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Being Digital: Look at your LinkedIn profile - would you hire you?

By Jon Bains

August 23, 2013 | 6 min read

Assuming meeting new people is in some way related to your job then by far the easiest way to impress is having a reasonably well-considered and well-tended LinkedIn profile, at least in most of Europe and the States anyway.

When you hand over a business card the actual communication exchange is negligible. It's latent not actual. i.e. If you have some reason to get in touch with me then here is the method; it's procedural and ultimately forgettable and ignorable. In terms of 'being digital', having a lightweight tether to an individual is surely better than having a personal phone book - right?

Nothing says 'not digital' in business than a poorly executed LinkedIn profile. Whilst it may be true that for many, the only time that people pay LinkedIn any love is when they are looking for a new job, then they are missing out somewhat.

'I don't do that sort of thing, I don't see the value.'

The first task is to understand why LinkedIn and other similar services have been so transformative for the business world. While not being the first, it's certainly the most successful 'vertical' social network in the west. By 'vertical' I mean it's entirely focused on your professional life as opposed to a general social network like Facebook. It's an important distinction as it means it has a smaller competitive set and new features are driven by that vision.

'I have my work life, I have my home life.'

This will sound a bit kiddy but it's worth writing down - even on paper - a utopian view of collaboration and knowledge sharing as it relates to your day job - then map that against the current feature list of LinkedIn. Big overlap or polar opposites?

Task two is simple. Suit or jeans? How does your behaviour change when you know colleagues are more likely to see it?

Did you interview someone recently on the back of looking at their profile? If you didn't, why not? Is the picture representative? Nasty corporate or cropped snapshot from down the pub (you'd be amazed how many people do that!). Now look at your profile - would you hire you?

In general more often than not the answer is no. Now think about it the other way - given the ambient shortage of good talent would they take the interview at all? Recruiters may find candidates but the candidates themselves want to know who they are working for. Anybody worth their salt will look you up first, and judge accordingly. Not unlike some of the more horrific sides of dating - you get what you show. Historically Chaste and closed or Future Forward and open. Sorry horrible analogy. Another might be how do they see you and their opportunity - Legend or Legacy.

So what does it actually do? Explore your connections, how are they using the platform? If you are a client then look at your peers. Look at how your agency partners present themselves. Look at their connection - which competitive set do you want do be in?

What do you think about their fairly recent addition 'endorsements'? Does this influence you? Do you yourself get a kick out of being endorsed? How much weight do you attribute an endorsement to say a hand written reference? What does it remind you of? Do endorsements make a difference when looking at a prospective hire/client/partner?

So with that in mind how do you choose to validate yourself? Qual or Quant?

Let’s look at the profile itself. Who are you? Are you a series of events or are you a human being? This is a tricky one depending on what you do for a living. Lead with skills? Lead with approach? One approach might be: if you died tomorrow what would you like to be known for? Another may be demonstrating self understanding and targeting precisely what your marketable skills are. Of course many have multiple resumés based on where they are pitching but in this case there is only you!

Then we get to the fun part, LinkedIn exposes not only who looked at you (nice for the ego) but also how often you turned up in searches!

Why? Why didn't you appear more often? Forgot Google SEO, LinkedIn search can have substantially more impact on your future. Over a couple of weeks look at how many random searches you turn up in. If you pay them money LinkedIn will tell you ‘Why’ but if you don't want to splash the cash have a go at tweaking your profile. Bear in mind that words like 'award winning x' rarely are on somebodies search criteria - or is it? Gamify the process - see if you can beat your previous week's search results. You know you've done something right if somebody tries to headhunt or sell something relevant to you btw. Feel free to ignore.

If you did Part 1 of Being Digital (the community bit) then you should find it easy to find a few groups of interest to your career (or not as the case may be) and engage. Find your peers, find the mavens, make a few new connections. Did you learn anything in the process?

This is all just the tip of the iceberg. If you can, sign up and explore the premium services. Why are they premium? How can they help you?

If you have spent the time, you should end up with a few more connections, a shiny new profile to be proud of and be motivated to share it with others. Yes?

Jon Bains is a partner at business futures practice Atmosphere


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