For a social networking platform that is trying to standardize the way people depict themselves with their “xxx% profile completeness” status that appears when you edit your profile, the results have been surprisingly across the board. I am still amazed when I find professionals, and even active job seekers, without “complete” profiles.
Remember, LinkedIn profile completeness is not just about increasing chances that your business will get new leads from LinkedIn or that you will find a job on LinkedIn. As LinkedIn said in a recent marketing email to me entitled “Find top talent faster with free profile matches,” if you post a job on LinkedIn you will receive 24 highly qualified profile matches for free. The only way you get matched up and potentially completed is by having profile completeness.
So even if you are happily working, don’t you want to make yourself open to new opportunities should they come knocking on your door? For professionals, whether you are employed or unemployed, the value in having a completely filled out profile is equivalent.
Redefining LinkedIn Profile Completeness
My definition of a completely filled out profile is going to differ from LinkedIn’s definition. Why? I base my reasoning based on how people might look for you as well as how your personal branding might be perceived.
1. List Your Full Name
You’d be surprised how many people still use abbreviations instead of displaying their full name. LinkedIn gives you this option in the name of “privacy,” but if you haven’t figured out in this Era of Social Media, privacy is already dead. Why would you want to have a presence without revealing yourself? You are potentially making yourself unattractive to those who may want to contact you.
2. Display Your Photo
I still get asked this question often: Should I display nothing, a logo, or a photo? There are reasons why some people don’t want to display their photos, but this is a social networking platform. Not displaying your photo raises more questions than provides answers. If you were interviewed or had a business opportunity, you would show yourself, right? So why not display yourself online?
3. Have a Professional Headline That Properly Brands You
The Professional Headline is what shows up under your name and also appears prominently in search results. The safest bet is just to put your current title and company that you work for. But put something…and if you are looking for potential opportunities, brand yourself properly here.
4. Have Something Relevant and Timely in Your Status Update
This is something that I would not have included several months ago, but the Status Update is not just about linking your account to Twitter and broadcasting tweets that may be irrelevant to your network. It’s also not about “gaining mindshare” by blasting your network with your Network Updates. The Status Update is about showing that you are still relevant in doing whatever you are doing. Going to an event? Share it. Attending a conference? Share it. Read something interesting that is relevant to your brand? Share it. Use your Status Update to show your relevance… and try to aim for a once-a-week update. You don’t want someone visiting your profile and see a Status Update that is months old…
5. Display Enough Work Experience…with Details
If you’re only listing your current place of employment, your LinkedIn profile is obviously not complete. And if you are listing where you worked without any details as to what you did there, your profile is incomplete as well. Look, your LinkedIn profile doesn’t need to be a resume. But even a one sentence summary as to what you did is enough to ensure that a potential reader understand that you actually worked at the company and understand the role that you had. It is obviously to your advantage to list as much detail about your experience at each company as possible so that you show up in more search results.
6. Did You Go to School?
I’m still shocked by those who don’t put any education details on their profile. If you went to an institution of higher learning, display it. If not, list your high school. Once again, not showing any education details raises more questions than provides answers and makes your profile incomplete, lessening your chances of getting contacted with potential opportunities. Displaying where you went to school also allows your ex-classmates to find you… and you never know how you might be able to help each other out.
7. Get Some Recommendations
The LinkedIn “profile completeness” algorithm requires that you receive three recommendations in order to get to 100%. I don’t think there’s any magic number you need to have a complete profile. My suggestion: get at least 1 recommendation for every position that you’ve had, preferably from your hiring manager. College student? Get a recommendation from your advisor, professor or even someone in your Career Center. But get something on your profile in the form of a recommendation that displays your realness.
8. Acquire Some Connections
If you’re on LinkedIn you should be networking. If you are a professional you have years if not decades of professional experience from which to find potential connections. The calculation is easy: all things being equal, the older you are the larger your network should naturally be. If you are an executive and only have 10 or 20 connections, what does that say about you? Connections are also important so that you can get found in the huge LinkedIn database. Rule of thumb? Multiply your age by 10 and that is the minimum number of connections that you should have.
9. Your Professional Summary Is Essential
Don’t just register on LinkedIn like you’re entering your resume. Your Summary, or “Professional Summary,” is your way to introduce yourself to the world. Once again, why would you want to have a presence on the social networking platform and not introduce yourself?
10. Don’t Forget Your Contact Settings
The final section of your profile is one that is often neglected. Sure, LinkedIn provides some default bullet points for you to use, but don’t stop there: Use your own words to tell the world why you have established your presence on the site. If you are open to getting contacted say so. If you are just on to network with people that you already know and don’t want to be bothered by potential opportunities, say so.
Let the world know what your contact policy is, ideally writing about what your networking objective is. This will show that you are “real” and will complete out your profile. For those of you that are happily employed or don’t want your company to be suspicious about your online activities, Contact Settings is a chance for you to set the record straight: Tell the world that you are happily employed but just want to get back in touch with ex-colleagues.
The choice is yours, but neglecting Contact Settings completely is something that you should avoid. And it goes without saying that you want to make sure that you are not false advertising in your LinkedIn Contact Settings.
Did I miss anything that you think is essential to having a “complete” profile? Anything you disagree with? Please do comment!
About the Author: Neal is recognized as a leader in helping businesses and professionals embrace and strategically leverage the potential of social media. An award-winning published author of Windmill Networking: Maximizing LinkedIn and frequent social media conference speaker, Neal is President of Windmills Marketing, a social media strategy consulting practice that has led social media strategy creation and educational programs for companies ranging from Fortune 500 to Web 2.0 startups.