How to Use LinkedIn: 5 Tips for Getting More Out of This Social Network

Mar 30, 2015 - Joe Matar
Hiring managers are more likely than ever to use social media while recruiting for open positions. We’ve heard it again and again. But what does that mean for candidates looking for interesting career opportunities? We all realize that an inappropriate profile picture can ruin our reputation among recruiters who visit our profiles. But how does networking -- and specifically, LinkedIn -- fit in with our online activities? When networking online through LinkedIn, remember to focus on quality, authentic interactions. Here’s a quick guide to how to use LinkedIn, including five tips that will help you maximize your chances for an exciting career. (Click here to tweet this guide.)

1. Don't collect connections

LinkedIn is like Facebook and Twitter — you follow others to see their content, and they do the same to see your activity. But instead of seeking quantity, your professional online network should reflect the quality of your goals and interests. Instead of going for numbers, focus on establishing genuine professional relationships with inspiring people who can help you achieve more. It's in your best interest to connect with those who can provide you with professional support or introduce you to influential members of the online community surrounding your sector. It's worth taking the time to connect with LinkedIn users. The Pew Research Center reports that LinkedIn is used especially among educated workers who have at least a bachelor's degree, as well as high earners — those who make $75,000 a year and more. Remember that recruiters won't be impressed with the number of professionals in your network. They'll be more interested to see how you interact with them. Avoid collecting people, and don't send generic messages to random people hoping they’ll add you to their network. And if you receive a request from someone you don't know, never feel obliged to accept it — LinkedIn won't notify the sender that you declined their request.

2. Choose your groups carefully

LinkedIn groups are ideal for keeping up with industry news and peers in your field. But don’t subscribe to groups randomly. Choose only groups that reflect your interests, include people who share your views and career goals, or people from whom you can learn. If you feel that a group you joined isn't adding any value to your professional life and working knowledge, you may easily leave. Make sure to be active in groups. Recruiters are always on the lookout for people who have something valuable to share with their professional community. Post insightful comments to ongoing discussions, share your experience and offer thoughtful responses to questions. Chances are high that recruiters will spot your unique voice and check out your profile.

3. Don't ask for too much

Many recruiters keep LinkedIn profiles for networking reasons, so don’t hesitate to send a request. But the message should be phrased in the right way. Imagine you're a recruiter and receive the following message: “Hi Tom, I'm looking for new career opportunities and would like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” It sounds innocent and polite, but its deeper meaning might be a major turn-off for some recruiters. Assume the perspective of this recruiter for a moment. Here's a message from someone you've never met, but it’s clear they want something from you. Recruiters won't spend their time looking for job opportunities for people they don't know. Many recruiters claim that this is a common mistake in online networking – candidates seem to forget that they're talking to a real person and say things they would never utter in a face-to-face conversation. What does it mean for you? Don't forget yourself on LinkedIn and never ask for more than you would when talking to a recruiter in person.

4. Get testimonials and endorsements

This functionality of LinkedIn is perfect for showcasing your talent, as well as demonstrating that you're valued by your online professional community. Ask your clients, employers or supervisors to add a comment to your profile — but make sure that whatever they write speaks to your actual skills. Return the favor when appropriate. Even if you're a young professional, writing a meaningful recommendation for a person with whom you collaborated on a project is a great idea. It shows your professionalism and the effort you invest in cultivating your relationships, on LinkedIn and beyond.

5. Set privacy settings

Most of us receive a notification once a member of our network updates their profile. This detail that can become crucial once you start polishing your profile in preparation for an active job hunt. Since you might not want your current colleagues or boss to know you’re looking for a job change, it's a good idea to take a look at your privacy settings and tick off the option that sends a notification to your network every time you update your profile. Unless, of course, you’re ready for everyone to know you just got a new job. In that case, you might be smarter to keep that option ticked! The same goes for groups — if you're following ones you'd like to keep private, such as a competitor of your current employer or a recruiting firm, you can easily lock them away from public sight in your privacy settings panel. LinkedIn allows you to keep in touch with your professional network and the online community of your sector at all times. Use it well and you'll see how networking done right can benefit your career. Monique Craig is an Australian blogger and marketing specialist who works for Oneflare, an online marketplace which connects customers with local service providers.