Regardless of where you are in your college journey, LinkedIn is the best place to start building your brand—the story you want to tell to potential employers about who you are (your values), what you can do (your skills), and what you’re passionate about (your interests).
It’s also the #1 place where recruiters go to source candidates and check out applicants to their positions.
Here are my top five* tips to create a LinkedIn profile to get you noticed (*read to the end for a bonus sixth tip!).
1. Have a great profile photo
According to LinkedIn, people who have a profile photo get 21 times more views than people who don’t. Abby Engers (BA ‘11, JD ‘14), a recruiter with Portland staffing and recruiting agency Boly:Welch, explained, “Recruiters are less likely to look at profiles without photos because it looks like you haven’t completed your profile.”
What makes for a great photo? Focus on your face and use a high-resolution image (ideally 400 x 400 pixels). Grab a friend and your phone, and have them take your photo in portrait mode outside in natural light.
LinkedIn offers more tips on how to pick the right photo.
2. Craft a headline that catches attention with keywords
If your LinkedIn represents your brand, then your headline is your brand slogan.
Your headline shows up right below your name on your profile and on search results. It’s also the first place where you want to include keywords that reflect your skills and abilities.
Keywords are the phrases that recruiters enter into the search box as they filter for potential candidates. Keywords include skills—like Google Analytics for a marketing position—as well as job titles—like social media specialist—since recruiters are often looking for candidates who already have the job they’re hiring for.
How do you identify keywords? Look through job postings for the kinds of jobs you are interested in. Note the titles for entry-level positions and highlight phrases that keep popping up. Focus on hard skills (like programming languages or software platforms) and core competencies (like project management or customer service).
How do you get those keywords into your headline? Use this formula: The job you want, plus specific skills relevant to that job, plus your student status.
- “Aspiring Social Media Specialist | Google Analytics, Adobe Creative Suite | Marketing Student (‘22) at University of Oregon”
What if you’re not ready to look for a job or aren’t sure what you want to do? Focus on your skills and passions:
- “Human Physiology Student Interested in Public Health | University of Oregon, Class of 2023”
- “Social Justice Activist | Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Student at University of Oregon”
Here are some more examples of great headlines for students.
3. Tell your story in your summary (aka the About section)
If the headline is your slogan, then the summary is the place to tell your brand story.
- What are you passionate about?
- What are your career goals?
- What are some examples from your college experience that illustrate your strengths?
Make sure that the first three lines grab the reader’s attention and make them want to click “see more” to read the rest.
This is also a place to include more keywords—but it’s also important that you are honest and authentic. Don’t include skills you don’t actually have!
One way to effectively include keywords is to have a section at the bottom of your summary.
A business administration student interested in a business analyst position might write, “Skilled in Microsoft Office Suite (including Excel, Word, and PowerPoint), Qualtrics, and Tableau.”
The Muse has some templates for creating standout summaries (check out #2, the “personality summary,” which is great for students).
4. “Experience” doesn’t have to mean “job”
Experience doesn’t just mean paid, full-time jobs. It can also include part-time jobs, volunteer work, and internships. You can also include positions that you’ve held in student clubs or activities, where appropriate.
There is one caveat: Engers with Boly:Welch noted that you will want to make sure that the title you list is appropriate for your level of experience.
For example, let’s say that you were in charge of marketing for your student club and want to land a marketing job after graduation. If a recruiter is looking for entry-level marketing professionals, your profile is more likely to show up in the search results with “marketing specialist” listed as your title for that role than “marketing director.”
Focus on what you accomplished in each position: Did you raise money for a student club? How much? Did you lead a team that put on an event? What was your budget? How many students attended? Use action verbs, and don’t forget those keywords.
5. List your skills—and be specific
You’ve already included your key skills in your headline, summary, and experience, but you will also want to make sure that you include them in the Skills and Endorsements section.
Just as before, you want to focus on hard skills and core competencies. Engers said to be as specific as possible, because recruiters might be searching based on the narrowest definition of a skill. For example, if you are skilled in the Microsoft Office suite of products, include Microsoft Office as well as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft PowerPoint.
Other great skills to list here include languages, programming languages, applications, or software.
What about so-called “soft skills,” like communication or problem solving? While these are important for career success, “these kinds of skills are hard to search for,” Engers said. “Instead, I look for clues in your work experience or in my interactions with you. I can tell if you have good communication skills by the way you write your email to me or the way you present yourself during an interview.”
Rather than include “soft skills” in your Skills section, give specific examples in your Experience section of how you used these skills to demonstrate your proficiency.
6. Bonus tip: Location is key
Engers said that the first thing she does for any search is to filter by location of the employer. Even in this age of increasing remote work, many employers want to connect with applicants who live in their area.
This means that if you are actively searching for a job, you should list your location as the place where you want to be, even if you’re not there yet. Are you from California and want to move back after graduation? List your hometown. From Oregon but want to move to Seattle? Go ahead and list Seattle as your location. It will ensure that you show up on recruiters’ hit lists.
Ready to get your LinkedIn profile setup or refreshed? Check out University Career Center: Improve your LinkedIn Profile as part of the UO’s career readiness resources on Handshake for a handy profile checklist to compliment these great tips!