Avoid LinkedIn Goofs

As you probably know, LinkedIn keeps changing–sometimes it seems as if that happens every time you turn around. However, that’s no excuse for letting yourself get so far behind the curve that your profile brands you as hopelessly out of touch.

10 Amateurish LinkedIn Blunders

According to a Forbes.com article by personal branding guru William Arruda, there are “10 LinkedIn Blunders That Make You Look Like an Amateur.” The first 5 have to do with content, and the remaining 5 concern your contacts.

1. No photo. Bad photo. Wrong photo.
2. Me-Too headline (using your current job title as your headline).
3. Using LinkedIn as a resume. (Create a summary that’s compelling and rich with relevant keywords.)
4. Only using words. (Embed appropriate images and videos into your profile).
5. Making it hard for people to learn more. (Make sure your Contact Info section is complete.)
6. Using the default “I’d like to add you to…” connection request. (Customize the message at least a bit.)
7. Having 499 or fewer contacts.
8. Sending mass LinkedIn mail that starts with “Hello… ”
9. Not using tags. (Organize your contacts by adding tags.)
10. Leaving fingerprints. (If doing confidential research, change your privacy setting to anonymous and then revert to your previous setting once you’re finished.)

The whole article is worth reading–and it’s not all that long.

What LinkedIn Blunders Are You Committing?

Take a good look at yourself and your involvement with LinkedIn. If you’re honest, you’ll probably find at least one of Arruda’s 10 on your list and maybe more.

As a resume writing/career coaching business owner, I know I’m guilty of #4 (very few graphics and no videos). The same with #7, although I’m getting close at this point. My challenge with increasing the number of contacts is that I prefer to balance quantity with quality–I don’t want to say that I’ll invite or accept invitations from anyone who’s breathing! I also haven’t tackled #9 yet, so that’s on my to-do list.

One goof that Arruda doesn’t mention but that occurred to me is this: If you open a LinkedIn account and settle for the default in everything or basically stop with the “bare bones skeleton” information, you’ve really done next-to-nothing. You certainly haven’t enhanced your online presence. In fact, leaving your profile in that shape is almost worse than not being there at all, because it indicates that you don’t take your professional visibility or online presence seriously.

Another point to mention is that if you build and maintain a robust LinkedIn profile over time–rather than just when you’re actively job searching–your current or future employers are less likely to think that you’re in a job search at any given moment. In other words, if they hire you when you have a strong profile, they shouldn’t suspect that you’re looking again if you keep it that way afterward. That’s much better than feeling on edge every time you update your profile.

Of course, you can and should turn off your activity notification feature when you update, whether or not you’re actively searching, especially if you do tweaks fairly often. That way you don’t annoy your network by blasting them with update notices every few days.

Like any other good career-building tool, your LinkedIn profile should be working for you 24×7, and it’s up to you to make sure that happens.


LinkedIn Recommendations–The Latest

As I’ve noted several times, including recently, I’m a fan of LinkedIn recommendations, both in an active job search and in ongoing career management. They help you leverage your career success based on the value you have contributed throughout your career and beef up the strength of your LinkedIn profile.

Because LinkedIn keeps changing a lot of its features, I decided to investigate what the process of requesting and giving recommendations currently involves. (Note that this is being posted in October 2013–it might not still apply a week or two from now!)

Provide a LinkedIn Recommendation

Whether on your own initiative or in response to a request, you might want to provide a LinkedIn recommendation for someone you know well. (I never advise doing this for someone you know relatively little about.) After consulting the LinkedIn Help Center, here’s the gist of what I found:

  1. Select Profile-Edit Profile.
  2. Scroll down and select Recommendations and click the pencil icon.
  3. Click Manage Visibility (right side of page, under Your Recommendations).
  4. Click Given and then Make a recommendation. (Note: You can recommend someone who isn’t a connection by entering his/her first and last names and email address.)
  5. Click Colleague, Service Provider, Business Partner or Student and then Continue.
  6. Enter the content for your recommendation.
  7. Click Send.

Request a LinkedIn Recommendation

Despite the current, ongoing emphasis on endorsements, I still strongly urge you to seek recommendations from people who can provide independent verification and validation of the value you have provided as a professional in your field, whether you’re a CEO or Senior Marketing VP or some other function. It isn’t quite as simple as it used to be, but here in a nutshell are LinkedIn’s current steps for requesting a recommendation:

  1. Go to your Privacy and Settings page.
  2. Click Manage your Recommendations (middle of page under Helpful Links).
  3. Click Ask for recommendations (near top of page).
  4. Select a position from the “What do you want to be recommended for?” drop-down list.
  5. For the “Who do you want to ask?” section, put in the names of the connections or click your address book icon to search for connections. (If using your address book, use the Choose Connections view, click the names and then Finished.)
  6. Enter your request in the Create your message section. You have the choice of doing it as-is or customizing; I always recommend customizing your messages.
  7. Click Send.

