The Pain-Free Guide To Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile

Melissa Cooper

Is LinkedIn an active part of your job search? Have you maximized your profile, polishing it until it shines?

If not, there’s a good chance you’re behind the curve — by about a decade.

According to LinkedIn, 5.7 billion job-oriented searches were done on the platform in 2012. This means that recruiters in your industry are hopping on the social media giant any time they need to locate new talent.

So, consider what they’re going to find. One professional has a bare bones LinkedIn profile that includes his name, title, and a basic summary — more or less a copied-and-pasted resume. Another professional includes the same information, but her tone is conversational and full of powerful keywords. She describes past roles in first person, providing insight into critical duties and how she overcame challenges.

Which professional would you pursue?

More importantly, which professional are you?

Spending time on yet another online profile might seem unnecessary, but you should approach it like every other part of the job search. You get your resume just right. You find the perfect interview outfit. Put the same effort into LinkedIn, and recruiters will flock to you.

Here are four steps to optimizing your LinkedIn profile so it stands out to recruiters:

Keep your basic information updated

If you’re employed, include your current company and title. This helps searchers know where you stand on the job front. Some in-house recruiters may not be free to contact you if you work for a competitor, but a staffing agency certainly can.

Make sure you have an accurate professional timeline so recruiters can see how you measure up to the job requirements.

Although it sounds simple, updating your contact information is a crucial but commonly overlooked step. You should also include a professional email address (e.g., versus If you’re more likely to answer the phone than an email, provide your phone number, as well.

Leave out anything that could harm your image

As a general rule, if the information makes you think of Facebook, leave it off. Your dog’s name, your kid’s bath pictures, and the funny joke your best friend told you should never make it to your LinkedIn profile.

Also remember to keep quiet about trade secrets. Broadcasting your current employer’s proprietary information will be a red flag to recruiters and make you appear untrustworthy. Besides harming your job search, you could potentially lose your current job or face lawsuits.

Capitalize on relevant keywords

Use your areas of expertise and specialties to trigger keyword searches. Let’s say a recruiter in your area needs a copywriter. She’ll get on LinkedIn and search for those parameters. The more times you incorporate “copywriter,” “advertising content,” “campaign development,” and other industry words into your profile, the more likely you’ll appear in her search results.

Don’t just list words in bullet points, though. Expand on your areas of expertise with compelling prose, and position yourself as a subject-matter expert.

Don’t forget about the extras

Categories, groups, articles, and awards are all extra areas that should shine on your profile. They’re typically farther down the page, so recruiters scrolling down to see them are likely interested in you as a candidate.

The relative importance of each of these areas varies by industry. For example, in nonprofit industries, participation in LinkedIn and physical community groups is important. But in warehouse management, not so much.

Be selective with the categories and groups you choose. Find five to 10 within your industry that garner the most engagement and attention. Besides looking good on your profile, if you become active in these groups and leave insightful comments, you’ll expand your industry knowledge and position yourself as a thought leader. Don’t hesitate to show off your awards, either. Potential employers want to know anything that differentiates you as a candidate.

LinkedIn has leveled the playing field for in-house recruiters and smaller staffing firms alike —providing a powerful pipeline tool once reserved for deep-pocketed agencies. With such a massive pool of potential candidates out there, you need to stand out any way you can. And with a little effort on LinkedIn, it’s not too difficult.