“Keywords” are the key to being found on LinkedIn for career opportunities. You need to ensure these words are in your profile, since they will make your profile resonate with your target audience. These keywords will be used by hiring managers, recruiters or potential clients in their LinkedIn searches to find candidates like you. If you don’t have the right keywords in your profile, you won’t come up in their search results.
You can test how effective you’ve been at keyword placement and how likely you are to show up in searches. First, think about the search string a hiring manager might enter to find a candidate like you. For example, if you’re going for a finance director position, they might type in “finance director” to find someone with your skills and experience. Now try searching for yourself using this phrase within your own network. Do you show up on page one of your own search results? If you don’t then you have work to do! (By the way, this test won’t be accurate if your network is too small—of course you’ll show up on page 1 if you only have 10 people in your network!)
Yes, there’s a lot more to being found on LinkedIn than just profile keywords. Joining the right groups, building your network strategically and being active on LinkedIn through updates and following companies can greatly improve your likelihood of showing up in someone’s search results. For this post, however, we’ll keep the focus on keywords, since the right keywords need to be present before these other visibility-boosting methods can help you.
How to identify the right keywords
Here are some ideas to get you started:
• Imagine what the person who would hire you might type into a LinkedIn search to find someone with your skills and experience, e.g. “Finance Director” in the example above.
• Look at job postings that represent your job target. Find the words most frequently used in these postings, by either eyeballing them, or going to a free “word-cloud” site like tagcrowd.com to get a frequency count of the words.
• Search for and scan LinkedIn profiles of people who do what you want to do. In particular check out the “Skills” section.
• Talk to people, for example by joining an association that represents your target audience.
• Read the appropriate online publications, including following bloggers in your field, and see what they are talking about.
Once you’ve identified the right keywords, you need to take a thoughtful approach to placing keywords in your profile. Be careful not to just stuff keywords randomly in your profile to boost your ranking. You will turn off viewers of your profile and they won’t contact you. If you are smart about keyword placement, however, you will both be found and enhance your profile’s appeal, since you’re including words that resonate with your target audience. Here are some tips for keyword placement.
Have as complete a profile as possible
LinkedIn gives you suggestions for adding sections to your profile. Take them whenever possible. Adding these sections increases the opportunity for you to place keywords in your profile that will help you to be found. For example, many users leave out the Summary Section. This is a mistake. Add add a powerful, keyword-rich summary section that explains how you can help organizations.
Fill in the job descriptions
Too many profiles have blank job descriptions. If you don’t fill in the descriptions, you’re missing an opportunity to boost your search results by way of the additional keywords you place in there. You’re also losing an opportunity to make a great impression with accomplishment-oriented bullets in the descriptions.
Try to include a current position (even if you’re not working)
Many recruiters conduct searches based on the “current job title” field. If you have no current job title (with the appropriate keywords), you won’t show up in their results. So try to add a current role, even if you’re not working. Ideas for doing this include 1) moving relevant unpaid work or volunteer experience into the “current job” slot and 2) creating a job called “Continuing Education” and listing relevant courses you’ve recently taken while not working.
By the way, I give this very same advice to my resume clients; use these tips to fill gaps in your resume experience as well. You’ll also be helping to overcome a well known recruiting bias against people who’ve been out of work for a while.
Have a keyword-rich headline
Your headline (right below your profile picture) is of primary importance – the keywords in the headline play a major role in your search results ranking. Plus, headlines are the most prominent highlighted element in a long list of search results, so you want yours to stand out. Craft a headline that’s keyword rich and will resonate with those you want to impress.
For example, one client was searching for Chief Operating Officer roles in Technology startups. Her initial headline said simply “Senior Executive – Helping Companies Grow.” This phrasing was not helping her at all to be found in searches for a COO at a technology startup. Once she added keywords to her headline such as “Startup,” “Chief Operating Officer” and “Technology” she started getting inquiries.
LinkedIn allows a headline of up to 120 characters. Make the most of this allotment by adding keywords that get you as close to the character limit as possible.
Add keyword rich “functional descriptions” in your job titles
Say your current job title is “Vice President” and you engage in project management, which also represents your job target. Leaving “Vice President” as your profile’s job title won’t boost your search rankings by much. Add in a few keywords that describe what you do to get better results. For example, you will get more search hits with “Vice President – Project Management, Agile, Six Sigma.”
Use all 50 slots in the skills section
LinkedIn gives you 50 slots for skills. Use all 50 of them. Try to add every permutation of the skill that someone might search on. For example if you’re going for a Marketing Director position, you could list “Marketing” as a skill. But also add “Marketing Management,” “Marketing Strategy,” and so forth in addition to all the other skills you want to showcase. Adding these will simply improve your odds of being found.
And don’t worry if you aren’t yet endorsed for the skills that you are adding. It’s no secret to anyone who has used LinkedIn (including the people who are searching LinkedIn to fill positions) that endorsements have limited value. I have tons of endorsements on my profile, but at least half the people who endorsed me have no idea whether I’m really good at the thing that they endorsed me for! It’s just too easy to click on that “endorse” button (LinkedIn is actively trying to improve the value of this feature, but the problem remains).
Now recommendations, on the other hand, are a different story; get lots of high quality recommendations (or get at least three) because they really mean something, since the person who gave the recommendation is visible and has put their reputation on the line. And by the way, don’t just get, give recommendations as well; it’s a nice way to live, and it looks good on your profile.
If you like to spell the organization you worked at differently than the way LinkedIn recognizes it, defer to LinkedIn’s spelling. That’s because LinkedIn will have you show up in more searches if it recognizes the organization. You’ll know if you’ve entered the organization name correctly if its logo shows up on your profile.
This article was written by Robert Hellmann from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.