LinkedIn has over 450 million users. Yes, that number is correct. As the traditional cover letter is becoming less relevant, LinkedIn is becoming more relevant. A recruiter or employer is far more likely to view your LinkedIn (or Facebook) profile than they are to read your cover letter. Online profiles give job seekers a more versatile and creative platform for marketing themselves than resumes and cover letters. You can relax your language a bit, and show more of your personality. Information such as volunteer work, interests/hobbies and such that we don't prioritize on resumes, are perfectly at home on your LinkedIn profile.

Let's take a look at the five most critical components of a LinkedIn Profile...

  1. Photo-A photo is critical to your profile. It's estimated that your profile will get viewed 11 times more if you have a photo. Professional headshots are best, but not required. As long as there are not distracting or inappropriate goings-on the background, you're good.
  2. Headline- Your headline is the most important place to put relevant keywords and skills that will position you for the job that you want. The words you put in your headline will determine what searches you come up in, so choose carefully and be descriptive. Don't just default to your current title!
  3. Summary-This section also needs to have plenty of keywords to help you come up in search results. Consider it to be a mini cover letter. Start with a short intro paragraph and then move to bulleted form describing your key areas of experience or top 3-4 career achievements.
  4. Experience-Fill out the experience section to ensure it matches your resume. You don't want any inconsistencies in your work history between your resume and your LinkedIn profile. Also, list just enough information here to give a good sense of your duties and achievements and leave the rest for your resume.
  5. Endorsements and Recommendations-There's no magic number to attain here, but the more endorsements and recommendations you have, the more full and robust your profile will look. Recommendations in particular, carry the most weight. Ask some of your current and former colleagues if they'd be willing to submit a recommendation to publish on your profile.

Bonus Tip: I recommend always customizing the URL for your profile. This is the web address that leads right to your personal profile. By editing your "public profile settings" you can create a personalized link to your profile that contains only your name, and removes the numbers at the end. After you customized your URL, add it to your resume with your contact information. This invites employers to view your profile and connect with you.

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