LinkedIn might be great for job seekers, but it has one big flaw.

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Why LinkedIn is great for your job search

No employer likes to think their employees are actively looking for a job outside the company, and that's regardless of whether you're doing it on company time or not. Pretty much every employee understands and knows this.

It used to be that if you posted your resume online as part of your job search and your employer found out about it, you could be:

  • invited to an uncomfortable, trust-straining meeting to explain the discovery
  • quietly put on an internal HR list of people to be replaced asap (possibly before you find a job elsewhere!)
  • or even, fired outright

LinkedIn essentially put an end to this.

Nowadays, most employers expect or even require you to be on LinkedIn.

That's right- where in the past employers frowned upon you having your resume online, those same employers now want you to have your resume online.

However, though you can now have your cake, it doesn't mean you get to eat it too.

Where LinkedIn is bad for your job search

Job search is all about personal marketing. You need to market yourself to the point where at least one employer thinks they're getting a great deal by hiring you.

The most successful marketers (job seekers) are the ones who understand their audience (recruiters) and can best target their message (cover letter, resume, etc.) to that audience.

Just like a movie trailer can get you all excited about an upcoming new release, you want to get employers all excited about meeting you and potentially hiring you.

Movie companies are particularly good at targeting audiences, such as by creating separate trailers for different countries or markets.

For job seekers, the classic way to target employers is to tailor your messages to them (again- cover letter, resume, etc.).

But you can't tailor a LinkedIn profile.

You can't target it to a specific audience.

There's no way to say “if a headhunter visits my profile, show them only these sections, but if another kind of recruiter visits, show them only those sections.”

If you decide to take a risk and manually remove irrelevant past jobs to really tighten and focus your profile, LinkedIn's chronological format exposes the de facto resume gap(s) you just created, and that will likely set off more alarm bells for recruiters than if you had left your irrelevant past job details there in the first place.

You could try to ‘spin' what you did in a previous job to make it more relevant to your current job search, but that will probably leave you with a bland description that fails to impress, and might hurt your chances even more if a given recruiter decides to check references and your ex-colleagues have a hard time backing up your spin.

Taking into account that most people have had many different jobs in their career, that's a lot of un-targeted online resumes.

The solution

Tailor your messages to employers as much as possible, but when it comes to a medium that can't be tailored, the best you can do is to show off the best you can do.

In other words, make your LinkedIn profile as impressive as possible regardless of who will see it. For each role you've had:

  • Emphasize achievements, using numbers where possible
  • Get hard-hitting recommendations from people in the know
  • List awards and honors received

And use the Summary to sum up the highlights of all these points, motivating the reader to seek out more details as they become more and more impressed, ultimately inviting you to a first interview.

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What do you think? Am I right or wrong? Tell us in the comments.

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READ NEXT: How To Keep Your LinkedIn Job Search Undetected While Currently Employed

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Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Daniel Alfon

    You’re absolutely right Jacob, this is a major issue for job seekers.

    Employers are suspicious of CV/LinkedIn profile discrepancies. Tailoring your CV to a job starts carrying risks when there is a major difference between a candidate’s LinkedIn profile and submitted CV.

    What are the differences that raise red flags? The way candidates portray their:

    1. Career objective and focus.
    2. Job titles.
    3. Employment years.
    4. Employers’ names.
    5. Actual responsibilities.

    I found that the best time to leverage LinkedIn is when the person is focused on one job. I agree that many job seekers aren’t…

  2. Jacob Share

    Daniel – great points. It’s critical to keep your marketing message harmonized and that does mean your CV/resume needs to be consistent with information in your LinkedIn profile. That said, considering how long most LinkedIn profiles are, few recruiters are expecting your resume to just be a full copy of it. As long as your resume is clearly a subset of your LinkedIn profile, you’ll be fine.

  3. Nir

    Jacob – a lot of people today are applying to more than one role. Let’s take for example someone that applies to marketing and business development roles.
    Assuming he’s done both roles in the past, than his Linkedin’s profile should show his experience in both. His summary and headline are the places where one can describe his experty and maybe even mention being open for both opportunities.
    In his marketing CV, for example, he will clearly emphasize more his marketing experience than his business development experience.
    The important thing for job seekers is to assume that recruiters will look at their Linkedin’s profile and thus make sure it’s aligned to the CV.

  4. Jacob Share

    Nir- good example, and absolutely you need to assume that recruiters will check your CV and that’s why they need to be in harmony.

