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LinkedIn Basics for Successful Job Search (and Career)

By Susan P. Joyce

LinkedIn has become essential and unavoidable for job search in most professions and industries simply because it is so popular with recruiters and employers. Why is it so popular? Because it allows them to easily search for qualified candidates, rather than sifting through hundreds of resumes and applications from people who are, unfortunately, seldom qualified for the jobs they apply for.

As a result, recruiters are -- by far -- LinkedIn's major source of revenue. Recruiters trust it to, usually, provide a relatively accurate picture of job candidates (versus the fiction that can appear on resumes occasionally).

LinkedIn is not a set-it-and-forget-it magic carpet ride to a new job. For an effective LinkedIn experience, you'll need to spend time developing your Profile, building your Connections, and actively participating on LinkedIn at least 15 to 30 minutes a day, more if you are currently unemployed.


Elements of an Effective LinkedIn Presence

Regardless of your job search or career goals, these LinkedIn components are essential to your success on LinkedIn.

1. Complete / All-Star LinkedIn Profile

A solid LinkedIn Profile provides a great foundation for any job search or career. Think of it as your personal marketing brochure, larger and more complete than your resume.

Done well, your LinkedIn effectively demonstrates the quality of your work and your communications skills much more clearly than simply stating that you are "highly motivated" and the "go-to" "problem solver." Providing more details also ensures that the appropriate keywords for you to attract recruiters to your Profile (and you) for the right jobs for you are included, too.

  • A well-done LinkedIn Profile is more than a chronological list of employers, job titles, and dates. Describe your accomplishments (not your "duties"), and brag a bit about your current and former employer (second largest computer company in the world or winner of the 2015 "best gadget for homes" award).
  • A complete Profile that is focused on your accomplishments, demonstrating your skills and ability to communicate well, will attract recruiters and potential employers because the right keywords (for you) will be visible.
  • A Profile which is not "All-Star" by LinkedIn's criteria is not as visible in LinkedIn search results as complete profiles.

Of course, the opposite is also true. Done poorly, your LinkedIn Profile hurts your chances at a job for several reasons:

  • You don't seem to be a good worker. Most employers have many qualified job seekers to choose from, and they want to hire the best worker. If your LinkedIn Profile is sloppy, you are demonstrating that you are not a good worker.
  • If your Profile is incomplete or complete but skimpy, perhaps you don't grasp the importance of the Internet for business, education, reputation management, etc. Again, because they usually have many qualified job seekers to choose from, employers don't want to hire someone who is demonstrably out-of-date with effective business practices.

So, don't copy your resume into your LinkedIn Profile, and think you will impress anyone. You won't!

[MORE: Just Joining LinkedIn Is Not Enough, Identify Exactly the Right Keywords for Your LinkedIn Profile, and Why You Need a Photo on Your LinkedIn Profile.]

2. A Robust Network

The more connections you have, the more visible you are in LinkedIn. You also have more credibility with 300 connections than with 50 (50 is the minimum for an "All-Star" Profile), and the majority of LinkedIn members are in the 500+ category.

Start by connecting with colleagues, friends, even family. Don't forget clients / customers, suppliers, and other "allies" in your work. Also, reach out to former colleagues (great excuse to get back in touch), former classmates (again, great excuse to reconnect), former professors and instructors, former clients / customers (and/or suppliers), and others you know.

Then, consider connecting with people you don't actually know -- categories of people who are relevant to your job search or career, like recruiters and others in your industry or profession.

[MORE: Refusing or Accepting LinkedIn Connections.]

3. Daily Activity in LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn members can belong to up to 100 LinkedIn Groups, but seven is the average number of Groups that members have joined. Groups are also an excellent venue for sending free private messages to people you are not (yet) connected to -- one of the big advantages of Group membership.

Groups are typically very easy to join and even easier to leave. While you are job hunting, aim for at least 50 because you will be visible and reachable for a greater number of people who are not connections. You can always leave a Group after you have your new job. Look for these Groups to join:

  • Groups for your profession.
  • Groups for your industry.
  • Groups for your location.
  • Groups for your college or university alumni.
  • Groups for "alumni" of former employers.
  • Groups for your hobbies.
  • Groups for job search. (Don't make these Groups visible on your Profile.)
  • Groups that are a combination of any of the above (local industry or local job search, etc.).

I've met very nice, very helpful people in Groups and also learned a great deal about different topics in the Group postings.

When you have joined a Group, observe what is happening in the Group. Are the Discussions interesting and useful to you, or are they "spam" posts from people selling their products or services? Leave Groups that are not helpful, but contribute to Groups that are, even if you only "Like" a Discussion or a comment.

CAREFULLY contribute to Group Discussions. Be sure to keep your job search in mind. Recruiters and prospective employers may well be reading posts and even your comments!

[MORE: How to Engage More Recruiters and Employers with LinkedIn Groups.]

Bottom Line

LinkedIn is essential for job search today for the vast majority of jobs. Be careful and thorough in your approach, spending at least 15 minutes a day on LinkedIn, learning, connecting, and updating. It will pay off!

More LinkedIn Basics:

About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.


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