Why Your LinkedIn Profile Matters
Of all the venues that make up the online social network, LinkedIn stands out as the site most dedicated to career issues. Other sites, including Facebook and the rapidly fading MySpace, have some career utility, but those destinations mix business with pleasure in a way that has never been part of LinkedIn’s identity.
Other sites such as Plaxo and Focus make frequent attempts to invade LinkedIn’s turf, but LinkedIn has hardly been sitting still. Monthly unique visitors have grown from under five million in 2007 to 50.5 million in 2010. Early in 2011, it launched a number of tools, including LinkedIn Swarm, LinkedIn Skill and LinkedIn Today, which have driven increased traffic to the site. On July 24, 2011, it introduced a new service, “Apply with LinkedIn,” that combines a streamlined job application process with the ability to extract relevant contact information from a candidate’s LinkedIn network, all done through the click of a button on a prospective employer’s website. LinkedIn claims that over a thousand companies have already signed up for the new service.
The user’s profile has always been central to the LinkedIn experience. Like a resume, it showcases your professional experience and educational background, allowing you to highlight your accomplishments and skills clearly and concisely. Your profile can call attention to the attributes most important to you and to employers. You control what your profile contains and how it is presented. If done well, it serves as effective professional marketing, even providing space for an online elevator pitch as a summary of the detailed information. Actual experience from job seekers begins to explain why a LinkedIn profile is important.
Everything on LinkedIn revolves around that profile. In addition to its role as the online representation of your professional identity, it serves as the hub of your LinkedIn network. People go to your profile to find out about you and, if they like what they see, to make a connection. You, in turn, connect through the profiles of the people who have reached out to you. Once those connections are made, your network can expand exponentially. Everything is driven by the content and quality of your profile.
Thanks to a recent addition to LinkedIn’s features, “suggested jobs,” connections are not only established among users. The site now analyzes user profiles for keywords and matches profiles to relevant job openings posted by employers. It then alerts users to keyword matches as they occur. As a result, users should create keyword-rich profiles that include job titles, skills and certifications, especially if there are standard, industry-specific terms that occur repeatedly in job postings and descriptions.
According to LinkedIn, simple steps make a big difference: If your profile is complete, you are “40 times more likely to receive opportunities” through the site. If that statistic is a reflection of simply filling in the blanks, creating a compelling profile is likely to have a profound impact.
If anything, the new “Apply with LinkedIn” program amplifies the profile’s significance. The service submits the user’s profile to the employer, adding a cover letter at the user’s discretion. In this scenario, your profile completely replaces your resume. LinkedIn itself acknowledges that the service targets “candidates who may not have resumes ready,” but whether you have a resume ready or not, the quality of your profile deserves more attention than ever.