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How Job Recruiters Screen You on LinkedIn

Keywords, not buzzwords, get a hiring manager’s attention

By Quentin Fottrell and MarketWatch


Recruiters scour the world’s most popular professional networking site looking for the perfect candidate, but there’s a lot they do before they even get to your profile page. Some 93 percent of hiring managers search LinkedIn for recruits, according to a 2013 survey by career website Jobvite; 65 percent search Facebook, and 55 percent consult Twitter accounts. Another 18 percent of recruiters search Google+ and, in case there are any homemade videos lurking about, 15 percent will type your name into YouTube.

(MORE: When to Refuse LinkedIn Requests)

Make Your Profile Public

Rule No. 1: “Your LinkedIn profile should be public,” says Jenny Foss, president of the Ladder Recruiting Group in Portland, Ore.


Most people spend so much time crafting their pitch, they forget about how they appear in a search result.

“It’s the first thing that recruiters look at,” says Nicole Greenberg Strecker, managing director of recruitment agency STA Worldwide in Chicago, Ill. "Your bio should include your title, industry and location. “If you want to work in Silicon Valley and live in Kansas, change your location to Silicon Valley on LinkedIn. Recruiters search ZIP codes.”

Choose Keywords Carefully

And your title should be razor-sharp. “Don’t write Senior Analyst at Ernst & Young, write Hedge Fund Financial Analyst at Ernst & Young,” says Jeremy Roberts, editor of Sourcecon, a blog and conference series for recruiters.


Recruiters punch in keywords, not buzzwords. When fine-tuning their initial search to find high-performing candidates, for instance, they’ll look for terms like “won,” “sold,” “achieved,” “built” and “President’s Club.”

(MORE: 10 Job Search Tips From a Top Recruiter)

No software is too old to mention. Technology recruitment consultants look for people who are proficient in WordPress because many companies don’t have the latest programs, Roberts says. And if you use in-demand open-sourced software like Ruby on Rails, say so. “It will save you a lot of spam,” Roberts says.


Once they arrive on your page, you want to keep them there. “LinkedIn is speed dating for professionals,” says Grace Killelea, founder and CEO of Half The Sky Women’s Leadership Institute.

Fill in Work Gaps

Recruiters are looking for reasons not to court you and anything that appears odd will be a red alert. “If there are gaps in your work history, fill that in, otherwise recruiters are going to get nervous,” Killelea says. “Many people who were laid off are not comfortable filling in those gaps, but they absolutely need too.”


Include details of volunteer work or, if it’s true, add “consulting,” she adds. Killelea’s golden rule for LinkedIn (and life): “If you can’t hide it, decorate it.”


Most recruiters won’t care whether you have 1,000 endorsements, experts say. They’re regarded as the confetti of the digital world: Scattered too randomly and, as such, they lose meaning.

Recruiters are actually looking for thoughtful recommendations from a well-respected peer or former employer, Palazzolo says. “I get endorsed for things that I don’t know how to do,” she says. “People want to see you’ve developed solid relationships.” That said, Foss says people should manage their skills and endorsements, rather than letting other people choose them, and an endorsement from a very big name could help.

Employers will also try to gauge your personality from your presentation. There’s a fine line between arrogance and confidence, Roberts says. Some tips: “Don’t put you’re a member of Mensa,” he says. “People have to seek out Mensa membership.

Most hiring managers don’t want to hire someone who’s smarter than them. But it’s smart to write, “increased conference attendance by 40 percent,” instead of a passive job description like, “conference manager.”

People don’t want to read a LinkedIn profile that resembles a self-published memoir. “Don’t pompously refer to yourself in the third person,” Foss adds.


Recruiters assess photos differently, depending on the industry, says Killelea. Only include your dog if you’re a dog walker or dog groomer, she adds. Photos over two years old should be updated, she says.

Selfies are a no-no, says Tim Sackett, president of HRU Technical Resources, an information technology and engineering staffing firm in Lansing, Mich. “Ask yourself, “If my grandmother looked at this picture, would she be proud?’” Sackett has seen LinkedIn photos of a woman dressed in an American flag and a man in blurry selfie taken in his bedroom. 

Quentin Fottrell writes for MarketWatch. You can reach him at [email protected]

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