LinkedIn Profile Best Practices

December 6, 2012

In part one of our series on How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile we went over how to fill out your profile, what section is particularly relevant to engineers, how and why to add your basic job skill functions, and more. This installment will cover the next steps; including LinkedIn profile best practices, adding connections and tips for requesting skill and expertise endorsements.

LinkedIn Profile Photo Best Practices

Foremost, Use a photo! Not having a photo on your LinkedIn profile is a critical mistake. According to LinkedIn, profiles that include a photo are seven times more likely to be viewed.

Properly size your LinkedIn photo.  LinkedIn avatars are 80 x 80 pixels wide. If you do not have photoshop or a comparable editor installed on your computer, Pixlr is a free web-based alternative. Take care to find an image that is larger than 80 x 80. It is easier to resize a larger image than to adjust a smaller one. Uploading an image smaller than 80 x 80 will result in your photograph looking blurry and pixelated.

Avoid group, pet, child and other unprofessional shots. While getting a professional headshot isn’t necessary, the distinction between LinkedIn and all other social media platforms is that it is a place where professionals interact. If you don’t bring your pet, child or group with you to work – don’t include them in your avatar.

Claim Your Name as a LinkedIn URL

On your LinkedIn Profile page, just beneath the author box with your name, title and photograph – select the box that says “Edit”.

Edit Your LinkedIn Profile

Then select the “Edit” link adjacent the linkedin URL below your author box. You will jump to a new page within LinkedIn that houses how your Public Profile appears.

Edit LinkedIn Contact Info

On the far right-hand side, you’ll see a box that says “Customize your public profile URL”. Click on the blue hyperlink.

Customize LinkedIn Public Profile URL

This will open a pop-up window like the one shown below. Change your LinkedIn URL name to, ideally, your name. If that is unavailable, try first initial last name, just your last name, first name-middle initial-last name, etc. until you’ve found one that works for you. The hit “Set Custom URL” and you’re done.

customize your public profile URL LinkedIn

Your new LinkedIn URL will be: 

Pro Tip: Including your LinkedinURL in your email signature is a good way to make new connections with people you interact with professionally anyway.

Making LinkedIn Connections

Make Sure Your Profile is 100% Complete

We covered the basics of how to complete your profile in our earlier post, How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile.  Without a completed profile the likelihood you will be found on LinkedIn at all – much less obtain recommendations, endorsements or job inquiries- is very slim.

Why are Connections so important?

LinkedIn is often used as a screening tool for potential candidates by HR departments and recruiters. Who you are connected to within your industry is not only important to potentially open doors for a business partnerships or employment opportunities; but also has a tool of “social proof.” The more connected within an industry you are, the stronger and more regularly those contacts are cultivated, the more likely you will be seen as a leader in your industry.

Connecting with Your Existing Contacts

Your first set of connections should be the people that you interact with, personally and professionally (but especially professionally) via email. If you have not already done so, the way to search for your contacts via email on an existing LinkedIn Profile is to, from the top navigation bar, select “Contacts.” A drop down will appear – highlight and click on “Add Connections.”

How to Add LinkedIn Connections

This will open a new page titled “See Who You Already Know on LinkedIn.”

How to Add Contacts on LinkedIn You Already Know
Enter your email address, click “Continue” and after LinkedIn syncs with your email contacts it will generate a new page with suggested contacts you haven’t already connected with on LinkedIn.

Connect With People You Already know on LinkedIn

To add them, simply check the box by their name and click “Add Connections.”

Add Connections on LinkedIn

It is important to note LinkedIn checks all contacts as a default setting. Anyone in your inbox with whom you do not want to connect on LinkedIn- make sure you uncheck the box adjacent their name before hitting “Add Connection(s).”

Adding Connections through your Alumni Network

LinkedIn makes adding connections also associated with your alma mater(s) painless and fast. We will dive into networking within interest groups and industry groups more in the third installment of How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile.

In the main navigation bar on LinkedIn, select your “Contacts” tab. Underneath you will see “Connections,” “Add Connections,” and a horizontal rule – followed by the colleges you attended.

Select your college name.

On the next screen LinkedIn will propagate a page of connections close to you (usually within several years of your attendance and with whom you have one or two degrees of separation).

For the purpose of finding and adding new connections, check the box just next to the number of “Alumni and Students Found” that indicates you want to hide the people you are already connected to.

Connecting with Alumni on LinkedIn

You can begin “connecting” to people from this point by selecting the “+ Connect” shown below their profiles.

