June 4, 2014 5:34 pm

How to use LinkedIn for career success

Bryn Panee Burkhart of MIT Sloan©Jessie Wilson/Wildlee Photography

Bryn Panee Burkhart: “I advocate only connecting with people you know as the quality of your contacts matter more than the quantity”

Do companies really use LinkedIn to hire MBA talent?

Absolutely! The world’s largest professional networking site has become integral in the recruiting strategy of all types of companies, from start-ups to multinationals. Most of LinkedIn’s revenue comes from their corporate talent solutions, which are paid-for services, offering recruiters and companies sophisticated search tools to find highly qualified professionals.

According to LinkedIn, 89 of the Fortune 100 companies currently use those services. Smaller companies purchase premium subscriptions or might even have employees sift through their personal connections to find potential candidates.

The bottom line is by creating a LinkedIn profile, you are putting yourself into a global resume database and there is a chance you could be tapped for job opportunities.

What can MBAs do to get noticed by recruiters?

You should meet all of LinkedIn’s terms for having what is known as a “complete profile,” which includes adding a professional photo, headline (job title or a clever slogan to market your skillset), your location, industry, work experience, education, skills and at least 50 connections. The site walks users through this process.

Having a complete profile gives you what LinkedIn calls an “All-Star” strength which is the highest level you can achieve. Your profile strength is measured by a circle graph found on the right of your profile page. According to LinkedIn, those with “All-Star” strength are 40 times more likely to come up in recruiter searches, and search results are ordered by profile completion. You want to be as high up in the search results as possible!

Fewer than half of LinkedIn’s 300m users have complete profiles so this could be your trump card in the job search game.

How can I make my LinkedIn profile more visible?

Companies use Google to check out potential candidates, so a search on your name should yield professional results. By customising your LinkedIn URL with your name, for example, http://www.linkedin.com/in/firstname-surname, you are guaranteed to increase search engine optimisation on your profile.

A customised link signals you are a savvy LinkedIn user and can serve as your virtual business card. MBAs who are confident in their LinkedIn profile should add it to their email signature, business cards and resume or CV – it is a subtle way of encouraging clicks on their profile.

What other essential information should I add to my profile?

The summary section gives MBAs a great opportunity to deliver an “elevator pitch” and directly showcase their talents. I advise MBAs to craft their summary by answering three questions:

Who am I as a professional?
What are my strengths and areas of expertise?
How can I add value to my next role and company?

This involves serious reflection about how to communicate your strengths and value to a broad audience. But recruiters tell me a compelling summary keeps them scrolling through a profile and I have seen several MBAs gain increased traction from recruiters after creating an engaging, succinct summary.

I strongly suggest using a first person voice when writing your summary. It is much easier to talk about yourself and your accomplishments this way and recruiters find it more interesting. Keep it professional yet conversational in tone, so the reader gets a sense of your personality and character.

How can I network on LinkedIn to benefit my job search?

Alumni connections are powerful and LinkedIn’s alumni tool makes these contacts easier to find. Search on your school and filter results by keywords, company, geographic location and other criteria. This is an excellent way to discover and connect with fellow alumni working in companies or roles that you are targeting! I have worked with several MBAs who have used this tool to network into a company and get information on job opportunities before they were posted.

Should I get as many connections as possible on LinkedIn?

I advocate only connecting with people you know as the quality of your contacts matter more than the quantity. Why? The power of LinkedIn lies in leveraging and getting access to your second-degree connections – the contacts of your first-degree connections. You can only do this if your connections can and will reliably introduce you to their contacts. I know many MBAs who have successfully leveraged second degree connections to progress in a job search. I recommend you clean up your list of connections and delete people you do not recognise or trust.

When inviting people to connect, always personalise your message to them. It can be as simple as, “Hi X, I enjoyed our conversation at the Y conference last week. I hope we can stay in touch and do let me know if I can ever be of assistance to you.” Building a quality network means making an effort to engage with people on a personal level. Taking the time to let a potential connection know you are also able to help them is important as networking is a two-way street.

Bryn Panee Burkhart is associate director of alumni career development at MIT Sloan School of Management in the US.

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