as a professional social media platform your LinkedIn profile picture should show who you are as a professional.
Bernadette Saumur, a professional recruiter, and owner of the women-owned Recruitment and Staffing firm Talent Matters Inc confirms that the use of inappropriate photos or photos with other people is a red flag for her.
Lean into keywords
According to Andrew, keyword searches are the most common way recruiters look for job candidates.
“Recruiters rely on LinkedIn algorithms to show them who the best candidates are based on experience and what they’re looking for.
As a job seeker, it is your responsibility to make sure that your profile keywords are optimized with your relevant skills. So, using words like ‘I’m a project manager’, and ‘I’m a team leader’ – those words will help you stand out to recruiters who are looking for people with project management skills. Using the right words to describe your work gives recruiters the best possible opportunity to find you.”
Marsh Sutherland, a Senior Technical Recruiter at Ocient with 16 years of experience as a professional recruiter agrees. “LinkedIn searching for candidates is a lot like using Google search. The more relevant keywords in the summary and experience the higher the LinkedIn profile will rank in my searches.”
Tell your story
“Your resume and your LinkedIn profile should match up,” Andrew says. But for him, great profiles go beyond a simple copy and paste – your profile is your professional story. “What really helps people breakthrough on their LinkedIn profile, is being strategic about it. Make sure that your experiences shine and highlight your professional brand.”
Andrew reminds me that we all have a unique story to tell about who we are as professionals.
“Add things like your achievements, visuals like pictures and compelling videos, maybe even a presentation that showcases what you do in the experience section.
If volunteerism is an important part of how you think of yourself as a leader, having an image of you volunteering or talking about those things signals to recruiters – this is a whole professional, they have rounded out the experience. If you have the opportunity to showcase your experience with visuals that really helps to tell the story of who you are.”
Andrew adds that there’s also an opportunity to give a 40-word summary of your story at the top of your LinkedIn profile. For this section, he suggests drilling down on what you’re looking for, what your superpowers are, and how you’ve used them in the past. He also says this is a great place to use keywords.
Marsh says, “In addition to a high number of relevant keywords for the job I’m recruiting for, I look for strong recommendations from former managers and coworkers, involvement in relevant professional organizations, certifications that are relevant to the jobs I’m recruiting for, and detailed accomplishments in prior roles relevant to the jobs I’m recruiting for.”
All points that speak to your professional brand and story.
If you don’t have a lot of professional experience Andrew says to focus on talking about the skills and experiences that you do have. “80% of hiring managers view experience like volunteerism and internships as the equivalent to formal work experience. So don’t discount the work that you’ve actually done.”
If you have gaps in your resume Andrew says, be upfront about them.
“If you took a career break, don’t hide it. Start with honesty and openly include this time ‘off’ in your job search process. Indicate it on your resume, share it while you’re interviewing, and update any professional social media profiles.”
Andrew recommends positioning any gap in your resume in a positive light. “Think about what your break brought you, from new skills to a mental health refresh, and spend time practising how you will discuss this period. If you’re unsure, take pen to paper and write it out. This will help you be better prepared to discuss the positives with a potential employer.”
While Bernadette feels that having no gaps in employment really makes a profile shine, Andrew shared that a 2021 LinkedIn survey of hiring managers found that nearly 80% would hire a candidate with a career gap. He highlights that LinkedIn also recently released Career Breaks on the LinkedIn Profile to make it easier for candidates and recruiters to have open conversations about the skills and experiences professionals amass away from the traditional workplace.
Other things that can help attract opportunities to you
“Keep your page active,” Andrew says. “LinkedIn is much more than an online resume. It’s a social network, it’s social media. That means to get the most out of it, you need to remain active.”
Andrew suggests engaging by checking out what other people are posting, leaving thoughtful comments, or liking and sharing posts that you feel are helpful or interesting. Your profile can get noticed simply by participating in the professional community.
On that note, Andrew also advises following the top five companies you are interested in working for, so you stay aware of their news and engage with their posts.
In addition, Andrew says there’s a feature on LinkedIn called hashtag ‘Open to work’ that gives job seekers an option to let recruiters know they are open to new opportunities.
“Recruiters love that feature. You can turn it on and get an ‘Open to work’ option turned on your profile or you can turn it on and hide it, so it doesn’t show up on your profile, but it alerts recruiters that you’re open to working.”
Andrew says that those who turn on this feature are 40% more likely to receive inbound notes from recruiters and 20% more likely to receive messages from other people in the LinkedIn community.
Bernadette agrees that as a recruiter she looks for candidates with the ‘Open to work’ option turned on. She reminds job seekers to also make sure their LinkedIn message settings allow recruiters to message them. She says sometimes job seekers select “Open to work” but have not allowed LinkedIn messages – so there is no way to contact them.
Last but not least, Andrew says you can also set job alerts. You can tell LinkedIn what kind of job you are looking for and any time a role comes up with your specifications, you will receive an email with the job post.
Andrew reminds me that LinkedIn was built to help create economic opportunity. “On average, there are 15 million open jobs on LinkedIn every month.”
But he also says that economic opportunity is not just about jobs. It’s also about people making connections. He recommends people participate in the professional networks that exist on LinkedIn that extend beyond geography and your personal network. These networks could lead to jobs, but he says it’s also about sharing knowledge and information that can help professionals get ahead in other ways too.