For years I wondered what my LinkedIn profile was missing. My LinkedIn score sat at “expert” forever, but never quite reaching all-star status. but never all-star status. When I finally got around to filling out every detail of my profile I noticed a surge in my profile views, and that’s when I realized how important it was for my career success.
Use this LinkedIn profile checklist to get more views on yours, too.
What are the LinkedIn profile completion levels?
The network has a progress bar that fills up as you fill out your profile with greater detail, like a profile photo, work history, skills and recommendations, and a headline. It’s one of the most effective ways to increase LinkedIn impressions on your profile.
These are the completion levels:
The goal is to get an all-star profile on LinkedIn to make yourself appear more favorably to recruiters and hiring managers. These are also suspected to send favorable signals to the LinkedIn algorithm, too, increasing your visibility from other users’ searches.
In fact, LinkedIn itself has stated that, “users with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn.”
Nice. Now here’s the LinkedIn profile checklist to start raking in those job opportunities.
How to get an all-star LinkedIn score
Follow this checklist to get the visibility that you want on your profile. There’s more to being seen on this network than just optimizing your profile, but it is absolutely the first thing you should do after creating an account. Yes, even before adding your connections.
Set your profile picture
LinkedIn’s own internal data says that profiles with head shots are 21 times more likely to be viewed than profiles without one. Another study says it increases your chances by 14 times. Either way, it’s one the most important ways to improve your LinkedIn score, hands down.
Just upload a nice, inoffensive headshot. You might end up working in a 100-year-old corporation, or you might work for a startup, so choose a photo that works for all company cultures when you’ve just graduated.
Who on this list of marketing specialists isn’t going to get noticed?
Your eyes skim over the profile without a picture, and hiring managers do the same thing. That’s why setting your profile picture is one of the most important LinkedIn best practices to remember when creating your account.
It’s true that photos can cost money. It’ll probably set you back $75-$100 USD for a set of professional headshots at a retail store. That’s not bad when you weigh $75 against a year’s salary—especially if you can get several shots in the same take. Make sure to get digital shots in particular so that you can try out new ones when you like!
You can also try some of these tactics to get around paying for one:
- Ask hobby photographers from among your friends and family.
- Ask a classmate who wants to get into photography and give them permission to use the photos for their portfolio.
- Barter services with a professional photographer if you can offer something valuable in return.
Pro tip: Set a background image, too! You can crop plenty of great free stock images from Pexels, Death to the Stock Photo, or Canva. You can also use Canva’s free plan to create one of your own.
Fill out your experience
This part is easy if you’ve already quantified your resume with measurable results. If you haven’t, then it might be time for new coat of paint on your resume in addition to a LinkedIn profile makeover. Either way, take what you learn here and apply it to your resume, too! Frankly, you can’t improve your LinkedIn score without a work history, anyway.
Results are what contribute to business success, so that’s what should feature on your resume. Here are some quantified samples from various jobs I’ve held:
- Increased organic website traffic by 2,100%
- Co-managed a Facebook page of 600,000 followers
- Ghost wrote thought leadership articles shared almost 3,000 times on Entrepreneur.com
- Managed 12 client accounts worth $372,000 in annual revenue.
- Engaged 120 students in weekly seminars on complex historical events
For important aspects of your job that are difficult to quantify, use the PAR format instead:
Even though you might not be able to put a definitive number on your tasks, you can use a miniature story format to demonstrate how you solved problems or improved a process (if it can fit into a sentence).
Once the written content is done, add some media to your posts! It makes your work history brighter, more colorful, and easier to digest.
List your skills and recommendations
Next, fill out your skills. Start with the 10 most important ones for now, because you’re going to have to ask people to endorse them later. It has become an important part of improving your LinkedIn score over the last few years, with the algorithm definitely taking these into account while returning search results for recruiters.
It looks like this on your profile.
Pro tip: Don’t give yourself anxiety over only having 5 or 10 skill endorsements. You can only ask your network to endorse you, and your network just isn’t all that big right after graduation (or even after the first few years in the workforce). Just circle back to this once every year or so and ask people you’ve worked with to endorse you.
