Since its creation in Dec 2002, LinkedIn has grown exponentially. In April 2016, an estimated 6.5 million jobs were available on LinkedIn, with 94% of employers using LinkedIn to “vet” candidates. These stats alone make it abundantly clear why you need a strong LinkedIn profile as well as a selling CV! But for many people, it’s difficult to know how, and to what extent, your LinkedIn profile should differ from your CV. So I’m going to let you know how your LinkedIn profile should differ from your CV. (Not got a great CV yet? See…)
The basics – CV vs LinkedIn
To cover the basics first, your CV is a third-person 2-page document that should be tailored to match each vacancy you’re applying for and is sent to the hiring manager of that specific vacancy. This means it will be relatively narrow and won’t include all of your skills and experience—just those relevant to the vacancy.
In contrast, your LinkedIn profile is a first-person broader, more general record. It should fully explore your skills and experience, not just the experience that is relevant to one job vacancy. It should also contain a photo, recommendations, skills endorsements, projects, and more to showcase your qualities. This inevitably means your LinkedIn profile will be longer than your CV.
There is much debate over the ideal length of a LinkedIn profile, and there is no set rule. Some people recommend the “less is more” approach, but while this is perfect for CVs—on LinkedIn it’s likely to mean your profile isn’t found in searches, which is no help if you want to be found.
Hiring managers use LinkedIn to search for keywords, job titles, and skills—and these searches will only lead them to your profile if you have included these terms. If your LinkedIn profile is as narrow and focused as your CV, it will be hard for hiring managers to find you. Similarly, if they do find your profile, you want to demonstrate that you have sufficiently varied skills and experience to be appealing to the hiring manager.
If you’re looking for a job, your aim when writing your LinkedIn profile should be for hiring managers to find your profile when searching—and to think you’re suitable for their vacancy after reading it. This means including keywords that cover a range of roles you’re interested in.
Complementary but not repetitive
Your LinkedIn profile should complement but not repeat your CV. It should contain the same job and educational experience, and personal qualities and skills, but should present them in a different way to your CV. This means you should retain your job titles, dates, and company information, but present your responsibilities and achievements differently, for example:
- You could write your responsibilities as a short “job summary” paragraph and then list your achievements in bullet points underneath to draw attention to them.
- If you had to significantly restrict the information on your CV to fit on to 2 pages, you can use your LinkedIn profile as a more in-depth exploration of your experience or to include things you had to leave off your CV due to space limitations. Don’t go overboard though!
- You could use a more dynamic approach to present the information, such as job objective, job outcomes, methods/tools used.
The important thing to remember is that hiring managers will most likely look at your LinkedIn profile as well as your CV, and you don’t want to bore them by making them read the exact same information twice!
A selling profile photo
Unlike your CV, your LinkedIn profile should feature a photograph of you. Your profile photo says a lot about you—imagine it as the front cover to your book.
To attract hiring managers, your profile photo should be professional, but importantly it should also be welcoming and friendly. The most professional photo is a headshot with a plain white background—almost like a passport photo. However, in contrast to a passport photo, you should be smiling and looking happy and friendly. Aim for a natural, relaxed photograph where you look like you’re enjoying yourself.
Some companies actually take a work headshot for you, so you can use this is you have one. If you don’t, ask a friend to take a photo of you against a white wall.
One of the main uses of LinkedIn is to make connections with those in your field and beyond—something you simply can’t do with a CV. Most hiring managers have on average 616 connections. So your likelihood of being found by one of these hiring managers is linked to how many connections you have. This means you should aim to grow your network of connections as much as possible.
This doesn’t mean you should blanket request anyone in your field, but that you should add anyone you currently work with, worked with in the past, your friends, family, and acquaintances to extend your reach.
Another way you can use your LinkedIn profile effectively is by sharing knowledge with your connections and creating discussions and debate around your field of interest.
- There are numerous groups on LinkedIn related to almost every field of interest, and you can apply to join these groups. The benefits of joining groups is that you can gain and share information, engage in discussions, meet other like-minded people, and make connections there.
- Likewise, you can share interesting articles and information with your connections and pose a “debate question” when sharing them—this shows hiring managers that you’re trying to share knowledge, create discussion, and get people involved—ultimately helping everyone to become more knowledgeable.
- There is also a LinkedIn Answers page, where your answers from other memebers could lead you to be considered “Expert of the Week”.
Endorsements are a much loved or much loathed part of LinkedIn. Whether you like them or not, they mean your connections can “endorse” your various skills, and likewise you can endorse their skills—showing hiring managers the skills other people believe you have, and your top skills.
If you don’t have many endorsements at present, try endorsing the skills of others and they may be more likely to return the favour. Ensure you order your Endorsed Skills section from most endorsed to least endorsed to show the top skills people believe you have.
Asking for recommendations
Another difference between your CV and LinkedIn profile is that LinkedIn enables you to ask for recommendations from your connections. A recommendation is almost like a product review of you, and they can be a powerful part of your profile if used well. Send recommendation requests to those who you’ve worked successfully with in the past, those you’ve mentored, or those you’ve done projects with. Around 5-8 is a good amount to aim for.
Unlike a CV, there isn’t a recommended order for your profile, and you can reorder the sections by dragging and dropping them. Whichever order you choose, you should ensure the most important information is near the top so managers instantly get a great impression of you.
Your LinkedIn profile should be a more complete, comprehensive overview of you as a person, not just the you that is applying for a specific vacancy—that’s what your CV is for. It should include your broader and varied skills and experience, but also demonstrate that you’re eager to share knowledge and build a network of like-minded people, that other people agree you have the skills you say you have, and that colleagues and connections are willing to recommend you.
If you’d like any more help or have any more tips for people, feel free to contact me or share your ideas here…