Over many years working with employers and candidates in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island to fill positions across engineering disciplines, I’ve gained firsthand experience connecting engineering job-seekers with employers offering in-demand engineering positions. When engineers and candidates for engineering positions apply proven tips and strategies for using LinkedIn as a powerful networking tool, they maintain relationships with multiple audiences that use LinkedIn as a starting point for employment discussions. Each LinkedIn profile update and interaction is a chance to nurture mutually-beneficial professional relationships that can lead to career enhancement, mentoring opportunities, engineering job opportunities, and more.
A recent Adweek Article cites a Jobvite survey of thousands of recruiters that identified social media as an almost universally-adopted hiring tool. 92 percent of recruiters surveyed use it as part of their process, and 87 percent of recruiters reported using LinkedIn.
I encourage engineers and engineering job seekers in all stages of their career to remember that LinkedIn is a powerful professional network, with customizable tools designed to connect you with the audiences you seek. The more active you are and the more connections you have, the easier you will make it for a recruiter to find you and connect you with opportunities to which you may not otherwise gain access. If you cannot be “found” on LinkedIn, you won’t be considered for the opportunities presented by your three major LinkedIn audiences, as outlined below:
Professional Staffing Firm Recruiters
Many professional recruiters use LinkedIn as one of their primary tools to identify the best engineering candidates for particular positions — many of which are not advertised elsewhere. Recruiters look for candidates with the knowledge, experience, work history, personality and temperament that best fit the corporate culture of their clients, the employers. As the market for engineering talent continues to tighten, more and more firms are turning exclusively to professional staffing firm recruiters to identify talented engineering job seekers in disciplines such as Mechanical, Electrical, Quality, Manufacturing, Robotics/Automation, Civil Engineering and more.
Some internal recruiters within engineering firms actively use LinkedIn to search for and contact potential candidates. These firms may or may not post their open positions.
Professional Peers and Industry Groups
When you properly maintain and use your LinkedIn profile, it can serve as an important networking tool, and present you and your engineering experience well to your industry peers. Regardless of whether you currently seek a new job opportunity, it’s important to maintain your LinkedIn profile, so you are ready if an opportunity presents itself. Industry groups use LinkedIn to promote their mission and share relevant information, so it’s a good idea to selectively join groups of like-minded professionals.
Below you’ll find the descriptions of key LinkedIn profile sections for engineering job seekers. Be sure to fully complete the seven sections titled Summary, Skills, Experience, Industry and Location, Education, and Connections in order to achieve Linked All-Star status – a designation that signals you’ve completed these seven key sections – thus making it easier for recruiters to notice and review your profile.
Recruiters can search for engineering professionals by using filters, or by performing Boolean searches (using key words and “and/or/but” scenarios), or both. Whether or not your profile comes up depends on the criteria for each of these searches. Therefore, it’s very important to pay particular attention to your Skill Words, Job Descriptions, Location, and Education/Dates.
By default, your headline appears as your current job title and company name, but you can manually edit it, up to 120 characters. For example, a compelling headline could read: I’m a mechanical engineer and results-oriented problem solver with a strong background developing cutting-edge medical devices. A headline is required to achieve LinkedIn All-Star status.
Current Position and Company
Following the headline is your current position and company, which is auto-populated from the Experience section of your profile. If you display multiple current positions, the one with the most recent start date is listed first. Note: If your profile’s headline and current position are the same, the text will not be duplicated; only the name of your current firm will appear.
This line includes only the first entry from the Education section of your profile. You cannot display more than one entry; however, you can select which entry appears by rearranging the order of your education entries.
LinkedIn lists your geographical location based on the location you list for your current job. Edit this to be as location-specific as possible. According to a LinkedIn article, more than 30% of recruiters will use advanced search based on location, so the more details you have the more likely you will be found and connected to your next opportunity. Also, former colleagues may want to reconnect if they have recently relocated or are traveling for work.
Also include your ZIP code, not just a generality such as “Boston Area”, in the Settings section of your profile, since recruiters often use radius-based searches that use ZIP codes to perform candidate searches.
A professional photo increases your presence on LinkedIn, and LinkedIn members who include a profile photo receive 21x more profile views and up to 36x more messages. A photo helps extend the power of your resume, if you use a photo that serves to project your professionalism, competence, likability, and integrity. Use a photo with medium to high resolution, ideally cropped to 400×400 pixels. Consider choosing a background that’s clutter-free, white or colorful to make your personality stand out. A profile photo is required to achieve LinkedIn All-Star status.
