LinkedIn has just passed 175 million registered users and is widely recognized to be the most successful business-oriented social media networking site in the world. So why haven't more people - especially IT pros - figured out how to maximize its features and make it a tool that effectively builds relationships with their peers and attracts appropriate employment options?
It seems as though most IT professionals feel like they just "need to get on there" and throw up profile that ends up being a carbon copy of their resume. According to recruiters and hiring managers throughout the tech world, having your LinkedIn profile mirror your resume is perhaps just slightly more effective than not having a profile at all.
Don't copy and paste your resume into LinkedIn!
Imagine this scenario: You find your dream job online and send the company a copy of your resume. Your resume is solid and the recruiter or hiring manager is impressed enough with your background and achievements that they want to find out a little more about you. So inevitably, they jump onto LinkedIn and run a quick search of your name, hoping to find some additional information that will help them determine whether or not to invite you in for an interview. Once they see your LinkedIn profile, they see the exact same information that was on your resume, leaving them with no further insight into what skills and experience you may have that would make you a great fit for their organization.
If both of these communication tools say the same thing, you completely lose your ability to communicate your unique selling proposition (USP) and what makes you different from other candidates.
What's the difference between the two?
The most fundamental difference is a resume is outbound career marketing, whereas LinkedIn is inbound marketing - attracting employers to you. Ideally, your resume and LI profile should be complementary and should appeal to the people you're trying to influence or include in your network.
The LinkedIn profile is intended to be an overview of your professional skills and experience, while the resume in intended to demonstrate your value for a specific role or position. Your resume should be targeted and focused to the job, using keywords identified in the job posting. Additionally, throughout your resume you should show specific achievements that can show to the recruiter/hiring manager what value you brought to the company.
Your LinkedIn profile should be more general, identifying all (or most) of your strengths that is applicable to your profession or industry. It can also be much less formal than the resume, giving you a chance to inject more of your personality into the profile.
How to optimize LinkedIn
There are many applications in LinkedIn that you can use to your benefit; however, I always like to emphasize the importance of the summary section. In your summary, ask yourself: What do I want people to remember about me? How can I develop a summary that truly reflects who I am? What are my passions? How am I different than those with similar backgrounds? How can I make my summary more compelling so that people are intrigued about getting to know me more? You have a great opportunity to deliver impacting messages throughout your LinkedIn summary.
Most IT professionals make the mistake of thinking that their hard technical skills are going to be the main thing that recruiters and hiring managers are looking for. While mastery of a specific language, platform, or applications is certainly important, it usually doesn't end up being the primary differentiator amongst candidates. What makes a candidate stand out to those making the hiring decisions is their ability to add value to a project team, consistently come up with solutions that can save time and/or money, and make a positive contribution to the company culture. Be sure to emphasize these points in your summary.
Consider including a professional highlights section right after a compelling summary. This way you get to emphasize some key achievements in the very beginning before getting into the experience section that's in the lower part of your profile. You can also add your resume using an application called box.net. Another option is to create an infographic resume on re.vu and link it under Websites. Finally, you can build a Power Point or video resume and upload with the Slideshare app.
Promote, promote, promote
The key with LinkedIn is to remember it is an interactive, proactive networking tool, not a static document. Follow companies you'd like to target as employers - get updates on jobs, people movements, and industry trends. Be open to forming new connections to expand your network, like in a live room. The bigger and more diverse your network becomes, the more opportunities you'll see on an ongoing basis.
Thomas Wolff is the Managing Editor at Resume Mastermind.