By now, you've probably noticed LinkedIn's newest feature — the ability to endorse other users for their Skills and receive these endorsements for yourself.
The Skills section of LinkedIn isn't new, but was originally released as part of the new Sections in LinkedIn (these are shown when you click on Edit Profile from the top menu, scroll past the synopsis of your background, and see "New: Add sections to reflect achievements and experiences on your profile.").
Now, Skills & Expertise have earned their own spot on your Profile—and they've become critically important!
Here's why: these fields allow recruiters to not only search for you based on the keywords you enter, but enable all LinkedIn users to rate (and review) your specific abilities. In other words, more Skills endorsements = stronger credibility in your field.
To leverage this new capability, you'll want to take the following steps:
First, enter and continually update your list of Skills & Expertise.
Even though you can add nearly any Skill that comes to mind (and the current limit is 50), think of these existing Skills as suggestions for the most common keywords used in your field. They may also be more easily endorsed by other users, so it can make sense to choose an existing entry.
Take a look at how recruiters (and other users) can use your entries, and gain insight on other Skills that you can use, by using LinkedIn's Skills search function.
From the top menu on LinkedIn, select "More" and then "Skills & Expertise." A text box will appear that allows you to enter a Skill and not only see your competitors, but to get ideas on other keywords to use in your Profile.
If you enter a Skill that you've already added, you'll see a definition of this term, and a note that it's listed on your Profile. You'll also be able to view other users highly endorsed for this keyword, and get a valuable list of Related Keywords that you'll want to consider leveraging as well.
When visiting other Profiles, you'll see a display that asks you to endorse that user for a particular Skill. You can de-select any terms shown prior to clicking "Endorse," or add new terms that fit the person's competencies.
In turn, LinkedIn will prompt these users with a note that you've endorsed them, and when they view YOUR Profile, the same thing will happen. Therefore, it can make sense to visit colleague's Profiles, and consider validating their Skills as a way to gain endorsements.
You'll also find that other user Profiles in your network will be shown to you, with LinkedIn prompting you to continue issuing endorsements.
In addition, as you continue adding Skills for yourself, these keywords will become searchable parts of your Profile (used in both People search and Skills search functions); as more users view your Profile, they'll also be asked to endorse you.
If you've added at least half of the allowed 50 Skills to your Profile, expect to be more visible to employers, recruiters, and countless other LinkedIn users.
Doing so requires minimal effort on your part, other than to be aware of the most desirable keywords in your field. In addition, you'll gain more Profile views—increasing your chances of being discovered as the perfect candidate.
Job-Hunt's LinkedIn for Job Search Expert Laura Smith-Proulx, Executive Director of An Expert Resume, is an award-winning executive resume writer, national columnist, author, LinkedIn and SEO enthusiast, and past recruiter. Laura is author of How to Get Hired Faster: 60+ Proven Tips and Strategies to Access the Hidden Job Market. Connect with Laura on Twitter at @ResumeExpert, on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/laurasmithproulx, and on Google Plus.