Are You Linked[In]? – How to start a LinkedIn or improve your LinkedIn to get ALL the recruiter DMs

Are You Linked[In]? – How to start a LinkedIn or improve your LinkedIn to get ALL the recruiter DMs

I get it. LinkedIn can be overwhelming, whether you’re building a new profile from scratch, or if you’re trying to flesh it out to be as polished as it can be. Here are some things I did with my LinkedIn profile that got the attention of a recruiter from a Fortune 500 company who reached out to me through LinkedIn’s private messaging system with an invitation to apply for an opening. And yes — I work there now!

1) Picture Perfect

Set a clear, high quality picture for your profile. You don’t necessarily need to be in business professional clothes nor does it have to be in front of a white background. I actually recommend NOT using a white background, unless you’re going into a more conservative industry like investment banking or law. I think white backgrounds are overused and can make it easy for recruiters to forget you in the sea of white backgrounds.

Your background just needs to be non-distracting and clean. Using a naturesque background (like a park or garden), for example, will make it easier for people to remember your face. If you have an iPhone with portrait mode or know a friend who does, take advantage of that. It blurs out backgrounds like that to the perfect degree to put the focus on your face.

In terms of what to wear, do not wear sunglasses or a hat that covers your face and nothing inappropriate. Generally speaking, your outfit should look clean and put together.

Definitely go the extra step to add a cover photo. Many people skip that step because they feel like it’s unnecessary, but adding that cover photo helps make you stand out that much more because people remember visuals! Same rules as your profile picture applies. It should be non-distracting, should complement your profile picture, and should show who you are. For example, if you’re from San Diego, it can be a photo of San Diego’s beaches. Make sure it’s a high resolution photo in a large file size, otherwise when you upload it, it will look super pixelated.

2) Call me, Beep me, If you wanna reach me

Someone please tell me you got that Kim Possible reference. If you’ve never watched Kim Possible before then I’m sorry we can’t be friends. (JK buuuut maybe look up an episode over the weekend? You won’t regret it. )

You may or may not have missed this but right below your name there’s a “Contact Info” card. You don’t need to list your number (in fact I’d recommend not to) but make sure to list an email address on there that you’d be okay with professional strangers having a hold of. 

This is another way that recruiters or professional contacts can reach out to you via instead of through the LinkedIn messaging platform (which restricts who you are allowed to message if the two of you are not connected on LinkedIn). You can also link to a personal website or portfolio if you’d like.

3) Please Hire Me

If you’re actively looking for a job, make sure that you mark your profile as so.

You can do this or check for this by clicking on the “Add Profile Section” button at the top of your profile.

This will lead to a drop down menu of all the possible sections to add on your section (side note — this is worth looking over at a high-level). Click on the “intro” tab.

Click on the plus icon; it should lead to a pop-up box asking for your preferences. You can list the specific roles you’re looking into, the location you’re hoping to relocate to, and the type of job you’d like (full time, internship, contractor).

You can also choose who can see this (see arrow on screenshot). You can show this alert to just recruiters using LinkedIn’s talent sourcing capabilities, or you can show this alert to all LinkedIn members.

4) Storytelling through your Bio

Spend some time on your “about me” bio section at the top of the profile. Don’t be afraid to inject some personality into it while also incorporating your proudest accomplishments. This is where you can show other people what makes you YOU and how you’re different from the other fish in the sea.

What makes a good bio stick out from a GREAT bio though, is the story behind it. That’s what makes it sticky and that’s what will make new connections and recruiters remember you. Don’t just tell people what you do and how you do it, but rather WHY you do what you do. What is your greater purpose or mission? 

Of course this is easier said than done, and is something that I’m always working on with my own bio as my career progresses. It’s natural for the “why” to change as you learn more about what you like and don’t like, and what drives you as the person you are now. If your current role isn’t your ultimate mission or if you’re still in school, talk about your values, a side project that more accurately reflects you, or the kind of vision you hope to fulfill in the future. 

5) SEO Your Skills

At the bottom of the bio section, I like to include a “Skills” section myself. I list skills I have for the jobs/internships I wanted that I know recruiters would typically include in the job listings. The list acts as keywords that are pulled from LinkedIn and Google for search engine ranking results. The idea is that adding these skills that recruiters are looking for will allow your profile to pop up higher in search results when recruiters are looking for candidates with a particular skill set by filtering for LinkedIn profiles that includes those words.

Some of my professional contacts do something similar with this method but instead of placing this in their bio section, they list out their specialities/skills for every single role they had at the end of each job section.

6) In the words of Rihanna: Work, work, work, work, work

I get questions from friends on how to best position themselves in the “Experience” section when quite frankly, they don’t have a lot of experience. And that’s completely understandable especially if you’re still in school or if you’re a new graduate! 

You can include any job-applicable experiences under this section instead of filing it away under the “Volunteer Experiences”, which is a section that LinkedIn shows at the bottom of a profile. Meanwhile, the “Experiences” section takes up the first half of your profile right below your “Bio” section. 

This is where the element of real estate space is really important to keep in mind. You want to make sure that any recruiter who visits your profile sees all of the great stuff you’re doing outside of school before they lose interest, don’t get to the bottom of your profile, and click off onto another person’s profile. 

So any extracurriculars you’re involved in, like professional associations (like the American Marketing Association), interest-based clubs, student/city government, charity work, ambassadorships, tutoring, on campus jobs, part-time associate roles all count! 

