If you're actively looking for a new job (or even just open to seeing what's out there), few tools are more valuable than LinkedIn.
You might disagree. Maybe you haven't heard back from many companies you reached out to on LinkedIn, or the offers you do get aren't quite what you're looking for. In either of these cases, chances are, your profile might not be tailored to showcase the best qualities for the job you have in mind.
According to Codecademy Senior Technical Recruiter Will Rhudy, "I'm usually looking for a very specific Boolean search of key tech pieces. So if you aren't talking about what you've actually been working on, you're probably not going to come up in my search."
But recruiters are looking for other qualities in your LinkedIn profile beyond just hard skills. With the right touch, you can not only make your profile more visible, but also attract companies that you'd actually want to work for.
Here are some do's and don'ts to help you optimize your LinkedIn profile.
DO showcase your personality
Your profile should accurately depict your skill set, but with a splash of personality. As Will explains: "In an ideal world, your personality and the vibe of a company would link up perfectly — so it's definitely good to let your personality out, whatever that looks like."
Tech jobs are more competitive than ever, so it's important to find ways to stand out, and showcasing your personality can help give you an edge when you're being weighed against other strong candidates.
How to optimize your profile: Using custom banners and personalized URLs can help make your LinkedIn profile more unique and stand out from others with similar names and credentials. You'll also want to replace the boring gray avatar with a professional-looking profile picture: It'll help generate more profile views and connections, according to LinkedIn. Make sure the photo is polished and looks like you — and bonus points if you smile.
And don't forget to engage with your network. Like and comment on their posts when you see them on your feed. This will illustrate that you're interested in forming genuine connections, and it also might entice people to engage with your own work — which will help it gain visibility.
DO include recommendations from junior and senior team members
Recommendations give recruiters a snapshot of what it's like to work with you, and tangible evidence of your past contributions. The nice thing about LinkedIn is your references are on display in your profile, right in the recommendations section.
How to optimize your profile: Reach out to managers and team members you've collaborated with to see if they'll leave a recommendation on your profile. You could even remind them of a few highlights of your working relationship to help them write it. Better yet, offer to write one for them first before asking them to return the favor.
Keep in mind: There's value in getting recommendations from people across all levels of the corporate hierarchy, not just higher-ups.
Feedback from managers can help illustrate your ability to contribute to business goals and company-wide initiatives like OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). Recommendations from peers can showcase your collaborative and team-building skills, and those from more junior members can speak to your ability to help nurture and develop budding professionals — which is especially important if you're applying for roles that include mentoring responsibilities.
DO demonstrate initiative and ownership over your work
New developers and career-switchers often have a rough time breaking into tech without professional experience under their belt. "It's the whole chicken-before-the-egg thing," Will says. "It's very difficult, and it's been in existence for a while."
Fortunately, you can still gain relevant experience without a full-time job. Will explains that he's seen many developers find success (and employment) after taking on contracted work and contributing to open-source projects and development initiatives. Finding independent work opportunities shows recruiters that you can commit to larger projects, and it also helps you gain experience that can qualify you for mid-level positions.
How to optimize your profile: Highlight any volunteer work you've done, and add links to your profiles on sites like Upwork and GitHub. Will often looks at GitHub to get a sense of how consistent people are with coding. "If I see a profile that's lit up with yellow, red, and orange, I know that person spends a lot of time on their keyboard," Will says, "and that they'll probably be able to pick things up a little more quickly."
Then, find opportunities to showcase ownership in your work. For example, spotlight projects you've led and include metrics that illustrate your impact. Not sure how to brag about all the great work you've done? Looking back at old performance reviews and formal feedback is one way to spark your memory and find tidbits and examples to include.
DON'T go overboard on your skills section
In your skills section, don't be afraid to flex what you're really good at, but fight the urge to stuff your profile full of skill-based keywords. While that might boost your chances of appearing in recruiters' search results, they might not be the opportunities you're interested in.
"In my experience, companies are looking for specialization," Will says. "I would definitely recommend highlighting where you feel the most comfortable because at the end of the day, those are how recruiters are going to find you, and they're the ones that'll set you up for success in terms of being able to go through the technical interviews."
How to optimize your profile: List your skills in order of proficiency, with the ones you're most confident about at the top. Getting people in your network to vouch for your skills through endorsements will give recruiters even more assurance about your expertise.
Will points to LinkedIn's skill assessments (built-in quizzes that you can find here) as a way to showcase your strengths. They're not weighed quite as heavily as official certifications, but they show initiative, he says.
Adding keywords to your headline is another way to help show your specialization (and rank more highly in a recruiter's search). For example, "Full-Stack Engineer" tells recruiters more than "Web Developer," especially if you also list the specific languages and frameworks in your tech stack.
DON'T over-exaggerate what you can do
Some people create a persona on LinkedIn, highlighting qualities they believe companies are looking for or embellishing their contributions in past roles. While it's natural to want to paint yourself in the best light when you're job-hunting, misrepresenting your strengths will only lead to disappointment, Will explains.
"It's in your best interest to put your honest foot forward," he says. "The companies that you'll want to work for will find you, and vice versa."
How to optimize your profile: Be honest and ensure your experience section accurately portrays your contributions in past roles. If you're having trouble putting your specific responsibilities into words, consider looking at tasks in a relevant job description for ideas (or see if you can dig up your old job descriptions).
Don't stress if you don't have every single quality a recruiter is looking for. As long as you have the core components and demonstrate that you're willing to learn to fill in the gaps, you can still be a strong contender. Will's advice: "Be confident in what you know, honest about what you don't, and willing and excited to learn." If you've yet to master a tool or technology that's required for your desired role, show that you're actively working toward bridging the gap with relevant courses and projects.
Learn more about standing out as a strong candidate
While LinkedIn can go a long way toward helping you find your dream job, it's only a piece of the puzzle. There are several other steps you can take to help you stand apart from the competition.
First, check out our article on how to read a job description to learn how to find the keywords that'll help your resume make it past applicant tracking systems. Then, prepare for technical interviews by practicing with code challenges. And if you need a little help brushing up on your skills, tackle a project in our project library — and once you're done, copy it into a workspace and share the link on your LinkedIn.For more tips from recruiters and other helpful resources, check out our Career Center.