Category Archives: Technology

LinkedIn Profiles: Avoid the Most Common Mistakes

By C.G. Lynch
Publication: CIO.com
 

In the midst of the recession, many job seekers have spent more time on LinkedIn to connect with colleagues, customers and partners in an effort to land a new gig. Unfortunately, many people commit common errors in their LinkedIn profiles that cost them new opportunities, says Jason Alba, CEO of JibberJobber , a company that provides web-based tools for managing your job search.

Alba, who recently released a DVD called LinkedIn for Job Seekers, shared with CIO.com the six most common mistakes he sees on LinkedIn profiles. Here’s how to spot trouble in your profile and fix it. 

  •  1. Don’t Get in Picture Trouble

Many people choose not to use a picture on their LinkedIn profiles. While some of you have your reasons, it’s a mistake for the typical user, Alba says. Some common concerns: Perhaps you don’t want to disclose your ethnicity, or you don’t consider yourself photogenic.“Some situations are justified in not using a profile picture, but in the end I encourage people to include one because it shows you’re comfortable with yourself,” Alba says. “It also makes your profile a lot more personable.”Alba recommends a professional headshot for LinkedIn, rather than the picture of you in front of a mountain or lake that you utilize on Facebook. In addition, if you’re a job seeker, odds are that you will meet your prospective employer in a face-to-face interview, so that picture of you twenty years ago that you like to leave up there – that needs to be replaced.

“Sometimes people are floored when they see the person if they left a really old picture up there,” Alba says.

  • 2. Write a Descriptive Professional Headline

When you edit your LinkedIn profile, you have what Alba calls a “professional headline” right beneath the name. The common mistake here (as shown in the picture below) is to simply put your name and title. He believes you should use something catchier. Instead of saying, “project manager for X company,” say something more specific: “I manage complex projects involving IT and marketing.”When people search for you, they will see this professional tagline, and it might decide whether or not they feel compelled to click on your name and see your profile, Alba says.“Think of yourself as a marketer, and this is where your big ad appears to the world,” Alba says.

  • 3. Properly Label Websites Displaying Your Work or Blog

LinkedIn offers you the ability to list the websites where your work might be displayed. This is a great option if you keep a personal website with a resume or a blog. But when you go to edit the website descriptions, Alba recommends dispensing with LinkedIn’s default descriptions of “my website” or “my company.” Those descriptions aren’t a compelling read for employers, he says.Instead, when you edit your “websites” section, LinkedIn provides a drop down menu (see picture below). Click “other,” and you can upload the link and describe it as you see fit. Instead of “my blog,” you might write, “my blog on complex project management.”

  • 4. Consider a Vanity URL

Maybe you haven’t changed the default URL that LinkedIn provides for your profile. Especially if you have a common name, this will make your name after the LinkedIn address appear with a bunch of ugly code and numbers. If you have to give your LinkedIn profile address over the phone, or you wish to print it on your business card, it should be as concise and self-explanatory as possible, Alba says.“It literally takes 30 seconds, and it makes your profile look more on purpose,” Alba says.(When you edit your LinkedIn profile, go to the “public profile” section to create your LinkedIn URL of choice).

  • 5. Finish with a Strong, SEO-Friendly Summary

The “summary” section of your LinkedIn profile could be the biggest missed opportunity for the majority of job seekers, Alba says. While this section has a 2,000 character limit, Alba suggests packing as much about you and your abilities into it as possible.In reality, the ability for people to find you will depend on LinkedIn’s search engine linking your name to certain search keywords. So (staying with our repeated example), a project manager might want the term “project management” to appear a few times throughout the summary.

“Most summaries are a couple sentences or a couple paragraphs, and they’re missing out,” Alba says. “The more you put in the summary, the better your SEO  is.”

 Remember that you’re in a crowded field of applicants. Alba recommends that you put in short “problem, action and results” stories that show how you contended with challenges that helped your business succeed.  

Where Does Your Resume Really Go When You Apply Online?

By Barbara Safani 

We’d all like to believe that when we send our resume via a job board or a company Web site that there is someone eagerly waiting on the other side ready to read every word of it. But these days, job applicants are lucky if an actual person is reading any of it, at least on the initial screening.

 As companies continue to be inundated with resumes, more and more employers are turning to applicant tracking systems (ATS) to manage the sheer volume and weed through all the applicants. What does that mean for job seekers? I spoke to HR professionals, recruiters, and hiring managers to find out. 

  • Why do companies use applicant tracking systems?