Your summary serves as an introduction and one of the first impressions you project within your LinkedIn profile. This where you can expand your headline and reinforce your specialties, strengths, experience, and personality. You may use between 200 and 2,000 characters, but I recommend using short paragraphs and bullet points, to make it easy for people to quickly scan for key information. Use the keywords you see in descriptions of engineering jobs you desire, and avoid industry jargon that doesn’t add value. If you are open to considering new opportunities, disclose what you desire in your Summary. This will cut down on contact from recruiters working to fill positions that don’t interest you.
Skill Words and Job Descriptions
Skill Words are pre-identified by LinkedIn; you simply select the ones that apply to you. Be sure to choose the most relevant Skill Words, and update them as you gain experience or focus your specialty. If you added a Skill Word when you first graduated but it’s no longer applicable (for instance, if you learned SolidWorks in college but haven’t used it in 10 years), remove it from your list of Skill Words.
You can add up to 50 skills to your profile, and order them by relevance. At least three skills are required for LinkedIn All-Star status.
Recent statistics compiled by LinkedIn reveal that members with 5 or more skills listed are contacted (messaged) up to 33x more by recruiters and other LinkedIn members, and receive up to 17x more profile views.
For your Job Descriptions, carefully choose the words you use to describe each job you’ve held. If a recruiter uses a Boolean search, your chosen Skill Words don’t impact whether your profile comes up. However, the words you use in other areas of your LinkedIn profile, including the Job Descriptions, do influence a Boolean search. Describe your responsibilities and accomplishments for each job, ensuring that they include relevant key words that also describe your ideal next engineering position.
Experience – Current and Past
To achieve higher-visibility LinkedIn All-Star status, include your current position and job description, as well as two prior positions. Ideally, list three positions you’ve had in the last 15 years that were most relevant to your career goals and the job you desire next. To help recruiters to find you more easily, select from job titles that LinkedIn provides. Don’t use a title you create, since it may be too specific or difficult to associate with common job titles.
Include all of your post high school education and advanced degrees. According to LinkedIn, profiles that contain education content receive 7 times more profile views. This section is also required for All-Star status.
Harness the power of your network by making quality connections. To attain All-Star status, create at least 50 connections. Begin by connecting with your professional peers, and use LinkedIn’s Search feature to research firms where you’ve worked to identify potential connections with current and former employees. Also pursue connections with which you have Education in common, by searching for peers from the schools you list in your Education section.
List any professional certifications that support your career goals and reinforce your capabilities and credibility.
This often-overlooked section is where you can list the details of key projects associated with previous relevant positions you’ve held, and include other people who worked with you on the project if they are connected to you on LinkedIn. Use brief sentences or bullet points to reinforce the value you contributed to each project, as it relates to your skill set and engineering expertise.
Endorsements and Recommendations
Some recruiters pay attention to endorsements, so consider endorsing your connections for skills you’re confident that they have. When you endorse a connection for a particular skill, your profile is then linked to theirs, which raises your profile and makes you “more findable”. The same can be said for recommendations.
Join relevant LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your engineering discipline. This is a smart strategy for raising the visibility of your profile, and gain access to job opportunities posted for group members.
Is My LinkedIn Profile a Substitute for My Resume?
As an engineer, your LinkedIn Profile is not a substitute for a traditional resume that’s formatted into a one or two page PDF file. Your LinkedIn profile does, however, serve to enhance your resume, and promote you to audiences including professional recruiters. Your resume offers the chronological details of what you’ve accomplished, while your LinkedIn profile illustrates who you are as a professional person. Your profile needn’t be as detailed as your resume, but make sure it has enough information so you can be found in recruiter’s searches. To do this, review job descriptions of positions that are of interest to you, and incorporate appropriate and relevant skill words into your profile. Add your resume as a PDF attachment to your LinkedIn profile.
How Often Should I Update My LinkedIn Profile?
To maximize the return on your networking investment, it’s important to maintain an updated LinkedIn profile. At a minimum, review and update it at least once a year, and more often if you’re actively searching for new engineering employment opportunities, or when significant changes occur.
