1. Not using a photo
You may think it vain that many employers will skip over your profile because of a lack of photo, but the fact is, this simple feature makes a huge difference. In fact, according to LinkedIn, people with a photo are seven (yes, seven!) times more likely to have their profile viewed! After all, even if they don’t want to admit it, most employers want to ensure that their employees encompass a professional appearance. But it isn’t all about vanity. Let’s say you attend an event or business meeting and meet lots of new people. When those people come home with a stack of business cards and begin looking people up, they may not remember you without the photo, meaning you may miss out on a great connection. However, be sure to choose your photo carefully. If there’s one thing that’s even more of a turnoff to potential employers than no photo, it’s an inappropriate or unprofessional photo. Choose a simple, professional headshot and leave the cat pics and party shots to Facebook.
2. Neglecting the privacy setting
There’s been quite a bit of uproar about privacy (or the lack thereof) on social networks in recent months but, fortunately, LinkedIn does offer privacy settings that can be customized to your needs. After all, you don’t need your current boss to see you actively pursuing connections with recruiters, headhunters and employers at rival businesses—a clear clue that you’re looking for another job. I’ve actually known people who forgot to use this setting and had their boss confront them to find out if they were looking for something else. Not only is that extremely awkward, but it may also derail any potential for promotion if you do decide to stay where you are, causing you to possibly lose out on raises and/or career movement. Some of the settings on LinkedIn include who can see your connections, status updates and photos as well as the ability to disable research surveys.
3. Not joining groups
If you’re hoping to move your career forward, whether it be with your current employer or a new one, there’s no doubt that the best way to do so is by networking. In fact, despite all of the job boards and technology that exist today, networking is the number one way in which people find jobs. But that doesn’t mean you should just reach out to people that you already know. Additionally, be sure to participate in LinkedIn’s professional groups. Start by finding groups that are in your niche or area of expertise and begin interacting with others in the group. Reply to posts, answer questions, and show the other group members that you really know your stuff. You’ll get your name out there and possibly make some great new contacts. And heck, even if you’re not looking for a new job, you can use these boards to get other opinions or ideas for anything going on at your current job.
4. Leaving your summary blank
You wouldn’t leave an introduction off of a research paper or the objective off of your resume, so why leave the summary section on your LinkedIn profile blank? Not only is this the first thing other LinkedIn users see, but it’s a great place to quickly highlight your skills, abilities and passions, giving potential employers a brief overview of your capabilities. Human resource experts all agree that summary section should sound authentic, be well written without being too wordy and, most importantly, should tell your story. Most also agree that this section determines whether or not they continue reading your resume.
5. Using generic messages
One of the more amusing aspects of LinkedIn are the generic messages that they allow you to send to someone when you want to connect. The message is something along the lines of "Hello, I’d like to add you to my network of professionals on LinkedIn." Talk about boring. But it’s not just boring—it isn’t personal. And since everyone knows these generic messages, it shows them that you put zero time or effort into connecting with them. After asking numerous business leaders and career-minded folks about these invites, they nearly all agreed that these canned responses give a less-than-favorable first impression. In fact, many of those that I spoke with stated that they don’t even respond to these invites. After all, you only get one chance to make a first impression—don’t do it by showing people that you’ve made no effort at all.
6. Forgetting to switch to anonymous
So every once in a while you check out your ex’s Facebook page or perhaps your boyfriend’s ex or even your boss’s social media pages. Call it what you want; lurking, stalking or just being curious—we’ve all done it! Unfortunately, LinkedIn is a different breed of social media—one that allows users to see who has been viewing their page. In fact, if the person whose page you’re checking out has a premium account, they can even see exactly when you viewed it! What does that really mean? Well, if you’re hoping that your interview with so-and-so went well and you decide to keep checking their profile in the hopes that they’ll say something about it or post that they are no longer looking for a candidate, you may end up looking a bit obvious (or worse) and ruin your chances. Instead, be sure you switch to anonymous mode, which will only show users that someone viewed their page but will not include your name or company information.