In today’s market, there can be thousands of applicants for one position. According to recruiter Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter, “ATS allows me as a recruiter to manage far greater amounts of information and track every communication I have with a job applicant so nothing is ‘forgotten.’ ” Unisys HR Consultant Sharon Sizgorich notes that ATS offers a “consolidated view of all applicants against a job and the ability to build and track pipelines of talent. In addition, applicant tracking systems can help recruiters better manage the various stages of the interview process and comply with legal requirements for tracking applicants.” 

  • How do applicant tracking systems work?

“When searching my database for candidates to fit a particular job posting, I’ll select an important keyword or phrase directly from the job description, and enter it into the ATS,” says recruiter Roxanne Williams. “The ATS will then search the database and return the resulting resumes to me, and this process can be repeated numerous times with different keywords or phrases.” 

  • What document formats can applicant tracking systems scan?

According to our experts, most systems can scan text and Word formats; some cannot scan Word 2007, PowerPoints, or PDFs. 

  • What should job seekers do in order to get their resumes noticed by the ATS?

Customize the resume for each position. Megan Pittsley, a career counselor and recruiter, advises job seekers to “extensively tweak their resume for every job and make sure you weave common keywords throughout the resume as often as possible.”

 

Keep job titles fairly generic. Kathleen Steffey, founder and CEO of Naviga Recruiting & Executive Search, a sales and marketing based recruitment firm, suggests avoiding using job titles that are too specific. “If you are a sales professional who is conducting new business and prospecting 99 percent of the time, just keep your title to ‘Sales Professional’ or ‘Business Development Representative.’ Stay away from titles that are too specific like National Accounts or Client Relations.

 

Keep resume formatting to a minimum. Dan Kilgore, principal of Riviera Advisors Inc., notes that “certain design features such as italics, bolding, and underlining can substantially increase the error rate as the system converts the data.” Radical resume designs similarly are also off-limits because anything the ATS wasn’t programmed to look for will not be recognized. One suggestion might be to electronically submit your resume in Word and in a standard format, and save the “pretty” one you formatted for the live interview, since most of these characteristics were made to make the human reading experience more pleasant and exciting.

 

Avoid functional resumes. Ashley Gouge, VP of Client Development and Implementation for Pinstripe Healthcare states that “functional resumes are very difficult for parsing technology to read” and recommends using the more traditional chronological format for optimal results.

 Include full keywords and their abbreviated formats. Recruiter and BestJobHuntGuide.com owner Roxanne Williams adds, “some of the words or phrases listed on the job description can also be abbreviated; for example, Sarbanes Oxley can be abbreviated as SOX and accounts payable is often referred to as AP. Play it safe and include both versions in your resume.”  While those using applicant tracking systems can point to many benefits of using these systems, some also acknowledge the drawbacks. Amber Jolley, a staffing consultant with Whitaker Technical Services, notes: “The main drawback is that often your resume isn’t seen by a ‘live’ person if it doesn’t make it past the ATS screening process. While there are many advantages, the real downfall with ATS is that they are not able to quantify the ‘intangibles’ that candidates bring to the table or skills that may be equivalent or transferable enough to make their resume worth reviewing.”

Should you call your prospect’s cell phone?

There is a lively debate underway in one of my LinkedIn groups about whether or not you should call your prospect’s cell phone if they’ve included the number in their outbound voice mail message – or on their email signature or business card for that matter – versus leaving a message.

To me, it’s a no-brainer. Call the cell phone.

They’ve provided you with a valid alternate contact number and an invitation to use it. Why would you even think twice? Top sales professionals know that it’s critical to get in front of their prospects by whatever appropriate means they can. These days, that often means calling their cell phone.

The reality is that voice mail – even messages left on cell phones – is quickly falling out of favor. Data from uReach Technologies (their operations include voice messaging systems for several major cell phone carriers) shows that more than 30 percent of voice mail messages go unheard for three or more days. More than 20 percent of people with messages in their mailboxes rarely, if ever, check them.

There are a number of reasons behind the decline of the voice mail message. Accessing messages is often a multi-step process that takes too long in today’s fast-paced business environment. It also takes longer to listen to a voice message than it does to read an email or text.

Voice mail is also one-way communication. You can’t forward or respond to a message directly, but rather must physically return the call and risk getting caught up in a game of phone tag.

Plus, many people are just plain bad at leaving voice mail messages. They tend to be long rambling affairs that are rushed to the point that it’s difficult to determine the actual purpose of the call or capture the call-back number.

I will add one caveat to my stance. If the prospect’s voice mail message makes it clear that calls to the cell phone number should be reserved for urgent matters, respect that or risk losing the sale. Instead, leave a short, clear and concise message and follow up again later on.