10 Key Fields for a Strong LinkedIn Profile

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Love it or hate it, online/digital/social media “background checks” are happening in today’s job search.  Most Recruiters, Talent Acquisition Specialists, and Hiring Managers are reviewing your online profiles, including LinkedIn, GitHub, Twitter, etc.  If you have a presence online, consider it fair game for review during your job searching process.  


It is possible, however, to use this new step in the pre-screening process (i.e. online background check/profile review) to your advantage!  By building out strong online profiles, you can demonstrate credibility, help with humanization and rapport building, and communicate other key aspects about who you are to those hiring professionals prior to shaking their hand or giving a virtual hello if it is a Skype or phone interview! 

During any job search, you should be updating both your resume and your LinkedIn profile in unison, and spending time on a GitHub, GitLab, or other open source community if you’re in the programming field.  What areas should you focus on with your LinkedIn profile though? 

Here are the main fields to pay attention to in building a rock solid LinkedIn profile that communicates who you are, why you are qualified, and why they should hire you (i.e. your candidate “competitive advantages”)!  

  1. Picture.  The first piece the majority of people will notice is your picture.  Therefore, make it count!  If you cannot get a professional headshot taken, ask someone you trust to do a mini photo shoot.  The major musts for your photo are that you are professionally dressed, have a professional backdrop, are smiling with eyes open, there is good lighting, and you’re solo.  If you are like many and struggle with smiling on command, there are hacks to help with that too.  Ask your photographer to tell you a joke or share a quick story to help make you laugh or smile for the picture.  For more tips on taking a professional headshot, here is an article we like – 20 Tips for Business Headshots
  2. Tagline/Headline.  The tagline is perhaps the most under-utilized field that individuals could tweak and use from a marketing perspective.  This field is what accompanies your picture when you show up in a search, when someone searches your name, etc.  The content in the field defaults to your current title and company, but you can edit that to better represent your professional self/brand.  Here are some examples of how you could tweak that field:
    • Sr. Developer | SQL Server 2008 R2, 2012 & 2016 | Hadoop, Cloudera, Tableau
    • Solutions Architect | SQL Server, SSIS, SSRS, QlikView, Agile/Scrum | Team Lead
    • Database Developer | Oracle/SQL Server/MySQL | Data Analytics | Seeking new opportunity
  3. Summary. You can view your Summary as your brief 20-30 second elevator pitch, where you are communicating your core skill sets/areas of expertise, primary technologies, any leadership/management experience, education/certifications, and the types of organizations/industries you support. Here is an example:
    • Seasoned Database Developer with 15+ years of experience doing custom development and business intelligence utilizing SQL Server, SQL Server Business Intelligence, Tableau and QlikView.  Team Lead experience overseeing small development teams of 3-6 in a variety of industries, including retail, financial services and healthcare. 
  4. Work Experience. The work experience section of your LinkedIn profile should be a condensed version of your resume.  Under each role, include a short summary of your priorities, contributions, day-to-day responsibilities, and skills/technologies used.  If should be clear what you did and what impact you made!  On a side note, you do not need to go in depth on roles from the beginning of your work experience.  We recommend highlighting 4-6 jobs or the past 7-10 years.
  5. Education. This is a great way to connect with a future employer!  I have had so many candidates that were able to establish rapport off the bat simply from realizing they went to the same school as their interviewer.  Many candidates will add further education (MBA, PhD, etc.) in their tagline too!
  6. Skills. What skills represent your core strengths?  Evaluate that the skills are relevant to your background/experience as well as skills listed under the job postings you are interested in.  The great thing about the Skills feature on LinkedIn is that you can constantly update these, and then your network can endorse you.  This is an easy way to build credibility and optimize your profile (i.e. adding relevant skills will rank your profile higher on search results when Recruiters/HR Specialists are searching for those skills/terms).  Ensure you are hiding/removing skills that are no longer applicable to your skill set, or ones that you have not been hands on with in a while.
  7. Certifications. We know so many people that forget to put their certifications in their LinkedIn profile!  You do not want to miss this step as many hiring professional search LinkedIn by certifications.  Add any certifications under your Accomplishments or Education sections, but it is also a great idea to include in your tagline and summary sections!
  8. Projects. What are the top 3-5 projects you have been a part of throughout your career?  Identify those, especially any that would be impressive for the types of roles you are interested in and add a brief description.  Include your role in the project, your key contributions, and the overall impact the project delivered to the team, group, organization or end client!
  9. Recommendations. You can “talk the talk” all you want about your skills and areas of expertise, but getting recommendations that highlight how you “walk the walk” is what will further wow your interviewer/s!  Ask for recommendations from people who can truly speak to your accomplishments and the value you can provide.  If you are not sure who to ask, here is another Tip we wrote on Building a Strong Reference List to Get You Hired, which outlines eight different types of professionals who could provide you a recommendation. 
  10. Organizations.  Are you in any MeetUps / User Groups?  Are you a member of PASS (Professional Association for SQL Server)?  Do you attend your local SQL Saturday or Code Camp?  Are you a member of any nonprofit organizations?  One to immediately add is your MSSQLTips.com membership!

LinkedIn also has a number of other optional fields/sections you can add under the ‘Accomplishments’ and ‘Background’ categories.  If you have anything else relevant, take the time to add for these fields.  Examples include:

  1. Honors and Awards
  2. Test Scores
  3. Volunteer Experience
  4. Courses
  5. Publications
Next Steps

Going forward:

  1. As you start your job search, make updates/enhancements to your resume and LinkedIn profile in tandem!
  2. Evaluate your LinkedIn picture and prioritize getting a headshot if you deem necessary.
  3. Edit your tagline so it represents you better. Add something like “Seeking Jobs” if appropriate (i.e. you’re not working, contract is ending, you’re moving and your boss is aware, etc.).
  4. Since you are a member of the MSSQLTips community, take a minute now and add that as an ‘Organization’ to your LinkedIn profile. Add any other groups you’re a member of as well, like you’re local SQL Server User Group/MeetUp. 
  5. Ensure your skills are relevant and applicable to the job you have / job you are seeking.  Once you clean up your Skills section, your connections can endorse you for those skills.
  6. If you do not already have at least three recommendations, reflect on whom you could ask for a recommendation via LinkedIn and reach out to them in the next few days/week.  Strive to get at least one recommendation real-time as you leave an organization, transfer internally, get a promotion, deliver on a build project, etc.
  7. On top of the professional experience you bring to the table, ask yourself “what else?”  Certifications, honors/awards, volunteer experience, organizations, etc. are all valuable items that will set your profile apart.

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Cate Murray Cate Murray is responsible for managing the nationally-based talent acquisition strategies of the Apex Systems PMO and Business Analysis Practice and holds her PMP certification from PMI.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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