Skills and Endorsements in LinkedIn

LinkedIn allows you to display a set of skills in your profile.  Your first degree connections can endorse your skills, but they can also endorse you for skills that you haven’t specified and after a while you will probably find yourself being endorsed for skills that you don’t actually have.

While skill endorsements are less important that recommendations, they still carry some weight.  Endorsements for random and inappropriate skills do not look professional though, so you should either turn off endorsements on your profile, or spend a little time once in a while to manage them.

Start by identifying the set of key skills that you have.  These will be used by LinkedIn as a starting point to prompt your connections to endorse you, and will therefore encourage more relevant endorsements.  You should also order these so that the skills you want to be highlighted most are at the top.  Your top 10 will be listed as your Top Skills and the remaining ones will be listed under also knows about.  Make sure that your top 10 are the ones that you most want to be recognised for; if you have too few, consider splitting a skill into multiple specialist skills; if you have too many, consider combining two or more into a single more generic skill.

When others endorse you, LinkedIn will prompt you to add the endorsements to your profile.  Remove any unwanted ones from the list by clicking the X and then click Add to Profile.  You can hide endorsements later when editing your profile, but if you do not add them to you profile, they will not be there later for un-hiding.  Either way, it is worth taking the time to hide irrelevant ones so as to keep your profile focussed and more professional looking .

And last but not least, take the time to endorse your connections for their skills.  The quickest way to do this is to respond to the LinkedIn prompts.  If you want to endorse a specific individual, then visit their profile where you will usually be prompted to do so; this prompt box also includes space at the end of the suggested list to type in other areas of expertise.  If you scroll down their profile to the Skills & Endorsements section, then you can endorse any specific skill in their list.  To suggest a new skill for someone when the suggested endorsement box does not automatically display, click on Send a Message and then Endorse; this will bring up the box.

Your LinkedIn photo is very important

Your photo is probably the single most important thing on your LinkedIn page.  For most people looking at your details, the photo is the thing that they will look at first and remember last.  Their overall impression of you will be determined more by this picture than by anything else on your page.  If the picture is too casual, you may not be taken seriously as a professional.  If you look too stern, you may come across as unapproachable and hard to work with.  Ask the question, does this picture portray the image that I want to project to colleagues and acquaintances?  If the picture is of poor quality, what does this convey about your attention to detail or about the sort of person that you are?

LinkedIn photos are displayed in a square format.  If you upload a rectangular picture, it will be stretched to fit the square and this usually looks awful.  It used to be that the correct photo size was 80×80, but this has been increased to 200×200.  Right now, as I write this, I still have an 80×80 photo, but LinkedIn has stretched it to 200×200.  It looks fine, but if you still have an old 80×80 photo, you should check how it looks and probably plan to upgrade it sooner rather than later.  The minimum size should now be 200×200, but you are allowed to upload a photo as large as 500×500, provided the file size is less than 4MB.  Acceptable file formats are JPG, GIF and PNG.

You will almost certainly need to crop your photo to the correct size.  There are many tools available to do this including some very good free ones.  However, the simplest way is to use the editing tool on the LinkedIn web site after you have uploaded your photo.  You should aim to include your head, the top of your shoulders and not much more.

Don’t upload a cartoon rather than a photo; this is no longer against the terms of LinkedIn but it doesn’t look professional.

Having a good photo on your profile makes it easier to relate to you as a person.  It makes it easier for someone who has only met you once to remember who you are, and it makes it easier for someone to spot you at an event if they are keen to make contact with you.

You can choose whether your photo is only available to your immediate connections or to your network (connections to the third degree) or public (ie anyone and everyone).  If you want people who already know you to make contact, I would recommend making your photo public.  One of the most frequent reasons for me not inviting someone to be a connection is my not being sure that I have found the correct person, whereas if they had displayed a photo, I could have been sure.

Creating your LinkedIn profile

Once you have set up your LinkedIn account (which is free), your first task is to create your LinkedIn profile.  This is your online CV and is your chance to impress those who want to know more about you.  Get this right before you start to create your network, as you may only have one chance to make a good impression on someone who can make a difference to you.

Just put your name in the name field.  That’s what the field was designed for and it looks more professional if you stick to the convention.  Adding an email address or a job title might make it easier for people to find and contact you, but it clutters names in listings of contacts and it will annoy people.  It also breaks LinkedIn’s rules and is likely to get your account shut down.  Further, publishing an email address in this way is likely to ensure that you start to receive a lot of spam.

List every job you have had and provide a short description of what the company did, what you did, and most important, what you achieved in that job.  This will give people an idea of who you are and what you are capable of.  It will also make it much easier for former colleagues to find you.  Ensure that you make use of relevant keywords within your description (especially things that you might want someone to find you for).

Spend time getting your summary right – this is your “elevator pitch” which will either get someone’s interest quickly, or let them know that you are not the person they need.  Make sure that you use the additional information section to add any other important details about you that have not already been included elsewhere, eg, professional qualifications and memberships.

Add a photo to your profile – this makes it easier to relate to you as a person, it makes it easier for someone who has only met you once to remember who you are, and it makes it easier for someone to spot you at an event if they are keen to make contact with you.  You can choose whether your photo is only available to your immediate connections or to your network (connections to the third degree) or public.

Introduction to LinkedIn

I’m updating the posts about LinkedIn that I made on my website a few years ago and will be publishing them over the next few months.  This is the first installment.

LinkedIn differs from most other networking sites in that it is focused on business and professional connections rather than social ones.  If used properly, it can be a very effective business tool.  LinkedIn continues to grow and now has over 275 million members.

LinkedIn is a great way of keeping in touch with business contacts. but getting started can be a little scary.  You don’t want to get it wrong and end up with your account blocked, or annoy your existing (real world) network so that your best contacts refuse to connect with you.  Nor do you want to end up entered into a commitment where you spend hours of your precious time fixing things that you did wrong before you knew what you were really doing.

I have written this guide based on my research and my own personal experience of how to get the best out of LinkedIn.  You shouldn’t follow my advice prescriptively as you might find that doing some things differently works better for you, but you should find this a good place to start.