Just as important as skills are recommendations. It’s one thing to have people click a button to say “this person knows about marketing,” but a written recommendation tells hiring managers so much more about your character than what you do. Take a look at some of my recommendations below:
Notice that these recommendations don’t just regurgitate what I did, but how I worked. They speak to my character, not just my performance (which was also good, and that’s important). Generating LinkedIn recommendations is pretty crucial because it adds built-in references that can be viewed at a hiring manager’s convenience. Don’t skimp on them!
Here are the salient points that hiring managers spot:
- I love what I do.
- I “raise the bar” for my team.
- I go “above and beyond” the job description.
- I’m a “pleasure to work with” (supposedly, anyway).
All of these qualities are important in a prospective hire, but you can’t list them for yourself. That’s why recommendations are so important.
Write a headline and a summary
Your headline and summary are the first things that recruiters and hiring managers see on your profile other than your photo, whether they find you through a search or by visiting your profile directly. That makes them rather important to set a good first impression.
Leaving your headline empty is a wasted opportunity to draw attention. Look at these three examples. Do their headlines tell you anything about who they are or what drives them? No.
Look at this next selection of profiles. Most tell you where their owners work, but only one sums up their experience and their drive.
In truth, the “winner” from that selection could still have an even better headline. Now imagine how much you’d stand out from the crowd if your headline was just 50% better than all of these ones.
Here are the ingredients you need to make your headline sizzle:
- What you do or what you’ve accomplished.
- What drives you.
- Who you are.
Your headline may need some tweaks depending on your situation, check out these sample headlines here:
It’s tough to pull it off in a single sentence or a turn of phrase. If I only identified as a job seeker, then my headline would read like this:
“Creates website traffic engines SEO and content. Loves small, agile teams.”
That would tell recruiters not only what I do but how I like to work—and it hints at who I am. For those wondering: I’m only hinting at my character because I find myself rubbing shoulders in the finance industry more and more, and it has a fair reserved culture. Too much “character” runs the risk of being a turn-off.
Fill out your education
Simple yet important, the Education section shows off your credentials and the “character” of any post-secondary experience you have. It’s easy to fill out—in fact it works pretty similarly to work history entry when you’re a recent graduate.
You don’t need to quantify your achievements quite like in your work history, but definitely mention scholarships, research jobs, and anything else relevant.
It’s also worth including some media in your education section, just like your work history. It helps to keep hiring managers’ eyes on your profile for longer periods of time.
List your licenses and certifications
If you graduated from a liberal arts or humanities program then you probably won’t have any licenses or certifications, and that’s okay. Instead of feeling anxious about what you don’t have, look for quick-win courses and certificates you can add to your profile to show that you’re serious about growing as a professional.
Start with these ideas:
- Aspiring marketers can take Google courses and some Hubspot courses for free—and they come with certificates.
- Those interested in finance can take open courses to show the certificate of completion (McGill has one for Canada, too).
- Journalists in the making could take this batch of prep courses, hosted by Michigan State University through Coursera.
- Some universities and affiliate platforms provide introductory online courses in a wide range of subjects.
Look at the certificates in the image above. Many are for marketing because that’s my industry, but having a certificate for personal finance also tips off recruiters and hiring managers that personal finance is one of my interests, which could open a door in the industry down the road.
Add your interests and volunteer efforts
Lastly, but not least, make sure to fill out your volunteer experience and to add interests to LinkedIn. I neglected the volunteer efforts for a long time and this had been holding back my LinkedIn score from reaching all-star status for years.
These sections are super easy to complete. First, follow people that interest or inspire you. These can be:
- Formal “influencers”
- Regular people you’ve chosen to follow (instead of connecting)
- Company pages that post updates for an organization.
Your volunteer history can get by with just one or two entries—don’t go crazy with this. If you’re clever, you might find a way to list experience here that you used as free portfolio-building work experience elsewhere in your profile, too.
Volunteer activities offer a modest boost to your LinkedIn score, but they also show hiring managers that you are willing to work for causes larger than a paycheck. While that’s not really a fair standard for recent graduates struggling to find a job that pays anything above minimum wage, it’s the mindset that hiring managers tend to possess (for better or for worse).
That should be all you need to get an all-star profile on LinkedIn. Happy hunting!