The key takeaway from yesterday’s post was that companies are going to do their homework when it comes to job applicants.  Companies want to get it right the first time they hire someone for a position, so they will research you before you ever sit down with them.  It is costly to fire someone.  There is the loss of productivity while the position is open, the time that the company needs to train a new hire, and there is a significant learning curve as the company adapts to the new personality.

With the economy as down as it is, companies are flooded by resumes, and someone who has provided the company with more information than you have and painted a better picture of what they offer will have the advantage when the selection is made.  Companies are looking at applicants from two perspectives.  They are looking to analyze your professional capabilities as well as your personality to make sure you fit into the team.  Let’s start by controlling what the company will see when they research your professional history.

Professionals throughout the human resources field will often tell you the same thing: that their search for new hires starts on Google and LinkedIn.  LinkedIn has become the place to consolidate your professional history and what you’ve been responsible for. This is where recruiters and interviewers can find more comprehensive information on you to compensate for the fact that your resume is usually limited to one page.  Your online resume can provide as much, or as little, information as you choose to expose.  Google has seen the impact that LinkedIn has had on the consolidation of this information and often puts LinkedIn pages in the first five results for a search on a person’s name.

To find the best way to set yourself up on LinkedIn, I sat down with Chris Dessi, the CEO for Silverback Social, a social media marketing company, and talked to him about how to improve what companies see when they research you.

The Human Factor

One of the first (and arguably most important) lessons I learned from Chris Dessi is that a good LinkedIn profile has to be attractive for two audiences.  The first, and most common sense answer, is that it has to be attractive to humans.  If a person or a recruiter finds your LinkedIn profile and only finds a list of job titkes that you have held without any explanation of what you did or what your responsibilities were, they aren’t going to put in the extra effort to keep searching.  The same concept applies if your profile has no picture of who you are. Let’s start with some common LinkedIn mistakes that will cause a recruiter to bypass your profile.

–       No profile picture or an unprofessional picture.  Unless you are working for the CIA, not having a picture shows a degree of laziness and that will likely cause someone to lose interest.

–       Your work history only shows company names and has no explanation of what you did.  This shows either a lack of caring in your profile or an inability to communicate your responsibilities and accomplishments, driving a recruiter away from your page and towards someone who was able to accomplish this.

–       Your profile is written in jargon.  Jargon in general is a turn off, but if you are in sales, it is likely that the person trying to hire you at least knows what the jargon means.  Because security professionals are likely transitioning into a new field (from the military or police department,) any jargon might as well be a foreign language, because the person researching you probably haven’t been in those jobs and probably wont be familiar with the terminology.

Once you think you’ve created the profile that highlights your skills and abilities the best, ask as many people to look through it as you can to get their feedback. The more people (especially without security experience) who look at it and can understand what you have done and what you offer will be the sign that you have successfully created a solid online profile.

The Tech Factor

The second audience that your profile has to be attractive to isn’t a person, but the search algorithms that are the back-end to the various search engines.  This could be considered even more important than tailoring your LinkedIn profile to humans, because it is how people are going to find your page in the first place.  When someone is searching for a person possessing certain experiences or skills, Google doesn’t assume (from a military example) that an infantry squad leader has leadership, planning, training, and logistics experience.  Google doesn’t know that an NCO from motor-transport has spent time managing a team of mechanics, reporting maintenance readiness rates or coordinating resupply of commonly broken parts.  To make your profile attractive to a search engine, you have to tell it how to find you, and you do that through keywords.

These keywords will depend on the job you are looking for.  If the job you are looking for relates to project management, you might want to add in the keywords of “maintained client relationships,” “project life cycle,” or “met operational timelines,” to the various positions you’ve held while on active duty.  If you aren’t sure what words to put into the profile, simply do a Google search for a job description and see what the common keywords are and then make sure they are spread throughout your profile for the different jobs you’ve held in the past.  This will help bring your profile to the first page of a search.  Remember, that you have to think about the words a recruiter would choose to use when describing your capabilities.  You will want to be smart about your research and not just drop these words into your profile if they don’t apply.  If a recruiter is searching for someone using specific words, it is highly likely that they will ask you about them during your interview for examples of how you have applied them in your career.  If they aren’t relevant, don’t use them.

Build Your Network

Since you are already on LinkedIn improving your profile, you need to make sure people can find you.  Begin building as expansive of a network as you can.  To see why, do a search on LinkedIn for a skill and see who comes up on the top of the results list.  It will be the 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections at the top, then followed by the countless people that you are unconnected to.  If a recruiter is a friend of a friend and searches for a Marine squad leader in San Diego, CA, you will come up higher on their search (a 2nd degree connection) or a friend of a friend of a friend (a 3rd degree connection) than someone who is not even remotely connected to them.  The larger your network, the more likely that people will find your profile, because you become a 3rd degree connection to a much larger pool of people who could be searching for your specific skills.

To understand this better, I recommend two books, The Start Up Of You, by Reid Hoffman (the founder of LinkedIn) and Ben Casnocha, is an excellent book about growing you network.  The second, Your World Is Exploding by Chris Dessi, talks about the power of social media and how it can help you stand out from the crowd.  Both of these are great books that discuss the power of a network and how to control the way people research you.

Want to see other books that we have read and recommend? Take a look at our complete reading list for our other suggestions.