How to Set Up Your LinkedIn Profile for a Job Search

Source: Carol Adams, CPRW | FACET Senior Career Strategist

As a job seeker, having a LinkedIn profile is critical to your success as a professional. Even when you’re not looking for a new position, maintaining an active network and a presence on LinkedIn can provide a boost to your career. Ideally, you should already have a LinkedIn profile with a decent size network, and be a regular participant on the site before you need to look for a job, but at the very least, you MUST develop a LinkedIn profile when you are in job search mode.


Because everyone, from CEOs to recruiters, to your former college classmates are on the platform, and not being onboard suggests that you’re not “with it.” This can be especially harmful if you are over 50 and already facing potential bias because of your age. In addition, maintaining an optimized profile and staying engaged on the platform can bring opportunities to you, because 94% of recruiters and hiring managers report being on LinkedIn every day, actively seeking candidates and checking up on those who’ve already applied.

So, you’re looking for a job, what does your LinkedIn profile need to look like to make you attractive to employers?

To start, ignore any advice to put “Open to Opportunities,” or “Seeking New Opportunities” in your Headline or Summary. This was standard advice for a while, but these phrases are now considered banners of desperation, and nobody wants to be seen as desperate, nor is anyone attracted to someone who appears that way.

“Studies show there are several reasons why this hurts the effectiveness of your profile,” says J.T. O’Donnell, Founder & CEO of “It’s been proven that recruiters have a serious hiring bias. They prefer to hire someone who is currently working,” she says. So phrases that suggest you are unemployed can make you a less attractive candidate.

Instead of announcing your situation in your profile, optimize the content to make yourself as attractive as possible to potential employers.

Here’s how:


Your Name

If you have professional credentials that help in your field, such as MBA, PhD, SPHR, CPA, SPE, etc. be sure to include them after your name so that anyone searching for someone with those credentials can find you that way.

Your Photo

Adding a photo to your LinkedIn account makes it 14 times more likely that a recruiter will click on your profile!

You don’t need a professional head shot, but you do need to look professional. No selfies. Instead, get someone to take several shots of you from the chest up against a blank wall. Just you. And no, you may not use a photo from last year’s Christmas party and try to cut out the people standing next to you.

Wear what you would wear to work, and remember it’s better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. If you work in an industrial job where a suit or dress would mark you as trying too hard, then wear a nice polo-style or button-down shirt/blouse. Gentlemen: trim your beard/shave. Ladies: hide the cleavage, please. And smile!

Your Headline – Make it Professional

The headline is weighed heavily in LinkedIn searches and should be keyword rich to brand you for the job you want, NOT the job you left/are leaving. Let’s say you want to be an HR manager, your headline might read:

HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGER – Organizational Development | Employee Engagement | Talent Management

This headline clearly tells people who you are and what you can do. You get 120 characters, so play with different words and phrasing to fill up that space, and highlight your key expertise.

Your Summary

You get 2,000 characters for your Summary, and you should use that space well to make yourself look interesting and let people know that you’re qualified for the positions you’re seeking.

Unlike most resumes, however, your LinkedIn Summary should be written in first person and allow people to see your personality. If it’s relevant to your field or your goals, include a brief glimpse into the private you. Here’s an example from a web designer:

I’m an avid photographer and world traveler. I think both of these things inform my creative vision and bring a different perspective to my clients and employers. I love images and the way they connect to storytelling.

Next month, I’m going to China to see and photograph the annual New Year’s celebration there. Through the years, I’ve visited Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Cambodia and much of Europe. I plan to travel often because it feeds my soul and stimulates my creative process.”

The Summary should not be a recap of your resume, but rather a short synopsis of your experience and value-add, along with those glimpses into the real you. Remember, LinkedIn is a social network, so don’t adopt a stand-offish tone in your writing.

Also, be sure to include your email address at the end of your Summary to make it easy for recruiters and hiring managers to contact you (many can’t see your contact information if you’re not connected).

Your Work Experience

Don’t be too quick to put an end date on your last job. You can let that ride for a few weeks or a month, while you organize your job search and grow your network. If someone directly asks why you haven’t changed it, you can honestly say that it’s on your list of things to do.

For now, make sure that both your resume and LinkedIn profile are updated and aligned. That doesn’t mean that your LinkedIn profile has to be an exact copy of your resume, but it should be close enough that any differences will not raise questions with potential employers. As with the Summary, you can make all or part of your work experience details first person to make you seem more approachable. For example:

“I started at ABC Company as a sales representatives, and was promoted after six months to sales manager, based on my ability to exceed all of my quotas and serve as the leader of my team.”

Then you can copy and paste in the rest of your bullets for that job directly from your resume, or continue on in first person, depending on what is comfortable for you.

Your Education

The LinkedIn Education section includes the following fields:

Field of study:
Activities and societies:
From & To:

Unless you are a fairly recent graduate (last 2 years), DO NOT include your GPA, and only include “activities and societies” if they are in some way universal so as to appeal to a broad base of people.

For example: If you were a member of a well-known honor society such as Phi Beta Kappa, or a sorority or fraternity, then list them, because these are organizations that everyone recognizes and understands, and they can be a bridge between you and other people.

Most of us need to fill in only three things for each degree we hold:

School: University Name
Degree: BA, BS, MBA, etc. – Use the abbreviations to appear younger.
Field of study: What your degree is in
Grade: Leave blank
Activities and societies: Leave blank (unless they fit the parameters noted above)
From Leave at null setting To: Leave at null setting unless within the last 10 years
Description: Leave blank

DO NOT include your high school diploma unless it’s the only education you have.

Your Skills

You get a maximum of 50 skills under the “Skills” section of LinkedIn. As you type, LinkedIn will offer suggestions that will help you complete this section. Be sure to include some of the same skills that you’re seeing on job postings (assuming you have them) and write the same skills in different ways.

For example: “Human Resources Management” and “HR Management” are the same thing, but one recruiter may search for the first and another might search for the second, so it’s best to list them both. A well-rounded Skills section is critically important to helping you be found on LinkedIn.

Be Active

LinkedIn only works for you if you work it. You need to be on the platform several times a week, liking and commenting on other’s post, and posting / re-posting articles yourself. You should join Groups, and follow the companies that interest you, then like/comment on their posts as well to bring yourself to the attention of hiring authorities.

In addition, engaging with your connections through occasional messaging will help to keep your network strong.

Bottom line, don’t be afraid of the platform, embrace it. The rewards can be many!

About facet
FACET is a human resources consulting firm specializing in the four phases of the Talent Management Cycle: Attract, Retain, Develop, and Transition. The Group's practice specifically addresses facilitation of smooth career/life transitions for individuals leaving organizations as well as career management, leadership training and coaching for employees whose assignments within organizations are impacted by change or other organizational needs. By application of several directions of pursuit, the corporation accomplishes a single goal: maximum utilization of human resource potential and productivity through efficient hiring, training and career development. The Facet Group was founded in 1981 and is headquartered in Lafayette, Louisiana. As an ARBORA GLOBAL PARTNER, The Facet Group shares a parallel philosophy of the highest quality and standards with other owner invested firms. Through this network, we provide services worldwide. To address organizational needs outlined by its clients, The Facet Group offers a comprehensive package of workplace consulting services, focusing on providing high quality, creative programs which favorably impact the bottom line.

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