Bulk Requests for LinkedIn Recommendations

Although LinkedIn allows you to send multiple requests for recommendations in one batch (individual recipients don’t see each other on the request), I advise against doing this–for one simple reason: I believe customizing is a key piece of this process; you don’t want your message to sound as if you just lumped the recipient in with a bunch of other people without considering him/her as a valued individual.

Give as Well as Receive LinkedIn Recommendations

You certainly want to receive recommendations that can help boost your online reputation and visibility. That said, it’s important to give recommendations to others when you can make a positive contribution to their online presence. In fact, some experts say you should offer a recommendation to others that you’d like to receive one from, before you ask them for a recommendation. The premise is that your unsolicited offer will inspire them to reciprocate. If that doesn’t happen, you can still make a direct request.

I don’t know if there’s a “magic” number for recommendations, but I suggest having at least 10 that you can display in your profile. More probably wouldn’t hurt, if they’re really good ones. It’s also good to have recommendations for each of your current and past positions (at least covering the last several years).

Job Search Tools–Waste of Time or Worthwhile?

It makes good sense to keep an eye out for new job search tools that could help you manage your job search–even your ongoing career–more effectively. In other words, tools that save you time, effort, frustration, and so on. We live in a technology age, so it stands to reason technology in one form or another should offer you very useful tools for your job search, right? Maybe…maybe not.

Job Search Tools that Fail to Fulfill Potential

Numerous companies have come up with and/or promoted the use of certain services as having an exciting role in job searching–whether to employers who will pay to use them to source candidates or to job seekers who hope the services will give them a leg-up on the competition. However, as you might expect if you think seriously about it, the likelihood that all of them or even most of them will actually prove valuable to many job seekers is not guaranteed great. What’s sad is, if you put too much faith in these and spend a lot of time and energy trying to use them to jump-start your job search, you might not only be disappointed at the results (or lack thereof) but also have cost yourself valuable time you could have spent more productively.

I just read a “roundup” item on ERE.net by John Zappe and Todd Raphael, called “Not Just a Spanking but a Hard Spanking,” that references a post on Talent HQ by Jason Buss, titled “The Top 7 Recruit Fails of 2012.” Zappe and Raphael questioned a couple of Buss’s choices for failed recruiting methods, but presumably not the others. Here’s the list, in brief, with the worst “failure” in #1 position:

  1. Facebook
  2. BranchOut
  3. Talent Communities
  4. Social Recruiting
  5. Taleo Acquisition
  6. Mobile Recruiting
  7. Recruiting with Pinterest

Of course, this was put together from the perspective of employers/recruiters, but it’s one of those topics that should still interest you as a job seeker or potential job seeker. The more you know about what’s working for employers and what’s not, the better armed you are to conduct a well-thought-out job search campaign.

What is a Worthwhile Job Search Tool?

If you’re looking for tools that will do most of the work for you in a job search, you’re probably wasting time. I have yet to see any of the promoted tools ranked high enough to do that. Any that provide verifiable benefits seem to expect you to do some actual work yourself! If the tools and techniques you’ve been using recently aren’t producing good results, maybe it’s time to reexamine what you’re using and check out others that you haven’t gotten to yet. Just don’t jump on the bandwagon and ride it happily along without evaluating the time you spend on the tool against the payoff you receive from it.

Researching companies, making a case for your value even where there are no advertised openings, becoming visibly active in your field/industry, establishing a strong and professional online presence…these are the kinds of tools that so far have been widely acknowledged as a worthwhile investment of your time and energy.

So What About LinkedIn?

While I have some concerns about the course LinkedIn seems to be taking lately (I’m still not a fan of the new “Endorsements” provision, for example), I still believe it’s a potentially valuable online networking and job search tool, if you use it wisely. For example, establish some real relationships with key people in your LinkedIn network, rather than just making it a numbers game. (“I have 500 connections.” “Well, I can beat your 500–I have 1,000!”) I don’t believe LinkedIn is going away any time soon, which I do think is a good thing. The trick will be to find out how to make it work well for you.

Blogging as a Job Search Tool

Chances are, you read (follow) one or more blogs on a fairly regular basis. However, do you publish your own blog in a field of professional interest–that is, on a topic related to an area in which you would like to work? Or are already working but want or need to make a change? If you are not publishing a blog, you might be missing out on a potentially powerful job search tool. Several reasons for doing that come to mind, and a few of them were underscored in a book I just finished reading: Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0. I will share snippets of the book’s points in the comments that follow.

