linkedin best practices for job seekers

The Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn Best Practices For Job Seekers

Linda Le Phan

LinkedIn has been referred to as “speed dating” for professionals and if you think about it, there is some truth in that. In both situations, your goal is to present your best “self” to total strangers in hopes that you’ll get some sort of interest and make a “match”. Both scenarios also give you a limited time to make a great impression.

I could go on and on about how job searching is just like speed dating (or dating in general!), but that’s a whole other topic for another post. 

Having said that, LinkedIn is WAY more popular than speed dating ever was. As of writing this article LinkedIn has over 467 million users, and some 93% of hiring managers take advantage of LinkedIn for recruiting.

These numbers might be exciting if you’re a recruiter, but if you’re a job seeker you’re probably not jumping for joy. Because in today’s job market, more LinkedIn users = more competition for jobs.

The big question for job seekers is then:

“What can I do on LinkedIn to stand out among all the other job seekers?”


linkedin best practices for job seekers

Short answer: use LinkedIn better than everyone else does.

Because while you can’t really do anything about everyone else on LinkedIn, if you follow LinkedIn best practices for job seekers that are known to yield better job search results, you’ll be that many steps ahead of the game. 

Here is the Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn Best Practices for job seekers, with contributions from certified resume writers, professors, and even someone who actually works at LinkedIn:

1. Make a killer first impression

First thing’s first: get your profile picture right. Because the easiest way to make a great first impression on LinkedIn is to have a great, well-lit headshot for your profile. More specifically, your headshot should be professional-looking and you should be “in business dress or casual business dress from the shoulders / collar-bone up. You should be showered, shaved (or groomed), and your hair in a professional business cut or style,” Dawn D. Boyer, M.Ad.Ed., Ph.D., CEO of D. Boyer Consulting, a career consulting firm.

Also keep in mind though, that some industries have different expectations and are more formal than others. For instance, hiring managers from a creative agency would likely expect much less formality than a CPA firm. Your best bet is to make sure “what you are wearing matches the look and feel of the organization you are applying to. And a smile never hurts!” shares Bryan Yackulic, Assistant Director of the Chartered Leadership Fellow(r) (CLF(r)) Program and Adjunct Professor of Management at The American College of Financial Services.

2. Show and tell

Unlike your standard resume format that doesn’t include images, media and additional attachments, your LinkedIn profile allows you to add all of these types of media to your heart’s content. And in fact, recruiters love it when job seekers use LinkedIn’s file uploading options to showcase their skills.

“As a Certified Career Coach with more than 20 years of experience in the field of career development,” says Cheryl E. Palmer, M.Ed., CECC, Certified Professional Resume Writer and Founder of career coaching firm Call to Career, “my first LinkedIn best practice for job seekers is to show and tell” by adding multimedia on your profile, such as audio files, powerpoint presentations, article clippings and more.

For example, “you can demonstrate your sales growth ability by including a chart that shows a spike in sales over time. Including multimedia [like this] on your profile will add more life to it and give potential employers a more comprehensive view of you as a candidate,” she adds.

3. Make your headline count

Outside of your profile picture, people on LinkedIn are looking at your headline, no question. To make sure your name gets clicked on rather than passed over, make the effort to make your headline standout.

“We utilize LinkedIn strategies and tactics every single day for our clients in order to give them the best chances of landing a job as soon as possible, and most importantly, a job that they will be happy with and are qualified for,” says Valerie Streif, Senior Advisor at The Mentat, a San Francisco-based organization with decades of experience hiring, managing and mentoring hundreds of prospective job candidates. “One of the first things we advise is to make your headline count.”

Streif goes on to explain that “if you are unemployed, make it public that you are seeking for a job and include your location. This can help recruiters and HR match your resume to your LinkedIn profile more efficiently and it shows that you are proactive. If you are employed and don’t want your current employer to find out you’re looking for other opportunities, still make it punchy and informative, beyond just listing your current job.”

4. Build credibility

Once you’ve gotten your LinkedIn presence up and running, a hugely effective LinkedIn best practice for your job search is building credibility. As a job seeker, showing credibility on your LinkedIn profile distinctly sets you apart from other job seekers and gives recruiters more reason to choose you over those who don’t. Cheryl E. Palmer adds that “you can build credibility in two ways:

  1. Blog about what you know. Providing great blog posts can be an excellent way of demonstrating your expertise, and it can give you credibility with hiring managers. You can upload posts along with pictures that illustrate the theme of your posts. Then you can add keywords so that your posts can be found.
  2. Get published. LinkedIn allows you to not only list your published works, but also to link to them on the web. Showing that you have been published gives your profile even greater credibility.”

Another useful tip is to try to get more endorsements for the skills that you want to show up for. The number of endorsements you get for a skill set counts toward your keyword density for that term. Therefore, the more endorsements you have, the more likely you’ll show up in the search results of someone looking for that skill set.

5. Use “matching” information 

Speaking of endorsements, Dawn D. Boyer of D. Boyer Consulting smartly points out that hiring managers use Boolean Searches in LinkedIn on skills, which makes it “imperative [that] LinkedIn users load their resume with the key skills for which folks endorse them. That completed section of up to 50 words or terms is … [what hiring managers use to find] qualified candidates for job searches.”

In other words, make sure that the skills you care about in the endorsement section of your LinkedIn profile also appear on your downloadable resume (you know, the one that you upload / send as an attachment on job applications in .doc or .pdf format). This gives your LinkedIn profile an extra boost when recruiters are searching for the skills you have. 