How Can I Silently Let Recruiters Know I’m Open to Opportunities?
If you are considering a career move, you can discreetly let recruiters know you’re an Open Candidate on your LinkedIn profile, in the Career Interests section within Your Dashboard. NOTE: Only you can see this section, and LinkedIn never displays that you’re an Open Candidate on your public profile.
When you use the Open Candidate option, be sure to completely fill out your preferences regarding the kinds of positions and locations you’d consider. This helps to clarify your interests for recruiters, and increases how seriously you will be considered by recruiters who review your profile. It also decreases the likelihood of being inundated with information about jobs you’d never consider. By making the effort to provide additional information, you indicate that you’re not a passive job seeker; you’re someone who will most likely reply to a recruiter who presents a targeted, appealing opportunity.
Once you’ve found a new position, just remember to turn off your “Open Candidate” status!
What Can I Do to Raise Awareness of my Profile to All Audiences?
Create a Custom URL for Your LinkedIn Profile
It’s much easier to publicize your profile with a customized URL for your LinkedIn Public Profile, such as linkedin.com/in/yourname, instead of settling for the string of numbers that LinkedIn automatically assigns when you register your account.
Complete Every Section of Your LinkedIn Profile
Much like your traditional resume shouldn’t have “holes” of missing information, it’s important to complete as many sections of your LinkedIn profile as possible, to fully present yourself.
Include Your Resume
If you’re actively seeking a new engineering position, include a resume with your LinkedIn profile (or at least listing an email or phone number on your profile). Your resume can provide more specific details, and will enable rapid contact by a recruiter interested in speaking with you. It is vitally important that the information presented in your resume and your LinkedIn profile are consistent and up-to-date.
Consider Adding Multimedia to Your Summary
In some cases, photos and videos can help to showcase your work. Consider adding photos, videos, and slideshow presentations to your profile summary. Provide an example of you in action, delivering a presentation, explaining a solution, or more.
Make Meaningful Connections, and Help Your Colleagues
Invest your time and effort to make meaningful professional connections. When inviting a contact to connect, create a personalized message instead of using the default LinkedIn invitation message. If a recruiter presents an opportunity that doesn’t currently interest you, help a colleague by forwarding them the InMail message, with a friendly offer of information. Develop a reputation of integrity and helpfulness by selectively offering to introduce connections who share common goals.
Keep Your Writing Style Consistent, and Use First-Person Tense
Your traditional resume is written in the third-person tense, but it’s completely acceptable – and can appear more inviting to readers – to use first-person tense on your LinkedIn profile. For example, “I’m a results-oriented engineer with a proven record of solving problems… ”, not “Jane Doe is a …” You can use any writing style you choose, but remember to maintain a consistent “voice” and style throughout your profile.
Respond To a Recruiter’s Requests, Even If You’re Not Interested in a Position
If you’re not interested in a position that a recruiter presents, it’s important to reply to him or her, to demonstrate your professionalism and maintain a relationship, in the event that a more desirable referral becomes available. LinkedIn makes it easy to simply reply “no thanks”. You can also let the recruiter know what types of opportunities you are interested in hearing about, or let the recruiter you will keep their contact information for future use.
Don’t Apply for Jobs That Clearly Don’t Fit Your Skill Set
This seems obvious, but it happens frequently and leaves a bad impression with a recruiter that either you didn’t thoroughly review a job description, you lack attention to detail, or you apply to every job you see, which is careless and wastes everyone’s time.
Include Your Resume When You Reply to a Job Posting
When you reply to a job posting, avoid just sending your profile; include your resume whenever possible. In order to have the most productive conversation, a recruiter generally wants your resume in hand. What’s more, your resume will be required before the recruiter can present you to the hiring manager. Not sending your resume only serves to slow the process down.
Next Steps: What To Do Once You Land an Interview
In today’s employment market, wise engineering career candidates use LinkedIn as a networking tool to promote themselves. When you apply the principles outlined in the above LinkedIn Guide for engineering candidates, you will effectively position yourself to be discovered for opportunities to further your engineering career.
You will also establish a presence within your industry and will promote a positive impression of your professional brand to all of your audiences – including those seeking a candidate with your skill set.
Whether or not you are interested in or hired for a position, your profile and interactions can create a positive impression that opens the door to other opportunities.