Now more than ever, LinkedIn is playing a role for millions of both passive and active job seekers across the globe. While it is important to understand the power of branding yourself via LinkedIn, we’ll touch on that soon. You have to start with a solid Linkedin profile. Whether you’re on day four, month four, or not very active in your job search, you need to take the necessary steps to stand out. 

If you are looking to be found by recruiters, the first place to start is on Linkedin.  Understanding how recruiters use Linkedin and making sure they find you should be your number one priority. In the sections below, we’ll take a step by step approach to ensuring your LinkedIn profile is optimized for your active or passive job search, so that potential employers can fully understand the impact you bring to a team or organization.

Why is this important?

Like it or not, in today’s digital landscape one of the first things people do when they are about to meet a potential employer or employee is to look up their social profiles, typically starting with LinkedIn. While some view LinkedIn as an evolving virtual resume, it is important to look at it as a tool for your success, rather than a digital version of the paper copy you bring with you on interviews. Your profile is a great way to tell the story of your career, show people some personality (this is social media after all), and brag about your accomplishments and references. 

How does someone find your profile?

With over 90% of recruiters utilizing LinkedIn to identify passive and active job seekers, it is important to stand out and ensure your profile comes up in a search. While you don’t want your LinkedIn to be a list of buzzwords, it is important that the key common words or phrases for your target role/audience are present. Inputting keywords to match the role or set of roles you’re interested in (while still showing value in what you did) can help you pop up in a search and allow a recruiter to see that relevant information. You’re likely to attract more attention with a description of what you did utilizing that word, rather than just a list of words. Think about what you’d most likely to be interested in and make sure it pops up in your profile. 

Getting Started

Someone has found your LinkedIn profile, maybe it was a recruiter searching for talent, maybe it is someone that is going to interview you tomorrow afternoon. How do you ensure they actually click on your profile?  And once they click, how do you capture their attention for longer? We break it down into sections.

1. Profile Photo

It may seem like common sense, but uploading a “professional looking” photo is a helpful addition to all profiles. It does not need to be an expensive headshot, but leave the fuzzy party photos for Facebook. Photos help provide others with a sense of how you present yourself, as well as are helpful for people to know who they are dealing with if you’re meeting up to network or on a more casual meeting where checking in and waiting does not always take place. 

2. Headline 

This (along with your photo) is what a recruiter or individual sees first when they perform a search. Your headline should be a quick focused response to what you do. If your experience is laser-focused in a particular skill/vertical it should read just that. If you have a variety of skills, list the relevant ones. You have 120 characters (**150 characters if you edit from your iphone) to sell people on clicking on your profile to learn more, use them!

3. About 

Here is your opportunity to tell your elevator pitch/story. This section allows you to share a bit about your career candidly, (letting your personality shine through here a bit is ok too). If people are interested in this section, you’ve clearly captured their attention based on your skills or headline and they want to know how you go where you are or more on what you’re about.


A relatively new section of LinkedIn profiles, this is an area to showcase impressive and relevant work samples, feature posts or articles you’ve written or are impactful, as well as links to external media that is relevant to you. This section can be changed to reflect what you need with ease. (Ex. You’re employed in sales and want to share some content around offerings and links to action items, versus on the job hunt and choose to highlight articles that showcase your expertise in a particular area.) Both may be relevant to your profile but can be swapped in and out easily so viewers don’t need to search deeper.


The main course of your profile, this section is typically utilized as a resume of sorts to understand your professional background in measured impacts. People tend to do one of two things in this section, list their jobs and titles with no additional context, or copy and paste their resume directly here. While employers and recruiters will always appreciate the latter, it is important to share additional/deeper information here. 

This is your chance to share wins, talk about teams you managed, your technical depth, or the revenue goals you blew out of the water in a less formal context. 

While your resume may read “Built application in Ruby on Rails in a Microservice Architecture environment” this is a chance to say more. “Strategized with CIO to show the importance of a clean structured technical approach using Ruby, where I helped create streamlined applications that increased performance by 125% in just three months” 

While you don’t want to overshare, it is important to add additional context where applicable. 

Do you have a side hustle, list it! Did you take a six-month sabbatical to travel the world, list it! It is important to answer any questions that a candidate seeker or employer may have about you before they infer for themselves what they don’t know. Additionally, it is important to differentiate your core focus and side-project work. People are hiring you for what they need accomplished, if your experience doesn’t align or they assume you’re too focused on side work, it can be a turn-off. 

Stay focused on the last 5-10 years, or on whatever is most relevant to the job you want now. That customer service job you had 15 years back may help show you’re a patient person, it is not always relevant and cutting down the white noise is important. 


Keep it simple.  Don’t go overboard and list every class or training that you’ve ever taken. Ensure your Bachelors (or advanced degree) is listed in your profile section.  If you took a class at Harvard, feel free to list it if you like, but but keep it clear what is a degree versus a course/certification.

7.If they’ve scrolled this far… 

Past your experience and education your page wraps up with skills/endorsements, recommendations and interests. We’ll dive deeper into these when looking to “build your personal brand” on LinkedIn, but they should not be overlooked in optimizing your professional profile. 

The main focus in this section should be on recommendations. Skills & Endorsements are fine, but they don’t tell a story and are quickly added and can be endorsed with a click of a button from any random LinkedIn user. The value add on skills is light, so don’t spend too much time focusing here. 

Recommendations, both received and given can help shed additional light on you as a co-worker. These are essentially brief online references for people to attest to what you’ve accomplished and how you are to work with. Focus on obtaining these from people that will give real tangible information beyond “Joe Smith was a great colleague, I would work with him again”. That’s great to hear about Joe, but it seems like a forced recommendation and doesn’t give context as to why. Try and keep them relevant and recent, you never know if that person that recommended you is in the network of the person viewing your profile. 

Recommendations given also tell a story! Are you willing to spread the good word on a current or former colleague, or are you only in it for you? How you’ve treated others is a direct reflection on how you’d likely treat those in a new team, it’s important to think about that as well!

Interests are important to note, as they are a reflection of you as an individual and fully visible to people viewing your profile. This section includes any influencers, companies, and groups you follow. If you think any of these is controversial and you keep them in, it may come up in a conversation, be prepared. While it may not be a point of topic for interviews, it is important to know what is visible and not. 

Now what?

You have a profile, it looks great, tells a story, and allows others to understand your value add, all done right? Wrong. Your LinkedIn profile is only one tool in your job seeking toolbox, albeit an important one. It is important to keep this tool sharp and up to date, working on it regularly. LinkedIn has over 550 million users, with over 250 million monthly active users. It is important to ensure these users are able to get value from what your profile offers. A solid profile may not be the sole reason for a job offer but it will certainly help impact your ability to get a foot in the door or first impression, why not make it helpful?