A simple Google search will yield countless articles on how to make your LinkedIn profile stand out and optimize for visibility. You’ll see tips for making the perfect new headshot, suggestions to add your high school Spanish class, and recommendations for taking a new online certification.

All are very basic recommendations to beef up your profile and, generally speaking, they are indeed great tips. They all make your profile easier to navigate and simple for recruiters to assess your background and fit. That’s great for the majority of the workforce. I’ve reviewed thousands of profiles over the course of my career as an executive search consultant. I’ve found that most senior executives have the basics dialed-in. It’s safe to say if you simply follow the above tips, your profile will be as complete, and unfortunately, as underwhelming as everyone else’s. 

Great, so what can you do about it? In short, you must invest time in discovering your unique value and showcase your strengths to best differentiate yourself. Below, you’ll find my top four LinkedIn optimization tips to help with the discovery process which focus on how to articulate your story and position you as an ideal candidate.

Identify Soft Skills

Retained search firms like N2Growth don’t rely on a resume to build our case for your candidacy. Rather, we seek to understand the true character of the person behind the profile. Start by reflecting on some of the projects you’ve completed, the teams you’ve been on, or the roles you’ve served in. Ask a colleague or trusted advisor how they would describe your leadership performance in that capacity. Write down your answers.

Our clients are almost never looking to “just” fill a role, they are looking for a leader who can solve complex business problems. This requires as much leadership experience as industry expertise and technical chops. The bottom line, don’t sell yourself short by not disclosing your most-valuable soft skills. It’ll cost you.

Give Context

The story of “You” – of how you got to where you are today – is one of the most critical components of your future candidacy.  We also can’t forget that your career is often longer than the recruiter is old. A lot of your prior companies have been bought, merged, or may now be defunct – and Google may not even have all those answers. An elevator pitch about the size, product/service, and ultimate fate of the companies you’ve worked at can ensure a quality discussion about your candidacy. 

Additionally, don’t leave out your first couple of roles and companies! We want to know where it all began. Your account management experience with Xerox fresh out of university set you up for your first promotion. Your first coding job with IBM gave you the experience you needed to step into your first management role. Give us that narrative. A recruiter is just as interested in the first chapter as we are in your most recent chapters.

Tell us what you achieved, NOT what your job was

As mentioned earlier, our clients are often hiring to address a specific business goal, not just fill a role. Associated with those goals are particular projects, metrics, or mandates that must be achieved. Give us an idea of what you’ve done in the past. Think critically about this and put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter reading your profile, for example:

  1. I’m thrilled to see that you grew a business unit from 10mm USD to 50mm USD. Did you do that via organic or inorganic growth?
  2. I’m thrilled to see that you saved your organization 3.5mm USD in warehousing costs. Did you lead an RFP project for 3rd party logistics providers or implement a new WMS to achieve that?

A teaser about how you accomplished these goals often allows the subsequent phone discussions to get more granular and build a more exciting case for your candidacy.

Leverage your Network

It is easy to glance at a page and see that your potential interviewer also went to Yale. Great! You can both be fake Bulldog fans for a quick laugh. But how much more powerful is it if you start the conversation by knowing that you both reported into a CEO who you respect and admire? Not only have you spent years building your career, but you’ve also spent just as much time building your network and reputation. Undoubtedly, that means you have folks who would vouch for the soft and hard skills that you’ve humbly written about already. So, why not give credence to them?

Recommendations have the added value of creating common points of connection for prospective hiring managers. Many of the industries and sectors that senior executives work in are quite ‘small,’ in the modern sense of the word. Not only do you avoid the name-dropping faux-pas, but you’ve given that hiring manager a chance to understand your networked value without having to boast about it.

So, take an afternoon and start writing recommendations for your prior and current colleagues. It’s important to get a wide spectrum here: peers, subordinates, and bosses each tell a different side of your story. The more you write, the more you’ll receive. Recommendations typically hit home on projects, achievements, and soft skills so that you may not have to.

Your LinkedIn profile should serve as your advertisement. Your profile is like a “billboard” and is one of the few ways you can advocate for career opportunities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you do this well, you’ll garner interest from recruiters who hold the keys to some of the most exclusive, unique opportunities in the market today. 

As a final thought, fill up your profile with the right story, don’t just fill it out. Make it look nice, give us a snapshot of the leader we see on the page in front of us. And when you receive an invitation for a call, prepare for it. This phone call is your first opportunity to pitch your superpowers – it gives us insight ‘beyond the page’ and helps us to build your narrative. And remember: you won’t get there if nobody can find you and see your value, to begin with.