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The online network for professionals, LinkedIn, is increasingly being used by students, graduates and more experienced professionals alike to network and to find jobs.
To stand out from the crowd, gain recommendations from your work experience managers.

Increasing numbers of students and graduates are joining LinkedIn to boost their job hunt, as it is a good way to expand your informal network and to make yourself known to graduate recruiters and recruitment agency consultants. ‘I use LinkedIn everyday in my job,’ says Will Hartley, business development manager and recruitment consultant at TARGETrecruit, which is owned by the same parent company as TARGETjobs. Will searches LinkedIn for graduates who could potentially fill vacancies he recruits for and, if he finds a promising candidate, will approach them to see if they are interested.

So we asked Will for his top tips on how graduates and students could create a memorable (for the right reasons) and appealing profile – and how else they could use LinkedIn to further their job hunt.

1. Start by knowing what you want to do and who you are targeting

Knowing which industry, role or types of employer you are aiming for will help you develop your profile appropriately, highlighting the skills, knowledge and experiences important for that sector. Will, for example, will often do a keyword search to find graduates who are interested in the types of roles he recruits for, so including the right keywords will benefit you. Having a role-centric approach gives you a much better chance of connecting with the people who matter.

2. Treat it like a CV: keep it professional

‘When first looking at a profile – in the same way as when reviewing a CV – I do check to see whether it makes sense, whether it communicates its main points clearly and whether there are any errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar,’ says Will. It is this which indicates that you are ‘work ready’ – that you are able to communicate professionally in the work environment.

When writing your profile, do:

  • Get a sense of the style and what to include by taking a look at the profiles of professionals within your choice of career sector.
  • Look at the job descriptions of the graduate roles in your chosen sector so that you can think about what to include.
  • Identify your key strengths, skills and achievements and put them front and centre.
  • Have it reviewed by a careers adviser – many now look as much at profiles as they do CVs.
  • Have it proofread by a friend or relative with good knowledge of spelling, punctuation and grammar!

At the same time, make sure that you are au fait with your settings, so that you are in control of your notifications; this will ensure you aren’t spamming your connections every time you make a small tweak to your profile.

3. Include your skills and experience

When searching for candidates, Will is primarily looking for people who meet the requirements of the job description, so do take the time to detail your skills and knowledge, as well as your achievements. ‘It will depend on the type of role they are going for, but if it is a technical role, for example, graduates should provide details about modules, programming languages and the software they are familiar with,’ he says. ‘SQL, for example, would be one of the search words I would use when recruiting for a graduate role that involved working with databases built in SQL code.’

This applies as much to the more basic software packages as complicated coding languages. ‘For any role requiring analytical skills, employers would expect you to use MS Excel. Do add it to your profile and elaborate on your level of knowledge: can you use pivot tables, for example?’

4. Have a professional profile photo

The photo is often the first thing you notice on a profile. ‘A professional photo – for example, someone wearing a suit or business wear instead of a t-shirt – makes the student or graduate look work-ready,’ says Will.

5. Ask for recommendations from your work experience managers

Will puts much more stock in recommendations from managers and experienced colleagues than he does in skills endorsements. ‘Many students and graduates don’t yet have the industry contacts to provide recommendations, so those who do really stand out,’ he says. It’s a good idea, therefore, to ask your internship or part-time job manager (or other senior colleague) to write you a recommendation.

6. Connect with and follow others

The great thing about LinkedIn is that you can ask to connect with professionals in your sector of choice, alumni from your university and professional groups. Will absolutely recommends doing this. Recruitment consultants will often be delighted to connect with job-hunting students and graduates. The message from in-house graduate recruiters (those employed directly by the company offering the job) is more mixed: some do like to connect with students and graduates, others prefer not to. Our advice, therefore, is to treat approaching them with caution: it might be best for you to meet recruiters in person at careers events and fairs and ask whether they’d like to connect with you.

If you are posting about your job hunt in a group – or you are writing a customised invitation to connect – then Will advises keeping it short: ‘It needs to be punchy, highlighting why you stand out and what you could bring to the sector or employer.’

You can follow companies that interest you, as they often post information about themselves. It’s also worth checking whether your careers service has a LinkedIn group. You can join the TARGETjobs LinkedIn group, in which jobs and careers advice will be posted.

Your LinkedIn profile doesn’t need to be updated frequently, but what you shouldn’t do is just put up a profile and wait for people to come to you. You are more likely to hear of opportunities and have the chance to ask professionals for their advice if you regularly use LinkedIn to engage with others.

Will would be happy to connect with job-seeking graduates on LinkedIn.

You can join the TARGETjobs LinkedIn group here.

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