The same best practices for resumes apply here as well — and you can totally copy and paste what you wrote on your resume over here. Some basic principles to keep in mind:

  • Use bullet points
  • Start with a strong verb/action word for each point
  • Incorporate numbers when you can to demonstrate the impact you made 
    • e.g. # of impressions on social media posts, fundraised $x amount of money
  • Include time frame when you can if it shows that you produce results in the midst of hard deadlines and fast paced environments. This is most effectively shown with percentages, as you can compare the impact you made before you joined versus how now 
    • e.g. drove # of website visitors resulting in a 30% increase in traffic in the span of a month

One thing you can do differently on LinkedIn that you don’t have space to do on your resume is providing a short “about” blurb for each organization/company you list in your “Experiences” section. This is especially helpful with painting a picture for whoever is reading through your profile on the context of your contributions. It’s helpful to understand what your company does if it’s a small business; same goes for understanding what your organization does if it’s a school club that the recruiter has no background information about. Keep this blurb to 1-2 sentences.

If there was a role where you produced a piece of work that can be shared externally, there’s an option to upload “media” (aka any documents, presentations, etc.) or you can link to your work if it’s a website or social media platform. You can do this in the “edit” mode of an experience/role and navigating to the “Media” section of the pop-up box. 

7) Building Connections 

Friend everybody you know, from classmates to family friends to professors to friends. The bigger your network, the higher your profile gets ranked in results. 

As you become active on LinkedIn, whether that’s through writing posts, sharing articles, or liking/commenting on your connections’ updates, all of this activity gets shown in your connections’ newsfeeds. When they reply back to you or show support back (by liking or commenting on your posts), their activity shows up on THEIR connections’ newsfeeds. And guess what happens when their connections also participate in liking or commenting on your post? Yep, it’s like the butterfly effect.

Plus there’s another benefit, which I’ll get to in my next point.

8) Like for a like? Endorse for an endorsement

This is different from the skills list I mentioned earlier. It’s an entire section devoted just to skills that LinkedIn incorporates in a standard LinkedIn profile. Add your skills in endorsements and start endorsing your connections. Once you endorse other people for skills they have, most will endorse you back to return the favor. This acts like “a like for a like”, similar to other social media platforms.

After you develop your skill set/endorsements, LinkedIn separates your skills by showing your top 3 most-endorsed skills at the top of the list and then categorizes the rest of your skills by groups like industry knowledge, tools & technology, interpersonal, and other.

9) Relevant Academics

If you’re in school still or are a recent graduate, add classes you’ve taken that are job applicable, particularly if they’re relevant to your role. Some examples are classes on economics, marketing, technology management (TMP at my alma mater, UCSB), writing, computer science, statistics, etc. You can do this under the “Accomplishments” section.

Or you can add any licenses or certifications you’ve completed to develop certain skills or proficiency on industry standard tools such as Google’s Adwords Certification, Hubspot’s Marketing Methodology Certification, etc. 

LinkedIn Learning, which used to be known as Lynda and is LinkedIn’s on-demand video learning platform, is also a terrific resource to utilize if you find yourself lacking proficiency in a skill or tool that you need for a job you’re applying to. You can access this by clicking on the “Learning” video icon to the top right of your nav bar.

Once you’re done, you are awarded a certificate to demonstrate your successful completion that you can add to your LinkedIn. 

10) Brownie Points

Add scholarships and awards you’ve received, languages you know, side projects you’ve participated in, volunteering experiences you contributed to, and study abroad programs you’ve attended to add “color” to your profile and to show your profile visitors more of who you are!

You can also showcase your interests by following certain professional LinkedIn groups, profiles of professionals/role models, or specific brands. These show up under your “Interests” section.

LinkedIn also added a “Featured” section that wasn’t available when I first built my profile, but this is a terrific section to take advantage of to showcase any posts/articles you wrote on LinkedIn or to highlight a personal portfolio, website, or deck. 

11) Now you see me, Now you don’t

Don’t forget to also check that the public view of your profile is on! This is important especially to increase the chances of your profile showing up in the search results of recruiters or professional contacts who are not signed into LinkedIn. You can check this visibility by clicking on the top right guiding message:

You can also edit your custom URL. I highly recommend to put some thought into what this would be. If you can use just your full name then absolutely do so. If you have a generic full name like me (thanks mom and pop) then you may have to add some numbers. Make it as simple as you can because this custom URL becomes a part of your brand and will be something to add on your resumes (if it’s not already). 

Do be conscious of the kind of information you’re allowing to show on your public profile though. This means that any stranger outside of the LinkedIn platform can see this information. You can select the specific kind of information you want to show or hide. For instance, I opted not to show my profile picture, but opted to show my bio summary and work experience.


Hope this was helpful! I know this can be really overwhelming if you’re building a LinkedIn profile completely from scratch or if there’s still a couple of sections you need to work on, but tackle each section bit by bit and stretch it over a few days. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day! 

Something else that really helped me was looking at other people’s profiles for inspiration. The more and more profiles you look at it, the more you start to notice what separates a stellar LinkedIn profile from an okay LinkedIn profile. Ask yourself: what made that profile stellar? What did that person do differently? Pinpoint the tactics the individual used and try them out on your own LinkedIn profile.

Another important thing to keep in mind: your LinkedIn profile really should act as a living breathing document and is something that you should constantly review and update, whether it’s with a fresh new eye or if some time has past and you have new updates to add.

Let us know if you have any other questions on creating the best LinkedIn profile or if you have tips that worked for you down below! Otherwise, happy connecting!

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