LinkedIn is now without doubt an incredibly powerful tool for professional networking and a must for anyone looking for a new role – be that at an entry or more experienced level. And with the jobs market more competitive than ever before it’s vitally important you use it properly or risk opportunities passing you by.

Looking through my bustling feed, it’s clear that most of you will probably already have a profile of sorts on LinkedIn. But the question remains: are you using this social media platform to its full potential? To save you a lot of time and bother, I’ve put together a list of tips to ensure you get noticed by recruiters and / or employers in what is already a noisy environment.

1. A basic account should suffice

Like most other social media platforms, LinkedIn is free to join. There are some additional paid features such as ‘Inmails’ you can access by subscribing to a Premium account but I really don’t think that’s necessary.

You simply have to visit the site, upload some basic details about you and then start to work on your profile. Without sounding too boring make sure you read and understand the T&Cs before joining. Also, ensure under the ‘Settings & Privacy” your Job Seeking Preferences are set up appropriately, including letting recruiters know you’re open to opportunities. Lastly, make sure you have up to date contact details (you might prefer to use your personal email here). If no one can contact, you’ve basically defeated the idea of a networking site.

You’re now good to go!

2. Add a professional photo

Let’s get one thing straight – LinkedIn is a business networking site so use a picture of you that looks professional. It’s the first impression potential contacts and indeed employers will get of you, so please bear this in mind and save that selfie with your pouted lips for Instagram or SnapChat.

LinkedIn has very recently introduced an “Open to Work” photo frame feature that enables you to let recruiters know you’re actively looking for a new role. Whether you choose to add this to your profile photo is entirely your own choice. Personally, I think for some sectors such as law and for more senior professionals this may put you at a disadvantage because many recruiters still have a bias towards passive candidates. I also think a more targeted approach in which you contact individuals in your network directly is likely to prove more effective than telling the whole world you’re unemployed and looking for work.

3. The main heading

I’ve seen lots of examples of LinkedIn headings when users try to use clever language to make their profiles look more unique. This can work quite well for individuals who like me are self-employed and use the platform for business development purposes. But for job-hunting purposes, I personally prefer a heading that simply uses a job title along with the name of your employer. This will give recruiters browsing the site for potential candidates a clearer indication of whether you’re a good match for what they’re after based on your experience and seniority etc.

4. What’s your story?

Use the summary section to tell potential connections, including recruiters, a bit more about you. Talk about your relevant experience and skills, why they’re important and how you can bring about change. Really spend some time on this and if in doubt ask a family member or friend to read through your draft. Stand back from your summary and read it back to yourself – what does it sound like?

5. Your work experience

List all of your previous work experience and / or internships in chronological order. The good news is LinkedIn will do this for you, you just have to enter your employer’s name, job title and dates of employment. Remember to include a short summary of your responsibilities and achievements. Don’t exaggerate in case a potential employer asks you to elaborate during an interview. If, however you’re proud of an achievement don’t be shy, write about it. Also, since LinkedIn isn’t supposed to replicate your entire CV you really don’t have to include every single job, especially any that are now quite historic, the skills required for them are no longer of interest to future employers or the sectors they were in are unrelated to what you’re now looking for.

6. Your education

No explanations needed here, just don’t lie! It’s seriously uncool and if you get caught it will cause your professional reputation significant harm and result in a job offer from being withdrawn.

7. Recommendations v Endorsements

Recommendations on LinkedIn (provided they are relatively up-to-date) are essential and one of the best ways to enhance your profile. They are almost akin to a reference and if received from a senior contact can be hugely impactful. Endorsements are slightly different because they are associated with the skills you list on LinkedIn. They aren’t as powerful as recommendations, simply because with the latter a contact can go into much more details than simply ticking a box.

Incidentally, it is considered perfectly reasonable asking contacts to recommend you on LinkedIn. To this end, make a list of around ten contacts who you know well (this could include previous bosses, a course tutor etc) and who you feel comfortable approaching for recommendations.

Not sure what to say – try the following:

“Hi ____. I hope you’re well. I’m trying to enhance my LinkedIn profile as I’m actively looking for a new role and one of my goals is to get a couple of recommendations from contacts who know me well. Would you be able to write me a short LinkedIn recommendation in the next few days to help improve my profile? I’d obviously be happy to return the favour, just let me know.”

8. Networking on LinkedIn

So you’ve created an eye-catching profile and diligently listed all your skills, experiences and attributes. What now? Network of course!! Start by connecting with people you already know. Next, before your get overly eager to hit that connect button with people currently unknown to you read their profiles first! Get to know a little bit about them via their profiles and recent posts. Take it from me, there’s nothing more irritating than getting connection requests from completely random strangers who are totally irrelevant to my line of work. If you do decide to send a request to a prospective connection ensure you add a personal message explaining who you are and why you want to join their network.

9. Don’t become all “Gung-Ho” on LinkedIn.

Think about your personal brand. LinkedIn is a public forum, which means that over 650 million people can read about you. Don’t just randomly endorse people or content, think about how this will be reflective on you. Don’t be afraid to write content and publish it on LinkedIn to share your experiences and knowledge. But please don’t feel obliged to start a regular blog. Engagement can be as simple as reacting to posts from contacts, which will infinitely increase your profile views and get you noticed by people outside your immediate network (ie second degree contacts).

10. Have fun! LinkedIn isn’t your CV.

Treat it like a conversation with the world. Let the world know who you are and what you can do to help. Share a little about your personality, what matters to you and how you plan to make a difference. Get excited! this will come across in your profile.

Over to you

I’ve given you some basic ideas about how to make an impact on LinkedIn. There are no hard and fast rules so play around with your profile, see what works and what doesn’t. Get your friends and family to look and share their feedback. There are plenty of interesting and fun functionalities on LinkedIn, find them, use them and get to know the platform.

Your profile should always be kept up to date as you acquire new skills and experiences.

Aside from all the work-related stuff don’t forget to be nice and show the world that you are a nice person…its equally as important as everything else.

Husnara Begum, associate career coach and contributing editor