Last week, I was screening dozens of resumes for a high-tech sales job in Silicon Valley.
A review of a candidate's LinkedIn profile is part of my initial screening, so I can see how big of a network they have (certainly very important for a sales person with a startup company), and what kinds of people recommend them.
My search turned up nothing for two of the candidates, so I emailed to ask if they'd send me the link to their profile. The answer in both cases was, "I don't have one."
I was shocked, since they were both presenting themselves as well connected and able to get important appointments with potential customers. I would have expected them to have 500+ connections.
And so their applications went to the "no" pile, because my clients need a sales leader who knows a lot of decision-makers. For a tech sales person, no profile on LinkedIn is a deal breaker.
Is online business networking really that important? You bet it is.
LinkedIn is the largest business networking site in the world. In less than ten years, it's gained more than 175 million members in 200 countries around the world, up from 100 million less than 18 months ago. Now there are 100 million users just in the U.S., coming from companies of every size and in every possible industry and profession.
If you don't have a profile yet, or you've got one (or two) with minimal information that you've forgotten about, then it's time to get yourself into career gear here.
No matter what your personal situation, whether you're a mail clerk or a CEO, a nurse or an astrophysicist, you are making yourself invisible to much of the rest of the world.
What's in it for you?
Here are eight benefits you get from having a strong presence on LinkedIn:
- Build your professional reputation. By creating a profile that shows people your work progression, contributions, postings and recommendations, you create your public face for business. When someone Googles your name, your LI profile will usually be among the first links to be returned, and if you have a friendly, readable and engaging profile, you've got their attention.
- Be found by recruiters. According to LinkedIn, 85 of the Fortune 100 companies use some aspect of their hiring services on the site. That could be to find candidates for a job, or to research you after you submitted a resume. But, as I will attest, if you can't be found, it's possible you will be instantly eliminated as a candidate because you are not up to date with business networking.
- Show more sides of yourself. Your resume shouldn't offer much personal information, but your profile has your photo, and you can add groups that show other interests you have that help people get to know you. You can share your reading list, or add video links, and your status updates show, too. It's a much more 360-degree view of you.
- Use your contacts to network. When you have a strong group of people you know first-hand, you also then have second- and third-degree connections through their contacts. That means when you want to apply to a job at a specific company, or to get an appointment for a sales meeting with their CTO, you may be able get an introduction to one of your connections through that connection. Even if you don't know them personally, you've multiplied your chances at success.
- Follow the happenings at your target companies. More than two million companies have a LinkedIn page, and their press releases and other updated information will often be posted there through status updates.
- Build testimonials about you and your work. Strong, credible and informative recommendations are the secret power of the LinkedIn profile format. When someone who wants to know more about you professionally reads your profile and finds convincing testimonials from coworkers, peers, bosses and clients, you've cemented a positive impression.
- Polish your skills and knowledge. From learning to write your resume (I co-manage the Resume Experts group, where you'll find many perspectives from experienced resume experts) to discussing the latest product releases in your obscure niche field, you will learn more and have a bigger picture view when you are sharing ideas and reading the postings of the leaders in your field.
- Network with people in your industry or profession. There are more than a million groups on LinkedIn, where people with similar backgrounds or interest share their insights and knowledge. Find groups and join discussions that interest you, and you'll encounter like-minded people. Interact with them and begin to build long-term business relationships.
Seriously, this is a no-brainer. If you haven't built your LinkedIn presence yet, start now so the next time someone comes looking for you there, they'll find you and be impressed.
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