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linkedinLinkedIn is no longer an optional platform. It crossed the tipping point long ago and is now a core tool used by third party recruiters and employers alike to identify and research candidates. And if you are actively interviewing, expect every interviewer to check out your LinkedIn profile.

Putting your best foot forward on LinkedIn is not time-consuming, but you should do it thoughtfully and purposefully. Here are four key tips for getting it right.

1. The photo matters. Like it or not, your headshot is your first impression. Choose your LinkedIn photo accordingly. Go with a simple business look, preferably with a smile included. If you don’t have an appropriate public relations shot on file, spend time and money to have one taken.

2. Don’t be picky. A robust number of LinkedIn connections is helpful. As your number of connections increases, so does your visibility with influencers and decision-makers. Search results are prioritized by degrees of connection, so you will become more reachable second-degree connections by employers who are trying to find backgrounds like yours. A large number of connections also enables you to see and research more people. Decline invitations from total strangers outside of your industry or profession. Otherwise, just click “yes” to invitations and don’t overthink them.

People who decline invitations do so mainly out of fear that new connections will ask for referrals to others in their network. Surprisingly few people actually do that, and you always have the option of politely declining.

3. Make endorsements. Similar to the “like” button on Facebook, it is now very easy to endorse people in your LinkedIn network without writing essay style recommendations. Stay honest in this endeavor, while being generous with your praise of others. Your connections will appreciate the kindness. And yes, many will reciprocate, so make sure you list at least three skills for which your connections could endorse you.

4. Write your profile in first person. Unlike our first three tips, this is not a conventional suggestion. You may even reject it. But we encourage you to think about your LinkedIn profile as an opportunity to add to your resume, not replicate it. Write a one or two paragraph narrative highlighting your core professional expertise and values. Writing in the first person is powerful. You are allowing the reader to relate to you, while maintaining a professional message. 

Regardless of the writing style you choose, make a real statement in the introductory section of your profile. Tell the world how they should view you. Just doing a cut and paste of your resume is lazy and a missed opportunity. Under the specific employer headings, you will have an opportunity to list accomplishments and awards. Those are the areas for resume-like material.

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