  5. Lavie Margolin

    I’ve written more than 250 posts on LinkedIn so rarely do I find an article that is a must read. This is it. Some tremendous points to keep in mind when using LinkedIn for job seeking purposes. I’ve shared via all my social media networks. Keep up the great work!

  6. Jacob Share

    Lavie – thanks, you seem to have liked it 🙂

  7. Chloë Forbes-Kindlen

    Good points in here.

    Your audience whether it be employers or potential prospects are on reading your LinkedIn profile for one reason – to find out what’s in it for them?

    It’s about your skills, experience, personality and what you bring to the table. If this is done right and the copy is keyword rich, you will end up with a tightly targeted profile, not a diluted one. You will rank higher for keywords and make it easy for employers to pick you.

    The other thing to remember about LinkedIn is that it’s not a CV holder, it was designed as a business focused social network. Reaching out to connections, building relationships though back and forth email and posting updates that allow you to leverage your knowledge (and can be tailored) is greatly underestimated.

    Great post, look forward to many more!

  8. Dan Stiffler

    While I agree with your solution, it is only a starting point. Once someone has a fairly strong profile, the biggest problem for job-seekers is being out of network to recruiters and hiring managers. The solution is a large network.

    In addition, LinkedIn wants everyone to believe their employers want them to have a profile on LinkedIn. It’s a fallacy. Most employers understand that their employees are their greatest asset. Do those same employers want their employees to tout their accomplishments to the world? It is naive to think so.

    The only employees they actually want to have an optimized LinkedIn profile, and a growing network, are the employees who aren’t contributing.

  9. Kareem Samara

    If you google “Best marketing strategy ever” you will find a video by “Steve jobs”,
    His first words in this video
    “To me marketing is about Values”, they he said
    “Apple it’s core, it’s core Value” and “You have to be very clear about what you want them to know about you”

    That’s the point, You cannot make a product for everyone, You have to excel at some things and offer a fair value in other, That what you Linkedin should represent.

    Plus, you have to prove this through your participation in Linkedin Groups.

    If you do this, plus what you they say in this article,
    You have definitely helped to spread the word, and ideas that spread wins.

  10. Jacob Share

    Chloë – terrific point about how LinkedIn isn’t a CV holder, love it.

    Dan – also a good comment, and I’m glad for something to debate.

    Employers clearly don’t want their employees to tempt recruiters into hiring them away, but they accept like everyone else that a LinkedIn profile is very much an online CV where it’s natural to emphasize success.

    I agree that LinkedIn clearly has a stake in pushing employers to push their employees on to LinkedIn but that’s rarely how it happens (have you seen any stats proving otherwise?); the employee will almost always get on LinkedIn of their own volition. However, employers have very good reasons (such as branding) to encourage their employees to be active *for the company* once they’re already on LinkedIn.

  11. Jason Alba

    Great thoughts and comments. I’m not going to weigh in on any particular “have to” position, but I will suggest a cool idea for not having a profile that is too rigid.

    William Arruda’s profile Summary used to be very short. I tell people to use as many of the 2k characters as you can, and here is the personal branding guru, with a very short summary.

    What he did at the end, though, was really cool. Instead of staying confined within the restrictions of LI’s formatting (length, font, etc.), he gave you a short intro, then said “if you want to learn more about ____, go to this website. If you want to learn more about _____, go to the other website.”

    In other words, he was able to point different audiences to different places.

    I’m sure he paid people to design and maybe even write the copy to the other websites, but he wasn’t trying to force a multi-purpose message to every single visitor (which, for him, might have been readers of his books, companies that wanted to hire him, meeting planners looking to book him as a speaker, etc.).

    I thought it was a brilliant way to guide people to the right message, and even to a place where that message could look at lot more onbrand, professional, etc.

    Jason Alba
    Author of I’m on LinkedIn – Now What???

  12. Emma Cox

    I would say that getting good recommendations is crucial and an essential part of a successful job search.

    A head-hunter will view your profile if it matches their requirements. The best way of ensuring you are found is to use keywords relevant to the roles you would like to be considered for and use them in multiple places in your profile so you appear higher up the search results.

    I would say it is less important if you have applied for a job and they are looking to check you out on LinkedIn too. They will already have your CV and there should be a correlation between them.

    There is also the option to be an influencer on LinkedIn and build up your profile that way.

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