By Jason Alba
When I look at your profile, if I don’t get the impression that it’s "on-purpose," I have to wonder about your intentions. I’ll guess you are new to LinkedIn, or you haven’t yet taken the time to flesh it out.
The worst impression you can give me is that you don’t care about it, and you are just fishing for network contacts that you can spam. Seriously, having a half-baked profile will make me question what your intentions are.
Of course, there are plenty of people who have intentions I don’t agree with and a fleshed-out profile. But if you want me to feel comfortable with you from the beginning, make one extra effort and at least have the appearance of an on-purpose profile.
Here’s what an on-purpose profile includes:
LinkedIn is where you claim your name on Google and Bing so your Profile will be found (and compared with your resume or job application). This should be the same name you use on your resumes, professional association memberships, business cards, and other documentation associated with your profession and job search.
[MORE: Your Most Important Keywords.]
Some people have issues with putting a picture on LinkedIn, but I think it’s fine. Yes, there is discrimination. Yes, some people put inappropriate images. Yes, your profile can speak for itself without a picture. But I think it really completes a profile nicely. My only caution, which is in line with LinkedIn’s guidelines, is to put a professional headshot … not your company logo, or child, or anything else.
Your LinkedIn Professional Headline is the short (120 character) description of you and what you do that follows your photo everywhere in LinkedIn. And, it is a key element in determining if your Profile appears in LinkedIn search results. So, a bland Headline, like "Marketing Professional" is useless.
Writing a summary can be really hard. I had a weak summary for about two years until I got the nerve to write a better one. I encourage you to read Deb Dib’s article on Job-Hunt about LinkedIn Summaries for executives, because you are an executive, as CEO of Me, Inc!
By default the "public profile" that LinkedIn gives you is… ugly. Make it look on-purpose by claiming a vanity URL… mine is http://www.linkedin.com/in/jasonalba - doesn’t that look much more on-purpose than what they give you by default?
(Read Customizing Your LinkedIn Profile's URL for step-by-step instructions.)
No matter what your role is right now, I want to know what your history is. Whether you are a president or a recruiter, seeing where you worked and what you did will help me understand where you came from, perhaps give us something in common, and educate me about your breadth and depth in a way that your summary might not.
You don’t need to have 500+ connections, but if you have just a handful I’ll guess that you haven’t really committed to being involved in LinkedIn, and will wonder if you understand networking. LinkedIn is the place where professionals connect online. If you are a professional, show me that you’ve gotten with the program and can connect with other professionals online.
I hope that you have some connections who can professionally endorse you. Whether you are still in college or towards the end of a rich career, you should have colleagues who can write a few sentences about your professional skills, contributions, passions, etc. Their endorsements are sometimes more meaningful than what you write about yourself.
Sharing good information, asking questions, or answering questions, shows me that you have gone beyond the profile and are more involved with LinkedIn than most people. It's also a good way to "meet" other members.
These are things you can do to flesh out your profile, all of which help me determine if I want to move forward in a relationship with you. None of these are a silver-bullet, or absolutely critical, but each of them help your profile look more on-purpose, and add credibility.
Jason Alba is the CEO and creator of JibberJobber.com, and author of I'm on LinkedIn – Now What??? After a corporate downsizing impacted Jason in 2006, he experienced firsthand the difficulties of conducting a job search. That's why he started JibberJobber.