Why Use Blogging as a Job Search Tool?

Offhand, I can think of at least 3 reasons to make blogging a part of your job search action plan:

  1. Establishing a strong online presence can play a key role in making you visible to companies who will be looking for people like you, and blogging is one relatively easy and cost-effective method for doing that.
  2. You can maintain a blog even after you land your next job and keep yourself top-of-mind with the kinds of people you want to stay in touch with, yet not send out a signal to your current (new) employer that says, “Hey, I’m job searching again.”
  3. If you link to your blog in a variety of places, you can easily increase your visibility and credibility with minimal additional effort. For example, link to and from your online resume, your LinkedIn profile, your Facebook page (if you have one for your professional side), and so on. Some of that can be done almost automatically (set up once and left to run each time you publish a blog post).

What Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters Says about Blogging

These are just a few of the gems contained in the book:

  • “If you have a blog, post on it frequently with your name and title. Add descriptors like your current projects, technical expertise, and examples of anything you have done that shows up in the public record….Be specific with your expertise.”
  • “If you don’t have a blog, offer to guest post at blogs that discuss your industry and your metro area.”
  • If you have your own web site (something the book highly recommends), “a blog is a powerful addition to your web site….Having your own blog gives you credibility and a forum to demonstrate your expertise. If you’re not an expert, you can become your industry’s oracle by linking to other bloggers, articles, news sources, and web sites. You build your credibility by highlighting what others are doing.”
  • “…your blog is a billboard on the Internet.” One way it can help you find a new job is by increasing your visibility with search engines, which according to the book “love blogs.”

When to Start Using Blogging as a Job Search Tool

If you haven’t already started, now would be a good time! It’s not that hard to do (as the saying goes, it’s not rocket science–unless you’re a rocket scientist), and the sooner you start, the sooner you can begin building a presence–gaining traction–in the area you want to be known for, work in, and so forth. It also doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, or even close to that. How many other job search aids can make that claim–potentially high value provided for relatively little effort and almost no money?

Keep Your LinkedIn Profile Current

You hear repeatedly that you need to be on LinkedIn and that employers look there to source and check out potential employees. Maybe by now you think you have heard this enough times and really should not have to hear it one more time. Sorry! I need to beat that drum again, along with many of my colleagues and writer Maureen Sharib, who wrote an article for ere.net called “LinkedIn Lemons to Lemonade” about outdated LinkedIn information. You see, it just isn’t enough to put your data into your shiny new LinkedIn profile and leave it there indefinitely.

Why Keeping Your LinkedIn Profile Current Matters

The thrust of Sharib’s article actually had to do with a client who gave her a list of people she might want to add to her database and the fact that she found many of those people weren’t at the companies listed anymore or had been promoted, with a new job title. However, she used the initial names as subtle leverage to find out the names and titles of relevant individuals who were currently employed at those companies; those individuals were potentially of interest and use to her as a recruiter. While that’s an interesting fact from her perspective, it might not mean much to you unless you’re a recruiter.

However–and it’s a big however–it should mean something to you that the people who were on that original list might have missed out on potential job opportunities because they weren’t keeping their LinkedIn profiles up to date. If, for example, you currently work at a company that someone is interested in recruiting people from, you might not turn up in the search because you neglected to add your present job to your profile. The recruiter would have no way of knowing that you work at the company of interest.

Reason #2 for Keeping Your LinkedIn Profile Current

When you apply for a new position and that company checks you out on LinkedIn, which happens a lot, the fact that your profile shows you as still at the company where you previously worked suggests you don’t invest enough effort in staying on top of things. Your online presence represents a key piece of how you market yourself to the world, both actively and passively. It can and should stay current. What’s more, it doesn’t really require a huge amount of time and energy. Add it to your auto-reminder list or however you keep track of the tasks you need to complete periodically. Then take a few minutes to visit your LinkedIn profile and make sure it’s current and as fresh as possible. If you take on a new responsibility at your company, work on a high-profile special project, etc.–that’s worthwhile news to add to your LinkedIn profile, unless all or part of the information is company-confidential/proprietary.

Bonus point: If you use your profile headline to showcase your current title, you’re not maximizing a valuable piece of real estate. Saying “Vice President of Operations, ABC Corporation” advertises ABC Corp. as much as it indicates your level and area of specialization. That information will be in your Experience section, and if desired, you can even include a reference to it somewhere in your Summary. Consider using the headline to say something unique about yourself instead. Maybe something like “Successful Startup-to-IPO Strategist,” for example. (I threw that one in off the top of my head. You might be able to come up with something better if you think about it.)

