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How to use LinkedIn for your job search

(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,

I'm being laid off, and my last is day next week, so it's no secret that I'm job hunting. What should I do with my LinkedIn Profile? Should I put my whole resume up? Right now I just have a brief paragraph about each job. What can I do to help headhunters find me?

LinkedIn is a powerful tool when you're job hunting, but keep in mind that it's just one tool out of many in your toolbox. And don't wait around for headhunters to contact you -- you need to go out and find them. While you can use LinkedIn do that you should also speak to actual people. Who is your best bet for helping you find headhunters? People who have been recently hired into new jobs. They can help direct you because they were just where you are.

Do I need a LinkedIn Profile?
How to work with a recruiter on LinkedIn
I'm tired of people wanting to network with me

Still, by all means, let's get your LinkedIn profile up and running. For some helpful hints, I turned to HR expert Judy Lohr. She started out by underlining what should be obvious:

For recruiters to find you on LinkedIn, they need to be able to see your resume. So by all means, make it public. You will need to update your profile, and while you're doing so turn off your activity broadcasts. To do this, hover over your name in the LinkedIn banner, then click "settings" and click to turn off your broadcasts. This way your whole network won't see each and every update you make. That would annoy them and you don't want to do that while in job-search mode! You can turn it back on once you've finished your editing.

This is such a little thing, but it really can make a difference. We've all gotten those weekly updates from LinkedIn with "Jane Doe has an updated profile, Experience! Jane Doe has an updated profile, Skills!" And it's annoying. So do as Lohr recommends and don't forget that short step.

Then tackle your headline. Lohr suggests that you stop defining yourself in terms of your soon-to-be-former employee. "You want to have a headline that identifies who you are and what you do in a concise but readable way." This can be a bit complex, as you want yourself summed up nicely and it a way that's short enough that it doesn't get cut off when people are searching for you.

Lohr then advises you turn to your Summary.

After your Headline, recruiters will look at your Summary. They may never look any further, so this is where you want to capture what you do and what value you can bring to prospective employers. The object is to make them fall in love with you as a prospective employee, and want to read more about your skills. The Summary doesn't have to be quite as stuffy (conservative) as the summary on your resume -- here you can let some of your personality show through, while remaining professional.

In other words, the summary should kind of be a cross between a resume and a cover letter. Remember, you are looking for a job where you'll be a good fit. If they don't like who you are, even if you have the right hard skills, you'll likely be miserable. 

When you're writing the descriptions under your various jobs, make sure you don't write dense paragraphs. Recruiters love to skim over quickly and you should make it easier by using bullet points. Remember to list times where you saved money, lowered costs, solved a big problem or snagged a great new client. This is the time to toot your own horn.

What words should you use to broadcast your accomplishments? Lohr suggested a unique way to know what recruiters are using. Take three or four job descriptions for jobs you are interested in an paste them into The words that are the biggest and boldest are the key words that recruiters are using. Make sure you load your LinkedIn profile with those key words. You could accomplish the same thing by carefully reading over job descriptions and making notes, but is this faster and more fun.

Lohr has one more tip. LinkedIn isn't happy unless you have a current position (And heaven knows we're usually not happy unless we have one as well.) She advises creating a current position for your job hunting as follows:

Click to "add a new position." On the resulting page, for Company Name, put "actively seeking new opportunities." LinkedIn won't like this (it searches for companies with that name and won't find any), so you'll need to click to add it manually. In the "title" section, put "in transition." LinkedIn re-orders these fields so that it will read "In transition" at "actively seeking new opportunities" after you save your changes. Recruiters will often look for the words "transition," "seeking" and "looking" when searching for job-seekers, so that's why we include them here.

These tips will help you spruce up your LinkedIn profile and make you more visible to recruiters. Good luck in your job search.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr user Paul Stainthorp

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