10 Do’s and Don’ts of LinkedIn Networking

Following a recent Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants’ BlueSteps Executive Webinar featuring Raines International Consultant and Raines Intel Manager, Jessica DeOliveira, we curated 10 tips to maximize LinkedIn networking, whether you’re actively looking for a new role or just keeping your options open.

LinkedIn is increasingly becoming an invaluable resource for executive candidates. Aside from increasing their visibility to executive recruiters who use the site as a resource to find new candidates, LinkedIn is also a powerful networking tool. With more than 300 million professionals currently registered on the site, here are a few tips to master LinkedIn networking and maximizing this executive career resource.

1. Ask for recommendations

What easier way to answer the question of whether or not you were valued by your prior place of employment than to ask a former colleague to write a recommendation for you on LinkedIn? You don’t want to go overboard and gather dozens of recommendations, but if you select them appropriately and have one from each place that you worked from a person of authority — a smart, credible, mid-level or higher leader — then that is a great way to lock in your reputation at the time. Another perk is if a potential employer conducts a behind-the-scenes reference on you with someone who just didn’t personally or professionally like you, LinkedIn references will help counter-balance or contextualize.

2. Use a professional photo

LinkedIn profile pictures are your first impression to the world. Would you prefer to make your first impression with somebody when you are in your standard corporate attire or when you are on a fishing boat?  While having something creative that highlights a hobby or trip, for example, may click with 10% of the LinkedIn community, having a standard, corporate image will likely click with 99% of that market. So, which option appears to have a better upside? While you may think your picture is cool and creative, you may risk polarizing your audience if someone comes across your profile picture and something doesn’t resonate with him/her or, even worse, puts him/her off.

3. Think of what message you are sending

If you are actively employed, be mindful of the changes you are making to your profile and if that will affect your colleagues who see you updating your profile every day with every accomplishment vs. making it seem like your updates are just a part of profile maintenance. Be mindful of how often you are tweaking your profile and try to make all updates all at once so you don’t set off any alarms.

4. Cull your LinkedIn connections

LinkedIn is like a Rolodex – and for a Rolodex to be useful, it should have certain limitations to its size. We believe in fewer (say, no more than 1,000 people) high-quality contacts from different industries that you can lean on in different ways. Bigger isn’t necessarily better in this case, as a Rolodex with 100,000 contacts gets prohibitively large for you to scroll through. This is especially important given that so many recruiters pay for LinkedIn to access second and third-level connection. You don’t need to have 100,000 people in your LinkedIn network to be found; those who are looking for you have already paid for access to your profile and will get to you regardless. What’s more important is that when they get to your profile, your LinkedIn looks good and you look like the right asset to acquire.

5. Headlines are optional

Headlines can really go both ways. The ‘actively seeking new opportunities’ could be good for some recruiters; others might just be focusing on titles that they want when they are completing a search. There are some recruiters who are going to be most excited about people they know are actively looking and there are going to be people who are most excited about talking to people who are currently employed. Headlines are one of the pieces of your profile that can go either way. Keep in mind, however, that if you aren’t having success with a headline, or any part of your LinkedIn profile, try experimenting a bit; figure out what works for you. After a few months of having ‘actively looking’ up, change it to your current title, and see if and how your interactions change then.

6. Use your network to expand:

When it comes to engaging with executive recruiters, establishing a meaningful connection is key. I think that if you want to conduct a great job search, reach out to colleagues of yours who have profiles similar to your own who have moved into positions that you think are interesting and ask them, ‘Hey, have you worked with an executive recruiter, did an executive recruiter help you get there?’ If that person says, ‘yes, I did, I love the guy, I’ll connect you,’ you start to build up your spreadsheet of people to call. Sifting through your network is how you find out where you want to go, rather than googling ‘top recruiters in NYC.’ If you are a supply chain executive and you speak with a few supply chain execs who have been recruited by various people over the years and they keep track of those interactions, use their excel sheet and stand on the shoulders of giants.

7. Send thoughtful notes when connecting with new contacts

If you find someone on LinkedIn who you don’t know, but would like to connect with, don’t limit your initial reach out to the standard connect message of ‘I would like to add you to my network on LinkedIn.’ Considering the volume of resumes and messages executive search consultants receive throughout the year, many might not accept just a standard connect request. Your initial reach out will sometimes be your first and only shot to bring someone into your network that you don’t have a personal connection with. Standard requests are similar to the dozens of marketing emails we get every week that don’t differentiate themselves from each other and constantly make their way into our inboxes. Sending a standard LinkedIn request is more of that – it’s something recruiters receive every day that they aren’t as enticed to read. With that in mind, we highly recommend sending curated, tailored messages to the people you look to connect with via LinkedIn. Far more often than not, people will respond. It doesn’t have to be paragraphs, but sending a thoughtfully curated note detailing why you want to speak helps you stand out and establish a connection.

8. Contact people who view your profile

If an executive recruiter or a talent acquisition team views your profile, it is OK to send them a note and say, ‘Hi Tim, I saw that you came across my profile on LI, if there is anything I can be helpful with please let me know.’ I really recommend that because sometimes a recruiter happens on your profile thinking you would be a good fit but, for one reason or another, didn’t reach out. Maybe they thought you would be too big for the role, maybe they assumed you wouldn’t want to relocate.  Don’t be afraid to engage and take that next step if you see an opportunity presenting itself to you.

9. Don’t be overly niche

While you may think a hobby is cool or creative, in this case, I recommend overcoming those personal temptations, selectively featuring them in your profile and leaving them out of your picture completely.  Whether you want to be active or passive with your job search, be as appealing to as many consumers of your skills as possible.

10. It may sound simple, but have someone proofread your profile!

Not only for spelling and grammar mistakes, but also make sure to proofread your profile to ensure that every word has the proper connotation and conveys the proper meaning.

In summary, your LinkedIn profile is like a real estate listing, and it’s your job to make yourself look attractive, woo possible clients and make it easy to get in touch. If your current listing isn’t working, then change the listing. If you are selling your home, do you want to show a picture where the dishes are in the sink, or do you want to show a clean kitchen? Do you want to describe the home as cozy or open? Everything you do on your LinkedIn profile has its own connotations, so be deliberate and take charge of your own listing.

You can find the full AESC BlueSteps Executive Webinar, ‘The Do’s and Dont’s of LinkedIn Networking,’ here.