Job Search Tools: Online Visibility Management

Along with other people in my profession, I’ve been telling clients, blog/Facebook followers and a lot of other individuals they need to make online presence a part of their ongoing career management, with particular attention paid when they’re preparing to launch an active job search. I’ve mainly considered that to mean doing your best to avoid posting or becoming the subject of potentially negative items online while also developing and maintaining an active, positive presence on the Internet.

A recent article I read online gives more emphasis to this subject. The article, “Social Media and the Job Hunt: Squeaky-Clean Profiles Need Not Apply,” cites comments by Joshua Waldman, a careers expert who’s an expert on using social media in job searching, and by James Alexander, CEO of Vizibility, an online reputation management company. Although they address slightly different aspects of the situation, they both make points you might want to keep in mind.

“Public Private” Concept for Online Visibility

Although we’ve cautioned people to make their online presence very professional, it now appears that trying to scrub all personal aspects out of places like Facebook could boomerang by making you something of a non-person (no personality at all). According to the article, it could even torpedo your chances of being hired. Waldman’s suggestion for dealing with such possibilities is to view yourself similarly to TV or radio show hosts. He says, “They’re talking about personal details of their lives in a very public way. These details are important because they make themselves seem accessible to listeners but they’re definitely not deep secrets or potentially embarrassing.”

In other words, you should “aim to post something publicly private to the social graph at least once a week….” That’s one way to keep yourself visible in a positive way.

An Online Reputation Job Search Tool

Vizibility.com provides another way of dealing with your online presence before, during and after an active job search. It “helps individuals curate [edit], package and distribute their social presence…through links or QR codes on business cards resumes and email signatures.” Alexander’s take on the situation is that you need to be prepared for people checking you out through online searching. Vizibility offers a function that lets you choose your “Top 5” Google links and “create a specialized query for potential employers.”

Does this mean employers can’t or won’t search elsewhere to find information about you? It’s hard to say for sure, but there’s certainly nothing stopping them from doing that. After all, they probably know you’re not going to provide them with links that will reveal bad things about you. That would be like providing negative references for a prospective employer to check! However, if you can at least get them to glance at the good stuff first, you might be a bit ahead of the game, and any advantage you can legitimately gain is worth trying.

Employer Access to Your Social Media

The big explosion of concern and outrage over reports some employers have been “requesting” (more like demanding) that job seekers provide their Facebook password has led to several states considering legislation to make the practice illegal. Even if these laws–and more like them–actually pass, they might not protect your privacy as much as you think. A short article by Gloria Goodale, “Give me your password,” explains why this might be the case (The Christian Science Monitor Weekly, April 23, 2012).

Why Withholding Your Facebook Password Might Not Help

According to the article, “there are many ways to get information from applicants’ social media without demanding their passwords” (a statement made by Kabrina Krebel Chang, an assistant professor at Boston University.) What are some of those ways? For starters, suppose some of your friends of friends of friends…are connected to, even working at, companies where you are applying and interviewing. There’s apparently nothing to stop those people from giving the company access to your Facebook page. Chang also points out that if there aren’t direct Facebook friends, you might be a friend of other pages or have liked other pages that will give people access to information about you.

Other Routes Employers Might Take to Get Your Info

Charles Palmer, executive director of the Center for Advanced Entertainment & Learning Technologies at Harrisburg University, is quoted in the article as saying that “human resources departments will simply switch to sending ‘friend requests’ to applicants….It’s a little less overt and completely legal….” Of course, if you receive such a request, you’re free to ignore or decline to accept it. However, it’s nearly impossible to predict the effect this might have on your candidacy at that company.

Ongoing Awareness of Your Social Media Presence is Crucial

As I’ve said before, you need to be alert to what you are posting on social media sites, what you are commenting on (and how), and a host of other considerations related to your online/social media presence. That’s true whether or not you’re engaged in a job search at this moment. Basically, anything you post/share online could somehow become public knowledge, whether you know it or not. You can’t rely on legislation to protect you and prevent employers from mining your “private” online interactions. Ultimately, it’s your responsibility. Yes, you can maintain restricted-access settings for your Facebook and other accounts, but under certain circumstances that might be inadequate. Better still, of course, you can refrain from posting/commenting anything anywhere that you wouldn’t want to have come back on you. If you’ve taken these basic steps, the rest might be “in the lap of the gods.” Full control or protection is probably an unattainable goal.