How to Connect on LinkedIn

But let’s take it a step further. Why connect with just anybody in your alumni circle? Better to target the people that are relevant to your professional interests – whether it be for a job search, to recruit them, or to form business partnerships, right?

Above the personal profiles for individuals in your alumni community, you’ll find a list of where your classmates live, who they work for, and what industry they work in.

How to sort LinkedIn Contacts by Where they Work and Who They Work For

From here, you can begin making connections with people you went to school with and who may either live in the same city as you or, even better, work in the same industry. You may get very lucky and find that you have an old classmate who works for a company you may be interested in working for or doing business with.

Sort LinkedIn Contacts by Industry

This LinkedIn feature allowing to filter through people you may already have a connection to is absolutely indispensable to getting your foot in the door and reconnecting for business purposes.

Best Practices for Requesting to Connect on LinkedIn

  1. Be Personal.  Don’t simply ‘connect’ with the boilerplate LinkedIn message shown below. Write a real note, with real thought behind it, before asking for someone you may only tangentially know to connect with you. LinkedIn Importance of Personal Message
  2. Don’t indicate you are a “Friend” if you aren’t. No explanation necessary.
  3. Use the LinkedIn Introduction feature if you are a few degrees of separation away from someone you would like to connect with. Not only are introductions a matter of good business etiquette, but the social proof of being vouched for by a third party makes it more likely the connection will agree to accept your invitation.
  4. Send a Thank You message if the contact accepts your invitation. Not only is it a personal touch the vast majority of other LinkedIn connections won’t think to do – but its a gateway to more substantive business or employment conversations.

Best Practices for LinkedIn Endorsements

LinkedIn Skills & Expertise

We touched on this relatively new feature to in our last LinkedIn post; LinkedIn endorsements are a list of Skills & Expertise your connections believe you have. When added to your profile, the skill that you have been most endorsed for is listed on top.

The hidden value of LinkedIn Endorsements is that, the more endorsed for a particular skill you become, the more likely you are to propagate in the LinkedIn search results when someone searches for a person with that particular skill.

For example, if we were querying “Nuclear Engineering” in the top navigation bar’s search field like this:

Nuclear Engineering

You’ll note the “Skills” field at the bottom. If you click on this, you’ll be directed to a new page on LinkedIn (still in beta, at the time of this writing). This search result page not only lists the related skillsets associated with Nuclear Engineering, but it also lists “Nuclear Engineering Professionals“.

LinkedIn Skills and Expertise Results

If you are a nuclear engineering professional in the market for a new job or trying to make business contacts, you want to be seen and found in the search results shown above.

Adding LinkedIn Skills & Expertise

Before we go further, edit your profile to include skills you would like to be endorsed for. But what if you aren’t sure what to add?

Using the example above as our guide, take your occupation – say “Biomedical Engineering” – and search for that skill on LinkedIn here: LinkedIn Skills & Expertise Search.

On the search results page, you’ll see a number of related skills to Biomedical Engineering. Using these skills as your guide, add whatever is relevant to your expertise to your profile. Continue to expand your “Skills & Expertise” by following those listed onto their search pages, adding the relevant skill to your own profile, and so forth. List the skills most relevant to your work to avoid looking like a “jack of all trades, master of none.”

LinkedIn will only display the top ten skills on your profile that you have been most endorsed for, but you can list up to 50 total skills. Use them only as needed, however, listing Skills & Expertise is not a contest to be won by volume.

Best Practices to Getting Endorsed for Skills & Expertise on LinkedIn

The best way to obtain endorsements for your skills and expertise on LinkedIn is to endorse other people in your network. Two caveats to this though:

  1. Don’t endorse someone for a skill you don’t know they possess; and
  2. Don’t list a skill for yourself that you don’t possess.

LinkedIn notifies the person you’ve endorsed, so endorsing other people in your network for their skills increases the likelihood they may return the favor.

You can also request endorsements through InMail or email. As a rule of thumb restrict these email solicitations to only those people with whom you work most closely or have had the most professional contact. And take care to make it a personal message directed to the individual you are writing. Nothing is as off-putting and more likely to result in not being endorsed as an impersonal mass email that comes off  like spam.

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This is the second installment in a 3-part series on how to optimize your LinkedIn profile and use it to increase your professional network.

Next week we delve into how to adjust your settings to keep your profile low-key while conducting a job search outside your current employer, using LinkedIn for power networking, and more.

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