Your online presence is a big deal. Employers are more interested in the online habits of potential new hires than ever before, so you’d be wise to assume you’re being checked out online before you set foot in an interview. A solid LinkedIn profile is an easy first step to putting a professional foot forward.
Since its 2003 launch, LinkedIn has cultivated a network of more than 300 million members, with two new members joining every second. The platform has broken down traditional barriers in business by connecting established industry executives and eager entry-level professionals in ways that were previously unimaginable. The vast majority of recruiters (94%) admit to using LinkedIn to vet candidates.
Here are three steps to make sure you’re keeping the odds in your favor.
Step 1: Tell a complete story
Fill out your profile completely, with close attention to detail. The summary section should include your job/internship history as well as technical and soft skills that qualify you for employment. Your profile tells your story, and blank sections are gaps in your narrative.
Include prior experience (jobs and internships alike) in the job history section. Adding past companies and connections also helps potential employers find your profile. For the highest possible search engine ranking, secure a personalized LinkedIn address (for example: www.linkedin.com/in/FirstLast, using your first and last name). Be sure to include this LinkedIn URL on your resume to increase the likelihood of professional contacts connecting with you.
Make sure to also take advantage of the ability to add relevant coursework throughout your time in school. You can also add bylines on case studies or competitions you may have participated in, as well as memberships like your AICPA Student Affiliate membership or state society membership. These extra materials help you show off your skill set and past work while adding rich context to your story.
Step 2: Expand your network
Once you have an all-star profile, share it with the world. One of the best ways to build your network is by joining groups that share your interests or job-hunting goals.
There are groups dedicated to your major or career aspirations (like *ahem* the ThisWayToCPA LinkedIn group). You also might want to join an alumni group or a group for the city you want to move to after graduation. Even if you’re still in school, alumni groups have knowledge and opportunity to offer. Club groups, such as Beta Alpha Psi, are also helpful for staying updated on relevant job postings. Joining these groups will help you connect with fresh and relevant contacts while keeping you updated on new opportunities.
You can also seek out individual contacts by using LinkedIn’s robust “advanced search” function, which filters by industry, company, location and even alma mater. This is a great way to find alumni who work in your preferred office. A simple message explaining your interest in connecting with a person, and how you found them, will suffice as a professional and engaging connection request. Use these connections as an opportunity to ask questions and gain insight into the company and its hiring process, rather than immediately asking for favors or special treatment. Also, try to limit the amount of connection requests sent to members of the same company or group.
Alumni are often willing to help recent graduates from their alma mater, so tapping into this network could help you get noticed at a company where your personal network isn’t as strong. Keep in mind LinkedIn notifies users when you view their profile; so even if you don’t request to connect, they might still notice you.
Step 3: Secure your dream job (or one that will lead to it)
Once your profile is polished and your network is stacked with valuable contacts, it’s time to reap the rewards of your hard work.
LinkedIn’s search functionality for jobs is very similar to the profile search, with the ability to filter for a number of factors that may be important to you. These factors may include location, industry and required experience. Job listings are linked to company pages, making it easy to do some initial research on company and its employees—and you shouldn’t go into an interview without knowing about your potential employer.
When it comes to your job hunt, know what you’re looking for and make sure to follow company pages and read through job descriptions before applying. Then, when the time comes, you’ll have a better idea of what your dream job looks like and how to secure it.