6. Define your targets

The beauty of LinkedIn is the sheer volume of companies and professionals you can connect with on the platform. But don’t make the mistake of trying to please everyone with your LinkedIn profile. Instead, define the types of companies you want to work for and do a bit of preliminary research to fine-tune your job search. Because as Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster, aptly puts it: “your goal [as a job seeker] is to make stronger, better-informed decisions of which employers to not only pursue but also work for,” and an invaluable source of information for those decisions is real company reviews.

Salemi adds that “over half of potential hires said they would trust a company’s current employees for an accurate and honest review of the company itself,” so do yourself a favor and seek out employee reviews on the companies that interest you. That way you’ll know which companies are worth your time and how to shape your LinkedIn presence accordingly.


7. Take advantage of “Open Candidates”

Rebecca Vertucci, Career Success Coach & Co-Founder at Vertucci Career Academy and Senior Customer Success Manager at LinkedIn strongly encourages job seekers today to use one of LinkedIn’s features designed specifically for them – Open Candidates.

“In addition to being a Career Success Coach I actually work at LinkedIn, so I train people on this all day every day,” Vertucci says. “Open Candidates was a feature LinkedIn rolled out in 2016 and it makes it easier to connect with companies and jobs by privately signaling to recruiters that you are open and looking for new opportunities,” she adds. “You can specify the types of companies and roles you are most interested in and be easily found by the hundreds of thousands of recruiters who use LinkedIn to find great talent (like you)! And YOUR current company won’t know! Nor will your contacts… it’s all private.”

Another huge benefit about using Open Candidates is that “once you have an open profile, anyone (read: recruiters and hiring managers) can view your profile and send you a free message — whether they’re in your network or not,” shares Donna Svei, Executive Resume & LinkedIn Profile Writer, Founder of The Avid Careerist. “This easy accessibility gives you a competitive advantage against the majority of other job seekers because most members don’t upgrade to Premium.”


8. Make regular updates to your feed

LinkedIn’s top updates and recent updates feed isn’t just a way to share information with your current contacts – it’s also a great way to signal to hiring managers and recruiters that you’re serious about your career and, in the process, show them what you’re up to.

“To make the best use of LinkedIn for your job search, it’s not enough just to update your LinkedIn profile,” points out Laurie Berenson, Certified Master Resume Writer and President & Founder of Sterling Career Concepts, LLC, a resume development and job search strategy firm. “You should also post updates to keep your name top of mind.”

Berenson elaborates: “when you post an update, your name will be listed on your contacts’ home page and may also be included in your contacts’ LinkedIn network updates emails. What kind of information should you post in your updates? The content that you share doesn’t necessarily have to be yours 100% of the time. It’s a great idea to share:

  1. Current and upcoming trends in your industry.
  2. Insights from projects you’re working on, events and seminars you’ve attended or training courses you’re taking.
  3. Articles and blogs within the industry, whether they’re yours or by someone else.”

9. Write a spectacular summary

As people skim past your profile picture and headline, the next thing on your LinkedIn profile that people land on is the summary. This is your chance to really catch people by surprise

“A well-written summary can really set your profile apart from other users, so it’s important to avoid nonchalantly brushing over it. Invest a bit of energy here and it will yield results,” shares Geoff Scott, Career Advisor and Resume Expert at Resume Companion, an industry leading resume builder software and consulting services at an affordable cost.

“People should view the summary box as a chance to highlight their personality while simultaneously emphasizing professional abilities and specializations within their field. It’s one of the only sections on a LinkedIn profile that gives you freedom to express yourself a bit, so take advantage of that! A little humor, some passion here and there — whoever you are, let it shine in your summary.”

Here are some example of great LinkedIn summaries to stir your imagination.


10. Join Groups

Sure, LinkedIn is great for showing your professional profile to prospective employers but don’t forget what LinkedIn is at its core – a networking tool. And one of the most powerful ways to network within your industry (and thereby open yourself up to more job opportunities) is by joining groups.

linkedin groups

“Groups are for more than just simple networking or sharing a common interest. When you share a Group with someone, you can send a message or an invitation to connect with them for free – no premium account or InMail needed,” shares Donna Shannon, Personal Touch Career Services, Author of “How to Get a Job Without Going Crazy” (2nd Ed) on Amazon. Shannon suggests joining several groups, specifically ones that are:

  1. large and local to your target market;
  2. specific to your industry;
  3. specific to your career to stay on top of industry trends; and
  4. capture your personal interests.

Once you’ve joined a few relevant groups, take a look around and see who you can connect with. Who knows, you might stumble upon the perfect company in your industry hiring for a role that’s exactly what you’re looking for.

11. Be a compelling storyteller

Marilyn V. Santiesteban, Assistant Director of Career Services at The Bush School at Texas A&M, put it perfectly when pointing out that “LinkedIn is the only place you can speak directly to prospective employers and colleagues in the first person.” For this reason, it’s in your best interest to “take the time to write a compelling summary, in the first person, that tells the backstory of your resume,” she adds.

Ask yourself: “WHY do you do what you do? WHY is it rewarding? WHAT are your goals for the future? Don’t waste time on repetitive information,” she cautions. Your ultimate goal is to tell a story on your LinkedIn presence that answers these questions and that explains what makes you, YOU. The more compelling you are, the more reason for recruiters to put you at the top of their resume pile.


Have you been using LinkedIn for your job search? Do you want to hear more tips like this or have a LinkedIn best practice tip that we missed? Let us know @kununu_US!


Linda Le Phan is the Content Marketing Manager at kununu US, a place where job seekers can get an authentic view of life at a company and where employers have a trusted platform to better engage talent. That means that everything on the editorial calendar goes through her (want to write for us? learn more here). When she’s not creating content about the modern workplace, company culture, and life & work hacks, she is probably going out to get an iced coffee (even in Boston winter), raiding the snack drawer, or jamming to kununu’s Spotify playlist.