How LinkedIn has changed the game in job searches (and how to use it) – Bryn Panee Burkhart

Bryn Panee Burkhart, Associate Director, Alumni Career Development

Social media has become an integral component in the recruiting and hiring strategy of all types of firms, from startups to multinational corporations. In particular, LinkedIn offers robust corporate recruiting tools, giving firms sophisticated means of combing through LinkedIn profiles to find talent, a solid job board that shows users their connections to hiring firms, and company pages that build strong corporate brands.

LinkedIn’s biggest source of revenue is from corporations who purchase its corporate hiring solutions.  Out of the Fortune 100 companies, 85 now use LinkedIn for recruiting.  There are over 200 million members on LinkedIn, and the site claims that a new member joins every two seconds. The fastest growing demographic on LinkedIn is students. LinkedIn is a formidable tool for both recruiters and job seekers, and in the Career Development Office we are actively teaching our students how to leverage LinkedIn. Some key tenants include:

Complete your profile

The goal is to meet LinkedIn’s terms for a “complete” profile. The site walks users through this process, which involves steps like adding your photo (LI says you are seven times more likely to come up in a search by adding a photo), a headline, current location, industry, information on current/previous work experience, education, skills, and at least 50 connections. It’s worthwhile to finish that process, as a recruiter’s search results are ordered in terms of key word matches and how complete a person’s profile is. LinkedIn says users with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to come up in a search, and you want to be at the top of search results if possible!

Claim your name

We recommend that students customize the URL for their LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn provides a default URL comprised of random characters, but it also gives users the option of customizing it with a user’s name. For example, mine is http://www.linkedin.com/in/brynpaneeburkhart. This is particularly important to maximize your name’s search engine optimization. Also, adding this customized URL to your email auto-signature, business cards or resume is a subtle way of providing much more information and encourages people to click on your profile.

Don’t exaggerate

Many recruiters now check LinkedIn profiles to vet the content on an applicant’s resume. If a resume is compelling, they want to see if the LinkedIn profile information is consistent. Sometimes there’s a tendency to overstate things on a resume, but people tend to be more conservative when their information is out there for public consumption. Make sure the achievements you highlight on your resume are accurate, and also reflect these on your LinkedIn profile.

Be a joiner

LinkedIn has millions of groups that span a variety of interests and/or industries. Joining relevant groups gives you access to trends as well as helpful articles and information. A bonus is that you might get early leads on job postings before they go public. And by joining a group, you greatly expand your own network. MIT Sloan has several LinkedIn Groups. In particular, the MIT Sloan Alumni LinkedIn Group is over 8,000 strong.

Don’t talk to strangers

While expanding your LinkedIn network is useful, we strongly recommend you only connect with people you actually know and trust. The power of LinkedIn lies in leveraging your second-degree connections, and you can only do this if your first-degree connections can reliably make those introductions.  Take the time to clean up your connections and delete people you don’t recognize or trust.

Use tags

For those who have hundreds of connections, we recommend tagging each connection based on how you know them. Examples of tags include your undergraduate and graduate school, employers or geographic locations. This will allow you to filter your connections and find people more easily. You also can make notes – visible only to you – about how, where and when you met a contact and what you’ve discussed. If you’re engaged in a serious job hunt, this is a great way to keep track of conversations with contacts.

Be personal

When you invite people to connect with you, always personalize the request. Don’t rely on the standard auto-invite LinkedIn provides. Building a quality network means taking the time to engage with people on a personal level. It can be as simple as, “Hi X, I enjoyed meeting you at the X conference last week. I hope we can stay in touch, and please let me know if I can ever be of assistance to you.” We always tell students to build their network before they need it, and taking the time to let a potential connection know you’re also there to help them is important, as networking is a two-way street.

Stay relevant

By occasionally sharing relevant articles or commentary on topics of interest within your field, your LinkedIn profile stays fresh and appealing. Your status updates will appear in your activity field, which is broadcast to your connections. It might even encourage people to click on your profile or think of you for a job opportunity. You can do the same by starting discussion topics within LinkedIn groups or participating in a group discussion. Use these opportunities judiciously, so that when you say something people read it.

Research

LinkedIn is a great research tool. If you’re interviewing, look up the profiles of your interviewers in advance. If you’re interested in working for a particular company, check out that firm’s company page (there are three million of them on LinkedIn). Company pages tell you who you’re connected to at that company, who its competitors are, who recently joined the company, who recently left, and where people previously worked. If you’re still trying to decide what you want to do, check out the LinkedIn profiles of people whose jobs are interesting to you. How did they get there? What did they study? Where have they worked? LinkedIn is great for “career mapping,” where you can see the various paths people took to get to where they are today.

The Final Word

LinkedIn is a powerful and dynamic rolodex that allows you to connect to others professionally in a way no other platform has managed to do. However, keep in mind that this is not Facebook. It is primarily your professional network, not your social network. So make sure you are using it as effectively as possible to build your personal brand. After all, this may well be the first impression you make on a potential employer.

Bryn Panee Burkhart is an associate director in MIT Sloan’s Career Development Office, which provides students with career support and resources. 

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