practice makes perfect concept - green sticky notes with black handwritingLinkedIn has changed the way we recruit. Not completely and not overnight, but it has slowly and surely crept into nearly every recruiter’s arsenal in one form or another. In fact, recruiting pros were one of the first to really embrace LinkedIn when it debuted, helping the site to gain true growth traction.

With the site’s growth, several companies, training sessions, sourcing gurus and more have popped up and with good reason. Many of these organizations and the people who run them have a clearer view of what happens inside LinkedIn and how you can use and manipulate the platform to achieve your objectives. Whether you use LinkedIn as a networking tool, reference checking system, recruiting platform or simply to get new clients, here are some hard and fast rules to using it better:

1. Look attractive

You never have a second chance to make a first impression. When your picture pops up, the human brain doesn’t try to categorize where you fit in the professional landscape, thousands of tiny, learned clues do it for us. Make it easy by taking a look at the science behind your profile pic. Sure you know you should wear a nice shirt and not have your cat in your arms. But did you know that you shouldn’t look away from the camera, cross your arms or smile too widely, depending on whether you’re a man or a woman?

2. The most important thing

Headlines are important. They make you want to read more. Many tell you to describe yourself or put your elevator pitch here. I am actually against that strategy and here is why: I don’t think it shows up well in search and I also think it looks kind of pretentious. If you can’t sum up what you do in a title I can relate to, how are you valuable to me? If I can’t understand what you do in three words, why are eight better? Answer: It isn’t. Make your title interesting (mine is Serial CMO of B2B companies) but not War and Peace.

3. Here’s why

If you start out with a compelling title or headline, you have your whole profile to back it up. Again, the summary doesn’t have to be everything you ever did in your professional life, but it can be the things you are the best at (or the kind of business you want to attract). My friends at Ajax Workforce Marketing point out that LinkedIn is about telling your story. Again, compel me within one paragraph.

4. Be honest

For the longest time, I never put out there when I was looking for a job. I’d wait weeks, months even, before letting my LinkedIn contacts know that I was looking. That was ludicrous for many reasons. First, if you can’t say “hire me” on LinkedIn, where can you say it? Second, every time you make a change to your profile, your network is notified. When people say network to get a job, this is precisely the kind of no-brainer step they are talking about. If you aren’t interested in a job, but want new clients, say so. Put out what kind of client you work best with and hope they see themselves in your description.

5. SEO for dummies

Okay, not SEO really. But keywords. Search is simple and it goes both ways. Think like a marketer. If your target client or employer is looking for someone or some thing, what would they type in the search bar. Put those words in your profile, if relevant, which they should be. Weave them into your story so your profile doesn’t look like a jumbled mess. Fortunately, LinkedIn offers lots of opportunities to add keywords with fields in experience, awards, educations, and ….skills.

6. Be yourself, just not ALL of yourself

While many of us spend our days getting personal on Facebook, there are people who go slightly below the surface on LinkedIn. I like when people share interesting articles or have professional debates on LinkedIn, I do NOT like: crass language, updating LinkedIn/Facebook/Twitter all at once with the same general update, political statements, or pictures of kids/pets. I know many will disagree but I am sort of firm on this one; leave LinkedIn to people who want to connect professionally. Want to be friends? Find me on Twitter or Facebook.

7. Connect with me

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